I have a volatile relationship with my fitness tracker. We’re on again off again, depending on the latest study (10,000? 15,000? 4,000?) and how many workouts I’ve managed that week. When I’ve missed a run or skipped leg day, I’m much more attentive to my step count. “Well, at the very least you accidentally walked 3.36 miles today,” I might tell myself at the end of a day during which I’ve barely locomoted, assembling my meager step collection through commuting to the office and, while there, going to get water twice, possibly three times, depending, again, on the latest study (64 ounces? Get it from fruits and vegetables? If you’re thirsty it’s too late?).
I found myself recently rambling about the manicured campus of a sprawling outdoor outlet mall. Before you remind me that I do not need any more stuff, I will tell you I was there really just out of curiosity. Who was spending their perfectly warm but not-too-warm late Sunday afternoon in pursuit of bargains? A good proportion of the greater New York City area’s population, it turned out. All of us, dull of eye and shuffling of foot, ambling the brick pathways from one shop to the next when the weather was practically begging us to go for a bike ride or a swim instead.
An hour in, outside a high-tech outerwear boutique, the sort of place where real athletes buy performance gear for the sports I was not participating in, I checked my step count: 5,700. Perhaps the day wouldn’t be lost entirely to sloth, I reasoned. By the time I made it back to the car, which I’d (virtuously, I reminded myself) parked a good distance from the shops to avoid paying for parking, I’d clocked over 13,000 steps.
I know! What was next for me? A world championship title? Biking 11 miles to and from Costco with a trailer of groceries, as Andrew Leonard has been doing since his car broke down three years ago? Leonard has found errand-running to be his ideal form of exercise: a healthy routine that’s intrinsically motivated by his love of cycling and his love of getting things done.
I’ll admit I’ve tended to look askance at incidental exercise. I like intentional movement, a workout that begins and ends and then I’ve fulfilled my contract. It’s not fashionable to admit this. “Take the stairs!” instruct people who see the world as their gym. “Get off the subway one stop early!” lecture those who do not leave a precise two-and-a-half-minute cushion to get from their house to their first meeting.
“The most important thing,” a physical activity psychologist told Leonard, “is that people find ways to make their burst of exercise — be it walking the dog or biking to Costco — the most enjoyable possible.” I have a friend who’s permanently moved her therapy appointments to the phone so she can walk and talk and get her steps in. I remember a colleague telling me about how she brushed her teeth in a squat, a twice-a-day mini glute workout.
Where can we, you and I, get more exercise in an enjoyable way? The problem, I find, is what we qualify as “enjoyable.” I told myself that I enjoyed stretching during conference calls while working from home, but it was so enjoyable that I did it for two days and then never again. I respond well to arbitrarily self-imposed rules, so I’m toying with a carrot-and-stick approach. I love listening to podcasts and audiobooks. If I make a rule that I can finish “The Sullivanians” only if I am walking while I do it, there’s a very good likelihood I’ll lace up.
How do you fold exercise into your everyday? How do you make it enjoyable when a far more attractive option is, say, taking a nap? Tell me. Include your full name and location and I might include your response in an upcoming newsletter.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
🍿 “The Equalizer 3” (Friday): Star actors don’t quite exist in the way they used to, but Denzel Washington remains one of our last greats. And what range! He can play a mammoth American stage role, as he did when he portrayed Hickey in “The Iceman Cometh” five years ago. He can star as Macbeth in a spartan black-and-white film directed by one of the Coen brothers. And then he can crack heads in a franchise like the Equalizer series, the third entry of which finds his lead character just trying to take it easy in Southern Italy when he crosses paths with the Mafia.
📺 “Justified: City Primeval” (Tuesday): Speaking of franchises, Hollywood has gotten scarily proficient at thinking of new ways to extend their life spans. Based on a character created by Elmore Leonard, the beloved FX series “Justified,” starring Timothy Olyphant as the U.S. marshal Raylan Givens, ended in 2015. But who’s to say that Raylan couldn’t be the main character in other Leonard adaptations, including of books he never even appeared in? That was the case with “City Primeval,” which ends its eight-episode run this week.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Why restrict one of summer’s sterling trios — bacon, lettuce and tomato — to the space between two slices of bread? Colu Henry’s BLT pasta turns that staple sandwich into an easy seasonal dinner, with a smoky sauce built on bacon fat. Arugula or baby spinach replaces the standard iceberg lettuce.
No renovation: She got her dream house as long as she kept a promise.
What you get for $500,000: A Craftsman bungalow in Syracuse, Ind.; an Edwardian house in Louisville, Ky.; or a 1912 cottage in Milwaukie, Ore.
The hunt: They wanted a house in the Orlando, Fla., area that was ready for move-in. Which one did they choose? Play our game.
Bridal wear: A designer says that wedding veils, which are often seen as outdated, can be a form of personal expression.
Take a dip: In the cold waters off Washington Island, Wis.
Generational divide: Hate Gen X? Get in line — behind a Gen X-er.
At the bar: Some men see certain cocktail glasses as lacking masculinity.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
Stock up your car
As summer winds down and you begin cleaning out sand from your trunk, spare a moment to take stock of what’s in your car. Outfitting your vehicle with essentials and emergency items can help life run more smoothly. For my fall reset, I’m finally getting a foldable, durable bag to keep in the glove compartment. I’m guilty of forgetting reusable bags at home and often have to awkwardly clutch purchases while fumbling for my keys. Wirecutter has expert recommendations for cheap(ish) things to always keep in your car, including a first aid kit and a reliable jump starter. — Gabriella DePinho
Little League World Series: Youth baseball players the world over dream of playing on the manicured fields of South Williamsport, Pa., in late August. Friends and family cheer them from the stands, and TV cameras capture their athletic glory. By the end of the weekend, one team will be crowned champion. But just by making it this far, every kid in Williamsport has already done something amazing.
Here’s a bit about the four remaining teams:
Needville, Texas, loosens up before big games with a dance-off between players and coaches.
El Segundo, Calif., holds a pregame huddle to talk about the importance of playing for one another.
Willemstad, Curaçao, has been cheered on by a special guest — Jonathan Schoop, an alumnus of the team who went on to play in the majors.
Taoyuan, Taiwan, gathers before and after each game to pay respect to the baseball fields.
The international championship is at 12:30 p.m. today, and the U.S. game is at 3:30 p.m. The winners will play in the final at 3 p.m. tomorrow. All of the games are on ABC.