‘Undoing’ fitness as usual

Books have invited me into different countries, states of mind, social conditions and historical epochs; they have offered me a place at the most unusual gatherings.

Hisham Matar


If the library hadn’t had such a long wait list for The Undoing Project, it never would’ve occurred to me to reserve the large-print version – which means I might never have discovered the joy of reading while cycling.

Turns out, now that I’ve had some practice, it isn’t all that hard to read regular-sized print when you’re in perpetual motion, either. But large print + a fitness bike = extremely satisfying multitasking, especially with a few “tabata” sprint intervals to ramp up the sweat factor.  

This may be the era of surgically-attached earbuds, but I don’t synthesize what I hear nearly as well as what I see, which is why I pretty much only listen to music or page turners. It’s hard for me to get in as much real reading as I’d like. Toting a great book to the YMCA, and then tuning out all the garbage on the TV screens, makes going there that much more satisfying.

undoingprojectI’d agree with some reviewers that Michael Lewis occasionally gets too bogged down in the intricacies of Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s research on the peculiar ways the human mind can delude itself during decision making. But there’s some mind-blowing material in there, wrapped inside an almost-Shakespearian human drama. Has there ever been a friendship that provided so much mutual benefit – not to mention the benefit to humanity itself – while simultaneously testing its boundaries? Throw in a childhood spent living in a chicken coop to evade Nazis and the fact that even the most heralded Israeli academics wind up on the front lines of war from time to time just ramps up the story. Besides, one of the benefits of reading the old-fashioned way is that you can skip over paragraphs that don’t interest you. And that happens in even the best books, fiction or nonfiction.

In past years, getting enough cycling miles in to complete the YMCA eight-week triathlon has been a challenge. This year, thanks to plantar fasciitis and a stack of good books, biking is my go-to workout. I read during the warmup, cool down and recovery periods, setting my book down only for the sprints (three sets of 10 x 20 seconds, with 10 seconds off in between). The only danger is that if I get too engrossed, my recovery periods can go over. But I always make sure I get in enough tabatas, so it all works out. Certainly it beats sitting on my butt reading.

On Saturday I wanted to go read and cycle, but ultimately decided it was simpler to stay home and do a run/walk treadmill workout as I try to work my way back.I’ve never had any luck reading on the treadmill. But I bungee-corded my large-print book in place and managed to read during the walking segments.

In the end I was glad I’d stayed home because the final scene brought tears to my eyes. Funny thing was, I knew what was going to happen. But the way it went down felt unlike anything I’d ever read before.

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1 Response to ‘Undoing’ fitness as usual

  1. bgddyjim says:

    Cycling while reading would be tough enough with all of the sweat… but running and walking?! That’s dedication right there!

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