Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Exercise and Education

This morning I spent 45 minutes trying to pound a few modern Greek words and phrases into an aging memory; until a month ago, this would have required a major effort of willpower, but lately I've been doing it every day with no problem. Also this morning, I did almost 5 miles of gently uphill jogging against random resistance on an elliptical machine, a Life Fitness X5i; up until a month ago, this would have required a completely impractical effort of will. No problem, because I now do them together. As Seth Roberts put it a year ago, Boring + Boring = Pleasant!?:

Two boring activities, done together, became pleasant. Anki [flashcards] alone I can do maybe ten minutes. Treadmill alone I can do only a few minutes before I want to stop. In both cases I’d have to be pushed to do it at all. Yet the combination I want to do; 60 minutes feels like a good length of time.

I'm a lot slower at memorizing than I was forty years ago, but this is good. It's funny to think how close I was to finding this for myself; I have tried music while exercising, watching TED talks while exercising, even memorizing verse while exercising. I think the crucial missing factor was total focus-in-the-moment, as required by flashcards or the Dover Books Listen & Learn Modern Greek (CD Edition) which is basically a booklet of flashcard-style utterances, English+Greek+phonetic, to be read along with the audio. (I photocopied the booklet with 41% enlargement.)

I do wonder how many people this would help. I look at related discussions like What is the best and fastest way to memorize a lot of material for a test? and of course Seth Roberts' later posts at Walking and Learning Update and at Walking Creates A Thirst For Dry Knowledge and gee, I dunno. Learning is good; exercise is good; making both easier is a very good thing.

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