Reading and working out: Not a great mix

While scrolling through an iVillage article about shape-up secrets from top trainers, I came across this tip: Maintain Your Fitness Focus: Ditch the Reading Materials. I often like to flip through magazines, health/beauty/fitness (Shape, Self, Glamour, InStyle) or tabloids (People, Us Weekly, Star), while working out. I don’t have much free time to read magazines, so I like to indulge when I have the opportunity. Exercise is my “me” time. Why not make it a little richer (read entertaining) with fashion, celebrity gossip, and health and fitness tips? Plus, it can take the edge off 60 minutes spent on the elliptical. Despite the enjoyment, I’ve found that when I have a magazine vying for my attention my pace does tend to slow (or become more erratic), not a lot, but enough that I notice a difference in distance and calories burned at the end of my workout. I can usually squeeze out 30-50 more calories when I listen to music or watch TV only. Not substantial when considered alone, but significant over time. Between 150 and 250 calories a week! In the iVillage article, Teddy Bass, a Beverly Hills personal trainer, said:

“I can’t tell you how many women I see at the gym and they’re barely pedaling the bike or elliptical machine because they’re so focused on what they’re reading, be it a magazine, cell phone or newspaper. It’s okay to zone out, but don’t forget why you’re there.”

Even the elliptical takes focus!

Even the elliptical takes focus!

I definitely agree with the quote above. I’ve seen many women completely engrossed in a book or magazine and hardly working out at all. In the end, I think what you’re trying to achieve should drive your level of focus. If you’re trying to lose weight or train for a competitive run, it’s probably best to leaving the reading material at home and make the most of your iPhone/iPod or the TV attached to the machine. The occasional magazine read certainly won’t hurt your overall fitness level. And, on days where you don’t feel like working out, if a magazine will help to entice you then go for it. Intensity is definitely an important component of maximizing your workouts, so just be mindful if you do decide to include some light reading. You’ll often see me at the gym on Sundays with a couple of magazines tucked under my arm as I make my way to the cardio machines, but you’ll never see me with a book in hand. I don’t recommend trying to read a book, or e-book via iPad/Kindle, as it requires too much concentration and is there for distracting beyond its value. Also, the bulkiness of the book makes it hard to keep open and turn pages. You don’t want to get so lost in what you’re reading or caught up in propping the book open that you don’t keep tabs on your workout. You’re at the gym for a reason, don’t forget that. Make the most of your workout and you’ll want to keep coming back!

Do you read while you workout? Leave your answer in the comments section.

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