Hams and Exercise

My recumbent bicycle (stock photo)

Yup, going to talk hardcore fitness for Hams.

Attend a hamfest and it is pretty obvious a significant portion of hams trend to the sedentary.  Very sedentary to say the least.

There are exceptions – a Ham I know started running marathons as he approached retirement after he had decided to take grasp of his health. Let’s call these  types of hams the “Proactive Fit,” reflecting their commitment and goals.

And there are plenty of hams who fall into the “Working Fit” category where genetics, employment and lifestyle leaves them relatively fit, though often as an afterthought rather the result of anything purposeful.  These are the guys who often turn out for the field side of Emcom/Emgov activities.

But then we have the “Great Unfit” whose residual fitness comes from having to move their unfit bulk around. Often the “Great Unfit” imagine themselves as “Working Fit” despite not being able to hang in there if they were actually working.

For the point of my discussion I am not including the “Medically Challenged” as they best not take advice from anyone other than their doctors. Whether an ailment or something orthopedic or any of the other ways we end up medically challenged, their special needs are outside of the general fitness observations I’m sharing.

Also little point in addressing the “Proactive Fit” as they already “get it” concerning fitness.

There is is little fitness is required to participate casually in our hobby.

That low level of required fitness is actually a wonderful aspect of the hobby that allows handicapped and disabled participation in Amateur Radio. It is also a lifeline providing activity if your health changes to the worse, as unlike other hobbies you usually can still do radio.

A Recumbent Elliptical (stock photo)

Our “Working Fit” hams often become part of the “Great Unfit” when employment changes (retiring, or early perhaps being promoted to a supervisor becoming desk-bound), personal health changes, or life situation/stresses change. Yes there are some who stay “Working Fit” regardless of what life sends their way. Lucky rare are those folks.  Most “Working Fit” suffer some sort of decline over time.

Addressing the “Great Unfit” is the biggest concern. This is a fitness level where your lack of fitness starts to curtail your hobby participation.

  • Too heavy to walk the aisles at the hamfest?
  • Not possible to do a DXpedition?
  • You’d love to attend club meetings but can’t do the stairs?

You can do something about these sorts of issues!

Even if you find yourself in the  “Great Unfit” category, do not despair – for most this is changeable.

There is a primary tool you will need to address the issue, a tool that by definition of being a Ham Radio operator you already shown you have superior skills using.

As a ham you already have held yourself to standards by being tested, have the persistence and patience to be on the air, and are thinking at a good level.

So you are already set to effectively use the number one fitness tool you have  – your mind!

Yes you have to vision yourself as more fit, as your attitude, determination and mental commitment are the building blocks of the physical efforts that will follow.

If you don’t have that vision, you are unlikely to make sustained substantive progress towards fitness.

Without a vision those things you would overcome will stop you.

Usually the “Great Unfit” did not get unfit overnight, but as a cumulation of years, decades or lifetime habits leading to unfitness. Hence the recovery to fitness will take time.

You are also dreaming that your can vision yourself from “Great Unfit” to “Working Fit,” as “Working Fit” is serendipity rather than an active & envisioned outcome.

So guess what, you have to vision yourself all the way toProactive Fit,” though with a reasonableness and reality adjustment.

Semi-recumbent Elliptical (stock photo)

Every ham needs a personalized fitness routine, and that routine needs to evolve. Here is my routine as of April 2021:

  • Swim a kilometer five days a week.
  • Elliptical, treadmill, stationary bike, and light weights twice a week.
  • Pilates Reformer session 2-3 times a week, followed by swimming if possible.

On days my routine is upset I will substitute one of the other usual sessions or will walk/bike if weather allows. All told a low effort day will have 45 minutes of specific exercise still squeezed in, a typical day is about an hour, and at least once a week I aim to have a longer two hour session.  In winter I will do some sessions on our home equipment watching a video.

The Pilates Reformer setup we use (stock photo)

About that swimming, I am no longer a strong swimmer nor so capable on all the strokes as I once was.  So my kilometer takes me 50 minutes, which is a pace slow enough that I would have been ashamed in my youth.  You arrive at a middle age where you are happy to be able to still swim at all, so I don’t worry about the pace.  Found that an underwater MP3-player and earbuds helps me enjoy my lap swims.  Also wear goggles.  Many pools upped their pool chemicals during the pandemic that protecting one’s eyes and inner ears makes sense.  My recent attempts to use a snorkel have been underwhelming.  My disturbing failed introduction to tethered SNUBA puts me on edge with the snorkel.  I’ll get there once I can tame the memories of that bad SNUBA experience.

Now I want to end your pep talk and my rallying cry with a few bits of reality.

All of my efforts for a number of years went no where.  No better fitness, still carrying way too much weight and health on a gradual downward slope.  I found that it took adding good medical advice and action to my personal fitness team to make any headway.  Yes you need to get a checkup and take care of the medical issues to make the rest of your efforts effective!

You also need to address your diet to make sure you are getting the “right stuff” while minimizing the “rubbish” that tends to fill our diets.  I worked with the Whole-30 program, modifying it to work around some food intolerances, to build a diet that worked. You may find another plan works for you, though I can attest to using the Whole-30 ideas to shed close to 25% of my (unneeded) body weight. If you are a thinking person the book “It Starts with Food” is heady stuff. I also had periodic review help from professional dieticians to make sure I wasn’t doing myself harm. You can check the Whole-30 folks out at:  https://whole30.com/

Another major bit of advice is comes from the old eating riddle of “How do you eat [something the size of] an elephant?” where the answer is “One bite at a time!” Few of us became one of the “Great Unfit” overnight or even in a few short months. Usually it takes years and decades. The same long-view time frame needs to be part of your recovery program. And be ready to get by the emotional issue when your efforts plateau or have a set back.

Don’t be put off if your efforts are only 80% of what some book or your mind thinks they should be. Just keep at it. Expect to make small moves to increase your exercise. You may be able control your diet with a rapid change through willpower, but you won’t restore fitness overnight by thinking it alone.

Don’t forget to have fun!  Your Birthday?  For certain have some cake.  But don’t eat a slice at every meal the rest of the week.  Life events cause you to miss out  on exercising, so be it and get yourself back on the exercise routine as quick as you can.  Caught inside in the rain with the local gym closed due to the virus I had to improvise doing the house stairs 88 times carrying a moderate improvised weight.  Not certain it was all that effective but I felt I needed to do something.  Why?  Because my efforts and goals have become “fun” to me, and I didn’t want to miss out on having that fun!

Every step on the path your best tool, your “mind,” sets out for you, is a good step taken!




5 thoughts on “Hams and Exercise

  1. Wil Robinson says:

    Great post. I’ve been thinking of a recumbent trike, despite having done a bit of snickering when I was younger and riding and touring on my two wheeler. Now older with bad knees and some balance problems has me looking at them with “new eyes.” I’m thinking a solar panel, antennas, batteries, and small HF radio would make quite a mobile station. 73 de wil N6BVZ/4

    • k9zw says:

      I like my recumbent. I’m a big person which narrowed done choices. The first stab was a eBike two-wheel recumbent which was more of an adventure than I was willing to do.

      So I needed to change bikes and through family got a very good deal on a used Hase three wheel which would take someone taller than me.

      I do have all the gear to try bicycle mobile but rather think it may end up being simply a portable operation rather than trying to operate while in motion.

      Regardless of equipment the truck is to do something towards your fitness while you can.

      Thanks for the kind words and 73


      • Wil Robinson says:

        I’m a tad short of 6’5″ It’s good to know that when I’m ready I’ll need to take that into account.

        My first experience with a recumbent was at a gym. I liked it, but still didn’t think it was “a real bike.” LOL On one of my bike tours I carried with me my HW8 and a wire antenna. Worked okay in camp grounds if there were trees available. I’ll look on line at the Hase cycles.

      • k9zw says:

        Check them out. About the same height so it should work for you.

        You may find some other options if you are lanky vs burly.



  2. k9zw says:

    Arriving by email Paul W7PFB offers some brilliant observations which he has agreed I could share here:

    A few observations from my own efforts:

    “Fitness” is not a scalar. There are multiple dimensions: strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity, circulatory capacity, metabolic capacity. I have a neighbor who is staggeringly strong and can rip off a 6 minute mile easily. But when I asked him if he wanted to come along on a short run, his question was “How long is ’short’” and my answer of “oh, let’s say ten miles” was enough to get him to decline. Over a mile, he’s much faster than I am, but at longer distances I simply grind him into the ground. He keeps inviting me to join him at Crossfit. I keep inviting him to run a 50 mile ultramarathon.

    So you need to decide what sort of fitness you want, and tailor your training accordingly. A training plan for a 5k PR does not look much like the training plan for a 100 mile ultramarathon except that both will include the word ‘run’ in the text. Beyond that the volume, intensity, duration, recovery, nutrition will all be different.

    Beyond that conceptual issue, though, the reason most people fail in their efforts to get ‘fit’ is this: we tend to massively overestimate what we can accomplish in the short run, and massively underestimate what we can achieve in the long run.

    That is, we tend to think in terms of “I will lose 4 lbs/week and reach my goal weight in 8 weeks”, and then we give up because it turns out it’s quite hard to lose 4 lbs/week for most people, let alone keep it up for 8 weeks. And on the other hand if you just make some small adjustments that are easier to sustain, we could be quite successful in losing, say, half a pound a week and hitting our goal weight some time next year.

    So my advice would be to set big goals but accept long timelines to achieve them.

    [O]ne more thought popped up for me as I was slogging through my hard interval workout on the bike just now:

    There’s a progression that people go through as they proceed to get more fit:
    1. My workout is something I have to do, every day.
    2. My workout is something I get to do, every day.
    3. Doing my workout every day is *who I am*.

    -p W7PFB
    73, Don’t forget to smile and have fun!

    Very sage advice!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: