…how I stretch each NFL weekend to a full week of fitness and entertainment.
I f’ing love NFL football. I cry a little when I hear the Sunday Night Football theme for the first time every year (now, strangely, on a Thursday). It’s hard to concisely explain just how much I f’ing love football, but I’m going to try, by giving you a weekly football-enjoyment schedule, which you too can parlay into both happiness and fitness.
The TFIP (Total Football Immersion Program) assumes you have no “free” time, i.e. that you have no time to just sit and watch football, and also assumes that you aren’t able to actually watch football on Sundays even if you do have time, because… kids and stuff.
The goals of this program are as follows:
Use football to make exercise interesting for about five days a week
Use football-related podcasts to make all mundane tasks (driving, laundry, etc.) and all cognitively idle time (e.g. dog-walking) interesting for about five days a week
Use football as our sole source of digital entertainment when small bits of non-exercise-related free time are available (e.g. while cooking dinner)
To achieve those goals, we’ll need to:
Have a way to watch football when there’s no football on
Have a good setup for exercising while watching football
Avoid football spoilers basically all week
Have football-related content available when we can’t watch football
This post will help you do all of those things.
First, here are the things you need to do before the season starts:
Subscribe to NFL Game Pass, which lets you watch hella football. Roughly speaking, you can watch each game as soon as it’s over. It’s $100/year at the time that I’m writing this (2019), which I encourage football fans to compare to the cost of (a) cable, (b) the phone you’re probably reading this on, (c) other streaming services. IMO it’s an insanely good value.
Have some way of exercising while you watch football. I like a treadmill or bike with a TV/laptop/tablet for this; specifically, I mounted a tiny screen right in my face above a treadmill. The only downside of treadmills and exercise bikes is that they’re boring, and this won’t be a problem, because football. Game Pass on a PC or Mac is significantly preferred over the mobile-device version, because a big part of what will make this work is your ability to fast-forward between plays, which is much easier with a keyboard, and which is much better-supported in the Game Pass web thing (compared to the mobile app) anyway. If you follow my recommendation and go the PC/Mac route here, I recommend getting a tiny wireless keyboard like this one, which you can hold in one hand and easily operate a single button on, even on a treadmill.
Also, some general tips to emotionally prepare yourself for the NFL season:
Be prepared to avoid social media entirely between September and February. This is a lot easier if you don’t use social media anyway (because it’s horrible for your happiness, your productivity, and your democracy) (I’m sorry, I know that isn’t super-related, but I couldn’t resist).
Be prepared to avoid discussing football with any other human beings between September and February, except for possibly a brief window on Saturday evenings. This is a lot easier if you’re not really into interacting with human beings. Did I mention that this plan is for anti-social loners? Well, I’m mentioning it now.
Football season has arrived!
With all those requirements out of the way, let’s get to the first Monday morning of the season. Let’s pretend for a second that the season doesn’t start on a Thursday, we can come back to that later. In general, our football week will begin on Monday mornings.
Monday morning is the most important moment of the TFIP week. Really, I want you to imagine the feeling of staring at a complete slate of NFL games and knowing that you can watch any of them… is this not like Willy Wonka’s factory for grown-ups?
At this point, we have probably not watched any of the Sunday games, so block time to exercise as early as possible. If you’ve never been a morning person, reconsider whether a 6am workout is more appealing when football is involved (hint: it is). I recommend that you hit that treadmill while watching the most interesting early game that’s available; it’s important to remember that if you start with late games, you run a much higher risk of spoiling games you haven’t watched yet. Occasionally I will watch the Seahawks game first even if it’s in the afternoon; I’m not particularly a Seahawks fan, but the name of the game here is going the whole week without hearing any scores for games that you haven’t watched, and I live in Seattle, so the risk of Seahawks spoilers is very high.
I strongly recommend blocking the bottom of your screen in some way, to avoid other scores (not necessary for Thursday night, Sunday night, or Monday night games). I’ve gone the masking tape and cardboard routes before, but if you are using Windows, I highly recommend an advanced piece of technology called “ScoreBlocker” developed by Neel Joshi. The advanced technology here is – in a nutshell – a big black rectangle.
I recommend watching with the tiny keyboard in-hand, as per above, and skipping filler time. The Rii keyboard fits just right in my hand such that my thumb is over the right arrow, which conveniently advances the Game Pass web client by 10 seconds. This means I can mostly skip time between plays without missing anything, and only watch replays when I want to. Because when you’re a few miles into a workout and having trouble breathing, time-filling announcer fodder and replays of unremarkable inside runs are not going to cut it. At this pace, a good workout is about one half of football.
One of the great things about watching football in non-real-time is that if a game gets boring, you can move on. Typically if there’s a three-score differential, or two scores in the fourth quarter, I’ll fast forward (using the touchpad-y thing on the tiny keyboard) to somewhere near the end of the game to make sure I’m not missing something awesome. If it’s still a blowout, on to the next game.
Monday evening through Saturday evening
For the heart of the week, it’s more of the same: watch your favorite morning games first, then your favorite afternoon games, then the Sunday/Monday/Thursday night games, in that order. Typically you’ve got more than enough football to power daily workouts, plus any other time you have where you can plausibly watch football (e.g. while putting laundry away). This requires about 3-4 games that you care about (for me I’ll watch anything on SNF, plus 2-3 other games of interest).
On Thursday morning, or sometimes earlier if I’ve finished the Sunday night game, I sync my two favorite football podcasts, specifically the Monday morning episode of Golic and Wingo and the weekend-preview episode of The Dave Dameshek Football Program. It’s important to sync these episodes after you’ve finished watching the Sunday night game (and ideally the Monday night game, if you’re interested in that week’s MNF), but before the Thursday game happens, to minimize spoiler risk: while you have the podcasts open, you will almost inevitably see an episode title called something like “Big Trouble in Big D” or “Fly Eagles Fly”). These podcasts are great for the car, for walking the dog, etc.
Whenever you’ve finished your games of interest
One of my favorite parts of the TFIP is when I’ve finished all the games I care about, and I can – in 10 minutes or less – browse the last couple minutes of all the games I don’t care about, to make sure I see all the exciting finishes. This is hard to do while exercising, so typically I save this 10 minutes for, e.g., while I’m cooking or eating dinner on Wednesday or Thursday night.
Sunday at 9:30am PT is a great time to hit espn.com; it’s the last ESPN you’ll have for a few days. Catch up on the week’s storylines, get excited about specific games that you can’t watch yet, etc.
The rest of Sunday will be the most difficult test of your ability to avoid football scores. You will become a pro at this. My football-avoidance Everest: I have walked through SeaTac airport during a prime-time Seahawks game without finding out the score.
Now we’re ready for the next week of football! Be prepared for creativity during the playoffs (great time for long runs, since every game is worth an hour of real time during the playoffs). Also be prepared to get really out of shape after the season is over! When you get there, check out my Call of Duty Workout.
I’m a computer scientist and/or an international rock icon.