The choranaptyxic workout


The Occamy, a creature from the Harry Potter universe, is a bird-snake creature that can grow or shrink to fit the available space. 

I rarely make time for movies these days, so it really bugs me when we choose wrong. While our  younger girls were entertained by the expansion of the Harry Potter universe in “Fantastic Beasts  and Where to Find Them,” I found it incredibly tedious.

Still, the creatures themselves were cool, as was Newt Scamander’s suitcase (like Dr. Who’s Tardis, it’s WAY bigger on the inside). I was particularly intrigued by the Occamy, a bird-snake thing that can grow or shrink to fit the available space, a property known (both in that world and now in ours, thanks to the incredible popularity of all things J.K. Rowling) as choranaptyxic.

I was thinking about the Occamy a couple of days later when I needed to get in a workout but only had a limited amount of time in which to do so. The situation called for an HIIT workout, but I haven’t done enough of those to find one I liked – and I didn’t want to waste time searching for one that didn’t have burpees or any of the other exercises I despise.

What I really wanted to do, but didn’t have time for, was a second session of a baseline Yasso workout I’d tried the previous week. A Yasso is designed to gauge your marathon pace, based on a series of ten 800-meter intervals. Which is ridiculous, because I’m coming off four months of barely running at all due to plantar fasciitis. But I figured that if I at least went through the motions of the workout, and kept doing it a little better each week, eventually it would become a bit less laughable, and maybe I’d finally get back in marathon shape again.

In my fantasy world, someday before I get too old and creaky I’ll run a 4-hour marathon. According to Yasso, if I could run ten of those roughly half-mile intervals in 4 minutes each, with a recovery jog in between, that would predict a 4:00 marathon.

I knew I couldn’t do that. But I also knew that no matter how awful of shape I’m in, I could always will myself to jog for 4 minutes ten times in a row, with a 2-minute recovery walk (instead of the jog the workout actually calls for) in between.

No real runner would call what I did a Yasso workout. But hey, it’s my fantasy world, and I’ll call it what I want. The beauty of it was, my baseline effort was so slow I was practically guaranteed a faster time the second time around. (Heck, even if all I did was turn up my recovery walk by .1 mph on the treadmill, I’d have a slightly faster time.)

But I didn’t have 60 minutes. Maybe half that, if I took a super quick shower and blew dry my hair by sticking it out the car window on the way to my interview. That’s when I remembered the Occampy, and decided to shrink my imitation Yasso down by keeping the same pattern and just shrinking the interval times.

Doing intervals of  2 minutes rather than 4 allowed me to go slightly less painfully slow. I started the first one at 5 mph (a 12-minute mile pace) and increased by .1 mph each time. The cool thing about this pattern was I could easily remember how many I’d done just by looking at the speed, which was always one less than the interval I was on. (For example, 5.2 mph meant I was on the third interval, while 5.7 mph indicated I was on the sixth interval.)

Trouble was, this workout was still taking too long. But I didn’t want to just quit; I wanted to somehow preserve the “integrity” of the workout.

In my fantasy world – the only place where such things matter – that meant I needed 10 intervals of 2:00 each to fit the available (shrinking) space.

I wanted to continue the stair-stepping speed increases, because I liked that pattern. But because I’m in such awful shape, I would need at least a brief recovery period in between.

Here’s how that played out:

Finishing up interval 8 at the 25-minute mark, I gave myself 30 seconds before starting interval 9 (5.8 mph, a 10:20 minutes per mile pace).

Finishing that at 27:30 meant I had 2 minutes and 30 seconds left in which to get in one more (brief) recovery period, a 2-minute interval AND, ideally, a (very brief) cooldown.

I took a 30-second recovery walk, launched into interval 10 at 5.9 mph (10:10 per mile), and then decided that I would make this final interval do double duty: It would start out on time and at the correct speed to fit the pattern, but then, having achieved that part of my made-up rule, it could morph into a cooldown jog in the second minute.

I made it to my interview on time, and felt secretly pleased all day about my Occamy-inspired, choranaptyxic workout.

Even better, I’ve since picked up a library copy of The One-Minute Workout, by one of those Canadian scientists who recently showed that one minute of turned-all-the-way-up intensity  pays off as much as 45 minutes of moderate exercise.

Next time the Occamy wants to come out and play, I’ll be ready.

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