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Uploaded:2020-02-11
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In which John Green discusses what he has learned from 1,100 days of regular exercise.

If you want to watch the show that started this big change in my life, it's here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1RVRAdiSH4qxjBgxm_plng

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Good morning, Hank, it's Tuesday.


So almost exactly three years ago I finished a 100 day fitness challenge with my best friend Chris that we documented on YouTube. And when it comes to big lifestyle or habit changes I often see 30 day updates or 100 day updates but today I thought I would share with you the good and the bad from now over 1,000 days of regular exercise.

So back in 2017 after exercising 5 or 6 days a week for 100 days I was pretty fit. I could run 7 or 8 miles, for instance. I was sleeping better. My mental illness had improved dramatically and I was also getting lots more creative work done, like I wrote much of Turtles All THe Way Down in that period, and now, three years later, I'm mostly in better shape than I was then.  I've shaved 30 seconds off the pace of which I can run a mile.  I'm stronger.  My blood pressure's good, etc.  I still work out with Laura, our trainer from 100 Days twice a week, and then most weekends, I bike or run so I almost always get more than 150 minutes of moderate or high intensity exercise per week, which is what my doctor recommends for me.

The way I experience the benefits of exercise looks approximately like this.  Like, initially, there's a huge improvement.  Fewer of my hours are lost to anxious thoughts.  I have vastly more energy, etc, but then, the improvement kind of plateaus.  I just noticed the collar buttons aren't buttoned and I know that's a big issue for some of you, so I'm going to button them.  Right, so even though I'm better off than I would be without exercise, I feel like my improvement isn't continuing, which can lower my motivation. 

Less motivation means less exercise and then my brain starts to get worse and it's really hard to convince myself to exercise when I'm feeling unwell and now we're in a vicious cycle, and that's why I was always yo-yoing with exercise and while I have experienced those vicious cycles in the last three years, because I now recognize the pattern, it's much easier to break it, and what I've noticed over a long period of time is that while some of the health benefits do plateau, others look kinda like this, like they slowly keep getting better.  For instance, despite being very, very old, I am currently the fastest runner I have ever been.  Also, my mental health is probably the best it's ever been, like, I'm still mentally ill and I take medication every day and all that stuff, but like, the rolling 90 day average of my mental health is much better than it was five or ten or fifteen years ago.  

I've also experienced a really helpful shift in how I imagine myself, which I know is a really weird thing to say, but like, I never thought of  myself as a fit or healthy person.  In fact, I often defined myself in opposition to fitness.  I was a nerd, not a jock.  I was a mind person, not a body person, but now I'm much less inclined to imagine my mind as separate from my body.  I mean, my brain is made out of meat just like my muscles are.  My body is not just like a sac that carries my mind around, and for me at least, treating it that way wasn't good for my  body or my mind.  

For example, I think exercise has been good for my writing.  I don't think I could write The Anthropocene Reviewed with my old way of looking at the world or humanity.  I needed to understand that the duality I'd created between the body and the mind, or between consciousness and the natural world was just total BS.  None of this is to say that the last three years have like, been without challenge.  I have bouts of vertigo, which at times, is extremely destabilizing both literally and figuratively and makes it difficult to exercise and I've also had a couple small injuries and a lot of aches and pains, some of which are just due to getting older but some of which are also due to being more active.  

Also, I don't love to exercise.  Like, even after 1,100 days, I don't know what a runner's high is.  I don't like, eagerly anticipate training sessions, but I have found a lot of value in exercise, because it is engrossing, a terrible word for a wonderful experience.  Exercise takes all of me and it uses all of me and it benefits all of me.  When I was a kid, I heard a comedian joke once that jogging extends your life by the exact number of minutes you spend jogging, and I always thought of that as a reason not to exercise, but now, even if that were true, which it isn't, by the way, I'd still run.  In fact, I'm gonna go do it now, on the treadmill, to be clear, because it's very cold and also because I wanna watch AFC Wimbledon.  

Hank, I'll see you on Friday.