Catch up, Central

Catch+up%2C+Central

Photo by Ellen Spencer

Neya Thanikachalam, Editor-in-chief

Cardio day. Two words that strike fear in the hearts of most students. OK, I’m being a little dramatic. But then, I don’t really have the best relationship with cardio days, at least in regard to PE classes.

When I hear the words “cardio day,” it reminds me of myself when I was young, maybe in fourth grade, when I was so much smaller than everyone else (the only Indian kid, and therefore short, slight and dark, standing out in every assembly). There were these days, days that my PE teacher would designate as “run days,” and we’d spend the entire class running. I was always lapped by everyone in my class (remember, short legs), and would finish those cardio days exhausted and usually quite frustrated.

A lot has changed since then. Well, not the fact that I’m short. I doubt that will change (thanks genetics).

I’m not the only Indian in my class. That changed as soon as I hit middle school. In high school, I’ve seen students perform Bollywood dances at the Multicultural Show, and I’ve even heard Bollywood music being played in the hallways as the minute music during the passing period. (Not sure how to feel about that — should I be annoyed that the first thing people associate with my culture is superficial love songs with a choreographed dance routine or happy that my culture was acknowledged in the first place? But I digress.)

I’m not the last one to finish during the mile run. And that’s because I exercise. This is mostly due to a fear that my family history of diabetes and cardiac disease will catch up with me and the need to feel like I’m a little healthy (especially due to my vices — deep dish pizza and ice cream).

I don’t like to run. I want to make that clear. Too many run day flashbacks. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t like cardio. Over the summer, my exercise routine almost always included long bike rides through forest preserves. Bike rides, though, not a jog. And when inside, I avoid the treadmill like it’s the plague.

Yet I will always have a mixed reaction to cardio day. I don’t have anything against exercise. And while our cardio room has many treadmills, there are alternate ways to exercise. I usually head to the stationary bikes and ellipticals or grab a jump rope. So there’s really no problem in that department.

But there will always be one constant problem: the heart rate monitors. I think they’re a form of torture, one that followed me to high school from junior high.

The concept of a heart rate monitor is not a bad one. When students are in the zone, which is usually considered within the range of 140 to 180 beats per minute (bpm), they’re exercising. And the amount of time that students spend in said zone is what defines their grade in the class.

This does promote exercise. I’m not denying it. But it also is a nightmare when heart rate monitors don’t work.

On a particularly stressful day, my heart rate monitor decided that my heart wasn’t beating, even after I put water and the blue jelly that’s supposed to help with reception on my strap. After frantically jump roping for a few minutes, I finally had a pulse. It was around 211 bpm, which is far too high, and definitely unrealistic. The type of exercise that I was doing was taxing, yes, but not so taxing that my heart rate would spike to the 200s.

And so the cycle continued, with my heart rate plummeting then soaring and me a sweat-soaked mess (which no girl ever wants, even if PE is before lunch).

To top it off, I didn’t get credit for working out the entire period, because, according to my heart rate monitor, I only exercised for 13 of the 20 minutes I was supposed to.

I spent my next few days in the cardio room making up the time I “missed.”

I understand that our school’s PE program is nationally renowned. We have a high ropes course, self-defense and even an entire class to teach students how to survive in the wilderness. We’re not lacking in facilities.

Which is why we need to find a better alternative to our current heart rate monitors. And I’m sure we can. It could be anything from getting new straps that have better reception or teachers being more lenient in regard to what is considered strenuous exercise.

After all, if teachers can tell whether we’re exercising in the weight room without heart rate monitors, then they should be able to in the cardio room too.