Photo provided by Reilly Capps
I tend to learn things the hard way. This week I’ve learned: flip flops are not good shoes to wear when you’re trying to surprise someone; the farther from the ocean you are when you eat seafood, the closer you ought to be to a toilet, and an expensive, battery-powered light-up football is not the best toy to bring to the swimming pool. I’ve learned bigger lessons, too: I’ve recently been trying to exercise more, cook more, and write more articles for local magazines, and have learned: I wish cooking and exercise were easier and I wish local magazines had standards that were much, much lower.I
This is the exercise column in Yellow Scene’s Smart Issue. So let’s look at the intersection. Studies agree: British 11-year-old girls who exercised more tested better in science; New York schoolchildren who ran fast also tested highly; and Swedish military recruits with strong hearts aced standardized tests. I, of course, took the appropriate level of interest in these studies: none. I’m not an 11-year-old schoolgirl or a Swedish military recruit; I don’t take tests. I’d like to be smarter in the modern way of being smart: multitasking. I want to be able to drive down McCaslin, eat a donut from 5280, activate my American Express card and scan the radio to find a song about Michelle Pfeiffer. Finally, I found a relevant result: a paper in Nature showed that sedentary adults who took up rigorous exercise achieved better scores on multitasking tests.
I decided to test this. Would I multitask better after rigorous exercise?
First, to create a baseline, I didn’t exercise for days. This not only let me… not exercise… it provided a response for when my girlfriend found me swallowed up by the couch for the third straight hour, watching Portlandia. “This is work,” I told her, plucking Kettle Chips out of my beard. “I’m a journalist.”
Then, I tested my baseline multitasking abilities, doing three things at once: tried to follow a recipe for making gozleme (a Turkish flatbread) while getting ready for yoga while also taking a test to see if I’m Mensa material. The results? This lazy, flabby version of me prepped for yoga ok, but forgot to put baking soda in the gozleme dough, and only scored 17 out of 33 on the Mensa test, which meant, the test said, I had “few chances” of getting into that illustrious and dorky organization (I folded up my Star Trek shirt).
Next, I exercised. This could have taken any form: indoor rock climbing at The Spot in Boulder, martial arts at Success in Louisville, or taking a spin class at Erie’s Elevate. I chose, for my exercise, the state’s most physically difficult yoga class, taught in Denver, at a place called Endorphin. This is a two-hour class that resembles boot camp. My teacher, a lovely woman named Julieta, guided us through the spiritual practice of yoga while also pointing out, during the three-minute handstand challenge, that we are weak, whiny wusses. I believe my heart stopped twice.
After this, I did three things at once again. I wrote emails to possible interview subjects, talked to my sister on the phone about her wedding and took another Mensa test. This time, I got 25 of 33 right, giving me a “very good potential” to pass Mensa. My emails to the interview subjects, upon review, were cogent and rightly spelled. I consistently remembered my sister’s fiance’s name.
These results suggest that exercise is helpful to your brain and multitasking. Use these results, dear readers. The Boulder area is full of opportunities to exercise; many are featured in the pages of this magazine. Rigorous workouts may not get you into Mensa, but… would you ever actually go to a meeting? And rigorous exercise might help you do more things at once a little better. It did for me. Because, note, I did four things after exercising: talk, type, test — and finished a column for a local magazine.