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Multitasking Meets Exercise

The number one excuse for not exercising is not having enough time. The second is not feeling like it. At least, that’s what my experience has been. Maybe you’re like me. Don’t worry, you’re in good company. I don’t judge.

 Life is busy. At least, I’ve come to realise that life is full of self-imposed obligations that we’ve created for ourselves (and are solely responsible for). But that’s an existential discussion for another time.

The least we can do, I figure, is multitask. By getting more than one thing done at a time, we might be able to trick ourselves that this is in fact a worthwhile pursuit.

To swim or not to swim. That was never the question.

When I was younger and swam in a country swimming club (Manjimup Marlins represent!) swimming was my life. Little did I know I was already multitasking. Sure, I enjoyed the exercise and striving for new PB’s (personal bests) but to be honest, swimming was just as much a byproduct of hanging out with my friends that also swam on all those evenings after school, and cold, frosty mornings beforehand. Certainly, being so cold I couldn’t feel my body for the first 100m wasn’t why we did it! Swimming with that club formed a large part of my childhood, and was a large contributing factor of the Marc Copes you see today. But sadly as the story goes, all good things must come to an end.

As a result, this particular multitask also disappeared when I moved to the city and started to swim by myself. Suddenly watching the blue line at the bottom of the pool was no longer interspersed with chats with friends. It took more discipline to keep up the swimming routine, and remained a habit for many years, until it eventually faded.

Good habits die hard.

Fortunately, I’ve recently rediscovered my love for swimming as a form of exercise. I largely attest it to the fact that I’ve found a new way to multitask.

You can quickly find yourself spending a good part of your pool time just counting your laps: “Ok, this is my 3rd lap. I’ve just done 2, now this is 3. Three. Three. Three. Next lap is 4. But not yet. I’m still on 3. Here comes the turn for 4. Aaaaaaand now I’m 4. I’ve just done 3, now this is 4. Four Four Four.

It’s as maddening as it sounds, and if you’ve ever swum laps, I’m sure you understand the mental pain.

So instead of counting, I now swim for 30 minutes. I’m in, then I’m out. And now while I look at the blue line at the bottom of the pool, I’m writing comics in my head. My other personal project, Cow Texas, requires me to think of a couple new comic ideas each week. The problem with coming up with ideas is that they just take time to manifest in your mind. Reading interviews of my favourite cartoonists, and they often say they are accused of “doing nothing” while they are brainstorming and looking out the window. It takes a good amount of time throwing random ideas together and seeing what sticks. It takes unfiltered iteration, without interference. The creative string of consciousness is futile and easily broken with ANY distractio – is that a puppy?

Lately, the pool has been a perfect creative environment for me. I can’t hear anyone else, I can’t see anyone else, I can’t even play with my phone. All I can do is move, breath, and think. I think about anything that enters my mind, as I try and put a humorous spin on things. As a result, the 30 minutes fly by. When anyone asks where I get my ideas from, I say “The Endless Blue Line.” And wouldn’t you know, it has finally helped break the horrible “counting laps” curse.

Tumble turn.

“Oh that’s great, Marc. We all love swimming and drawing comics, reeeeaaaallll helpful for the rest of us.” Ok ok, I get you. Maybe you don’t do either of those things. Fear not, there are plenty of other ways to multitask.

If you enjoy reading, consider listening to audiobooks or podcasts while you go for a walk. (Have you heard of the Puppies and Watermelon podcast? I heard it’s pretty good :p)  Catch up on your Netflix or TV shows while you’re on the treadmill. Call a friend and be one of those crazy people who talk to the empty space next to them. I’ve always wanted to be that person.

The point is, sometimes we need to trick ourselves to kickstart the habit-creation process. By multitasking, not only will you feel more productive, you’ll get your daily exercise in at the same time. You’ll feel the muscle burn alongside the mental burn. One day, heck, we might even grow to enjoy the exercise itself.