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My favorite Christmas gift

With the iPod I have a good collection of fast workout music, which I'm constantly refreshing. I let the device shuffle it, and each workout can be a little bit different.

ipod from Amazon.comI started taking a more personal interest in my health at the turn of the century. I had trouble sleeping at a conference, my face felt hot, so I asked my doctor what I had.

You're in love, he said. I've been that way for 25 years, I replied, what do I have?

What I have is incipient heart disease. My natural cholesterol level was 373, great for an Internet stock but deadly for an Internet reporter. And that heat I was feeling was high blood pressure, very high.

I now take three medicines every day -- an angiotensin II receptor blocker for the blood pressure, a statin for the bad cholesterol, and time release niacin for the good cholesterol, along with a baby aspirin for good luck.

I also exercise more regularly than when I was younger, up to six times a week.

So what is my favorite health gadget?

An iPod.

I got it for Christmas two years ago, along with everyone else it seemed. Before that I wore a CD player.

Exercise is hard work, whether in a gym or on the road, and if I can let my mind go somewhere else while I'm sweating I'm more likely to stay at it.

With the iPod I have a good collection of fast workout music, which I'm constantly refreshing. I let the device shuffle it, and each workout can be a little bit different.

For long bicycle rides I shuffle my whole pack, 4,000 songs now. No more stopping to change CDs, no more worrying about the changing pace of the songs, work meant to be heard together. Just put on the headphones, one click, and go.

However you get your mind into your workout, it feels good when you're done, and for hours thereafter. Maybe you prefer to look at a TV. Maybe you prefer a pedometer and the sound of your own breathing.

Whatever it is you prefer, find something. Find a sport you enjoy. It doesn't have to be intense, or competitive, just so long as it takes you out of yourself for a little while, in the morning, at lunch or evening.

That's my Christmas gift to you, the one I was forced to give myself. It's not just a question of staying alive, but feeling well and active at my desk, sleeping well each night, and (now) getting good words from the doctor with each checkup.

This is my wish for you. Find a way to take a regular vacation from yourself, with yourself. Enjoy the holidays, and all the years we have to come.