Hint: instant ramen isn’t gonna help.
Good news, though – you don’t have to give it up, either.
Not too long ago, 2DT wrote a post on both a. his own mission to get into good shape, and b. the fact that anime fans shouldn’t just embrace the geek stereotypes appearance-wise – e.g. pale, overweight, underwashed, and just generally unhealthy. While I do think 2DT has a good basic idea, I think there is a big reason for getting in shape that he neglected.
Ok, get ready for it.
So you can live longer! And therefore watch more anime! And go to more cons! And read more manga! And write more pornographic fanfiction! And buy more borderline pornographic figures! HOLY SHIT!
(and, yes, I was emulating the Pokemon games with all those periods… damn, Heart Gold is fucking awesome)
But, in addition to giving you a reason for becoming healthier (and, remember, looking good is not the same as being healthy), I would also like to give you a jumping off point. After all, its one thing to admonish someone to get in shape, its another altogether to actually give some direction on it.
These will probably be longer posts. I’m going to break it down into sections so it’ll be a little easier to navigate: first post will have clothing, exercises, while the second part will have music, food, assorted tips, and anime or manga that can get you in the mood to work-out. I would also like to note that the focus of this guide will be on solitary-style exercise, so there isn’t anything about playing basketball or any other team sports. I also won’t be touching on swimming at all since it would require a much different set of guidelines than those for running or pull-ups, although I really am primarily a swimmer.
You may be wondering why I would bother to touch on this at all – isn’t it more or less self-evident? And to an extent, yes, it is. But its a little more nuanced than throwing on a pair of sneakers, gym shorts, and a t-shirt. Part of it has to do with weather. Part of it has to do with the aforementioned sneakers. But let’s start realllly basic.
First of all, if you are a girl or woman, you need to make an investment in a decent sports bra before doing anything else. When you go to get it, try it on first – jump up and down in front of the mirror. If it feels like you’re bouncing too much, you are. Your chest shouldn’t keep bobbing up and down after your stop jumping; if it is, you need a smaller size. Once you get the right size, grab two – you really can’t wear the same one if you exercise every day. I usually get two or three uses out of each of mine. If you have your period and get a lot of boob swellage with it, you may even want to wear two if you’re going on a run – I always do that. And never put your sports bras in the dryer, although you should just know not to because regular bras aren’t supposed to go in there, either.
Next up, shoes. For sit-ups, push-ups, and other stationary-type exercises, your shoes don’t really matter much, so long as you aren’t wearing cowboy boots or something stupid like that. Even with biking it doesn’t matter too much if you avoid flip-flops, stilettos, etc. But running is another matter entirely. If you don’t own a pair of sneakers, its obvious that you need to go buy a pair. If you do own a pair, take them out and turn them over to look at the soles. Is the tread worn down? Then you need to replace them. If not, try them on. Do they pinch your feet, or do you feel like your foot is lost in a cavern? Then you need to replace them.
When you go to buy sneakers, don’t cheap out on yourself; it is better to make a bit of an investment in a good pair of running shoes because if you do not your medical bills will probably outstrip your shoe savings in the long run (ha….ha). First, make sure you’re looking at sneakers meant for running. If you don’t know the difference, go find a salesperson – they are extremely helpful. They can also aid you in selecting a sneaker based on your feet and the type of running that you intend to do. Try on the shoes, and take a short jog (or sprint) around the store. While shoes prior to being broken in are all going to feel a little funny, if it feels extremely uncomfortable or hurts ditch them and find a different pair.
There is also the option to run barefoot. Some studies do demonstrate that this is better for one’s body and feet, which makes sense since we didn’t evolve with shoes on. However, for a lot of you I am sure this is unfeasible, as you will be doing your running in an urban area, or in a gym. It also takes a bit of getting used to, and is more beneficial for people who run more frequently than you most likely will. I run shoeless sometimes, and I really love it since I hate wearing shoes, period. But I also fully acknowledge that it isn’t for everyone, and that I have sometimes had chunks of glass in my feet to show for it.
From shoes we’ll move into socks. This has a lot to do with personal preference – basically, just buy whichever athletic socks you like. Some brands are better than others; I personally use Adidas white ankle-length for biking and stationary work-outs (or I just go barefoot for stationary stuff), and either soccer socks or tube socks when I got for a run. I highly recommend tube socks or soccer socks for running, especially if you are going to be running on surfaces such as asphalt and concrete – these kinds of socks help reduce the likelihood of shin splints and stress fractures because they hold the muscles tighter to the bones.
Now for the stuff such as shorts, sweats, and shirts. There are some very basic things to follow here – in the wintertime, wear layers if you plan to be outside for your workout, as you will be cold at first and heat up rather quickly. I myself go for no layers at all in the wintertime, but I also know that I’m crazy; my wintertime work-out attire for outdoor stuff (e.g. running and biking) is a long-sleeved shirt, shorts, and tube socks, sometimes stockings if its very, very cold… and I usually take off my shirt (once got stopped by a cop while running in the snow without a shirt on – he had assumed I was drunk since it was about fifteen degrees out… and, uh, snowing). If you are working out in a gym, adjust according to how good the heating system is in the winter, the cooling system in the summer.
For hot weather, make sure you slap on the sunblock before you go outdoors. If you can wear sunglasses without them slipping off constantly, put those on as well. And hats are a good idea, particularly if you don’t want to be slathering sunblock on the part of your hair or your bald head. If you think that you will be removing your shirt at all, put sunblock on your torso as well. If you are going out at night, obviously none of this paragraph applies.
There are two rough groups of exercises that you can do without any equipment at all – stationary and non-stationary. The stationary ones are any that involve you not moving from one spot, so think push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, etc. Non-stationary would be running and biking.
I’ll hit up the stationary exercises first. First off, click here. It’s the Army’s Pocket Physical Fitness Training Guide. Its extremely helpful, and will actually give you a lot more information than just on exercises, but it contains a lot of drills which are stationary in nature. If you don’t really feel like doing any reading at all, though, then I’ll stick to very basic things here: push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, and jumping jacks, since I assume everyone knows how to do those. But even if you know how to do them in the abstract, do you know how to do them properly?
With push-ups, you can either go the real way, or the wuss way. The difference is where your knees are – if they are on the ground, then that is a wuss push-up. If you aren’t used to much physical activity, start with the wuss way and work yourself up to the real way. As for the real way, make sure you are doing it properly. If your butt is sticking up in the air, you’re doing it wrong. Your arms should be about shoulders’ width apart, and your legs straight. Spread your legs slightly so your feet aren’t tight together; this will help you to do more. And remember to breathe throughout – many people will hold their breath and only breathe between individual push-ups, which will only serve to make you feel light-headed.
Sit-ups and crunches are closely related. For a proper sit-up, your back should be perpendicular to the ground; if you don’t know if you are or aren’t, ask a friend to look. Your hands should be clasped behind your head, and should stay there. Your legs should be bent to form a roughly ninety degree angle. You may also sit-up far enough that your chest touches your knees, but that isn’t necessary. For crunches, there are many modified forms; in the basic one, you only need to focus on getting your shoulder blades off the ground. One modified version has you hold your legs in the air. Another involves putting one leg over the other and working on side in particular. If you want clarification on these two, please consult the aforementioned guide.
If you don’t know how to do a jumping jack… go look it up on Youtube.
One of my favorite ways to do a push-up and sit-up workout is to use the card workout. All you need is a pack of playing cards. Each card represents an exercise and the amount you will do. Hearts are push-ups, diamonds are close-arm push-ups (so, not a shoulders’ width apart), spades are sit-ups, and clubs are crunches. The number of the card is how many you do – so, three of hearts is three push-ups. Face cards work like this: Jack is ten, Queen is fifteen, King is twenty. Aces mean you sprint four hundred yards, but you can just toss them out if you only want a stationary work-out. You may also do an easier, alternative counting scheme for face cards: Jack is eleven, Queen is twelve, King is thirteen, and Ace is fourteen.
There’s another neat trick, though, that may appeal to you directly as an anime fan. After all, part of the reason you’re not in shape is due to the fact that you just wanna watch anime and read manga and draw fanart or something. Where does all this fitness fit into that?
Alright, you’re watching the latest episode of Mahou Shoujo Bishounen. You’ve seen the OP and ED so much you could sing them in your sleep. When that OP cues up, jump out of your seat, hit the deck and do ten push-ups. When the ED cues up, hit the deck and do ten push-ups. When the eyecatch slides across the screen, pause and do fifteen sit-ups. If you’re marathoning, or watching a few episodes from different shows in a row, do push-ups or sit-ups between episodes.
These values are just baselines; every day, add one to each total. You can also toss some jumping jacks in there as well.
Another way is to just sit your computer screen or laptop on the floor and do push-ups in front of it while watching anime. Something nice about these approaches to getting into better shape is that you don’t even need to be wearing anything other than what you’ve already go on.
Dubbed shows are actually excellent for stationary exercises, as you do not need to pay attention to the screen as closely as you would were you watching subtitled fare (assuming you don’t know Japanese) (also assuming you aren’t watching something like Revolutionary Girl Utena or anything else where attention to everything on-screen is extremely important). So flopping onto your back for some sit-ups won’t make you lose track of what is going on (just make sure you’re still counting).
Moving on to running and biking. First off, start small – if you don’t move much, try a half-mile jog to start with. For biking, start with something between two and five miles. It doesn’t hurt to bring a friend either (please note: body pillows do not make good work-out buddies). If you aren’t sure how to measure the distance, try using the website Map My Run; this works for measuring distance regardless of whether you are running or biking (or even rollerblading, for that matter).
But, hey, say you don’t want to do something that will take you away from your precious anime time – then what?
I wouldn’t recommend it, but you can do the anime treadmill exercise. It’s pretty simple:
- Take your laptop.
- Get on treadmill.
- Balance laptop on treadmill’s control panel; duct tape if necessary.
- Queue up latest episode of anime x (not X) (well… I guess it could be X).
- Turn on treadmill.
- And watch.
If you want to read manga, you can use a stationary bike. I read Crime and Punishment that way, so don’t tell me you can’t do that.
Alright, that covers the basics for exercises themselves. Keep on the lookout for the second installation in this series, which, as I said before, will cover music, food, assorted tips, and anime or manga that can motivate you to get moving.