Encouraging Health and Happiness

A Roll of the Dice Leaves Exercise to Chance


Eli Meir Kaplan for The Wall Street Journal


Dungeons & Dragons dice help Vincent Morris choose from 20 workouts. Above, the Rihanna.

Vincent Morris’s workout is a game of chance. Each day, he rolls a 20-sided die he still has from childhood days of playing the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons to determine his morning exercise. Each number on the die represents a different exercise.

“My wife thinks I’m crazy,” he says. “But it gives me variety and allows me to make the dice the bad guy.”

To break up the monotony of his workout regime, Capitol Hill staffer Vincent Morris rolls a 20-sided dice each morning to decide which routine he’ll complete. It’s unusual and, he says, it works. WSJ’s Neil Hickey reports from Washington.

Mr. Morris was active when he was younger and he played football at Boston University. Now, as the 43-year-old communications director of the Senate Commerce Committee, his job is largely sedentary. “I’m at a desk nearly all day and I hate that,” he says.

Vincent Morris does the monkey bar crawl during his playground workout.

When he fell into a gym rut and became bored with his running and weights routine, Mr. Morris began asking friends what they did for exercise. “One friend was really into Pilates, and another swore by spinning,” he says. “I also started reading articles about trendy new workouts like paddleboarding.”

A year ago, he made a list of all of the workouts he thought would be physically challenging and fun enough to keep him engaged. He came up with 20, ranging from rock climbing to boxing to lifting with kettle bells. He gave each one a nickname. Paddleboarding, for instance, is called the “Rihanna” because “I kept seeing all of these photos of Rihanna paddleboarding in magazines,” he explains.

The die allows “me to workout angry if I don’t get what I want,” he jokes. “But when chance smiles on me and I roll a three, that means I just shoot hoops and do some sprints while dribbling the basketball.”

Fitness by the Numbers

Dungeons & Dragons dice

20 Ways to Cross Train:

1. The Euro: Stationary bike for 45 minutes.

2. Playground: Exercises on the swing set, ropes, bars, trees. (Such as jump and hang from a swing set, jump up and down off of a picnic table.)

3. LeBron: Shoot baskets, work on jump shots, full-court dribble. (Named for the basketball player.)

4. NFLPA: Two-minute, full-speed sprints on a treadmill. (Stands for NFL Players Association because it mimics the wind sprints football players do in practice.)

5. Accelerator: Run on the treadmill and steadily increase speed until topping out, repeat.

6. Water: Swim a half or one mile, alternating sprints.

7. River run: An easy pace, four- to five-mile run along the Anacostia River.

8. Plyo: Jumps, squats, balance on a balance ball. (Stands for plyometrics, exercises involving a burst of speed and strength.)

9. Kettle corn: Swings and lifts with kettle bells.

10. Jack LaLanne: Work out on Nautilus machines, focus on shoulders and chest. (Refers to the late fitness guru.)

11. Alex McCandless: Climb the step machine for 200 stories. (Named for the ‘Into the Wild’ subject, who liked to walk.)

12. Reverse: Skip backwards on treadmill for one mile.

13. Jail house: 300 sit-ups, 150 pushups (The sit-ups in sets of 50 and pushups in sets of 25.)

14. Full metal jacket: Walk with a 50-pound weighted vest. (Borrows the name of the 1987 Vietnam War movie.)

15. Medicine ball: Twists, squats, lunges, side to side moves using the medicine ball.

16. Burpees: Perform as many as possible in 30 minutes. (See Least Favorite Workout section of main column.)

17. Mike Tyson: Punching bag workout. (Named for the prizefighter.)

18. Old school: Bench press, bicep curls, military press, three sets each.

19. Yosemite: Rock climbing at the gym.

20. Rihanna: Paddleboarding at the Columbia Island Marina in Arlington, Va. (Named for the singer who was photographed doing the sport.)

Mr. Morris lives in Washington, D.C., where he writes speeches for the Senate Commerce Committee. He is married and has three daughters ages 4, 6 and 9.

The Workout

Mr. Morris works out seven mornings a week. During the work week, he’s often at the gym by 5:30 a.m. and exercises for an hour before he returns home to wake his kids and have breakfast with his family. On the weekends he gets to the gym at 7 a.m.

Mr. Morris will roll his die twice to determine his day’s workout. He dedicates 30 minutes to each exercise. Some days that means he’ll be doing an hour of cardio, and other days all strength.

Workout No. 11, named the Alex McCandless after the subject of Jon Krakauer’s book “Into the Wild,” is one of his favorites. It requires Mr. Morris to climb 200 floors on the stair machine. “I named it after McCandless because he walked into Alaska, and when I do this I feel like I’m walking forever.” He says he usually can climb 150 to 200 floors in 30 minutes.

No. 18 he likens to “something Arnold Schwarzenegger would have done in his body-building days.” Mr. Morris uses free weights and does three sets each of bench presses, bicep curls and military presses, in which a person stands, feet together and raises a barbell to the chest and then lifts it overhead. For his “Full Metal Jacket” workout, he walks around a nearby school for a mile wearing a 50-pound weighted vest.

He admits that some days he cheats. “If I roll a water workout during the week, I roll again because the pool doesn’t open early enough,” he says. If he rolls two consecutive numbers, he’ll roll again so he won’t do the same workout back to back.

The Diet

During the week, Mr. Morris’s breakfast is Greek yogurt with blueberries, bananas, wheat germ, flaxseed and honey. On the weekends he typically cooks eggs, bacon and pancakes with his kids. He tries to bring lunch to work at least three days a week, usually two or three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on whole-wheat bread. Other days he eats lunch out with colleagues.

A variety of equipment is used, including trees.

His wife usually cooks dinner, which might be chicken, beans and rice or pasta. Mr. Morris has a weakness for sweets. “I eat a lot of candy,” he confesses.

Cost & Gear

Mr. Morris’s gym membership costs $70 a month. His weighted vest cost $70.

He owns five pairs of Nike Air Presto sneakers. Nike discontinued the lightweight sneaker about 10 years ago, so Mr. Morris buys them used off eBay for about $20 a pair. “They’re nylon with no laces and feel like you’re wearing slippers,” he says.

Least Favorite Workout

“Workout 16, the burpees, is really tiring.”

To perform burpees, he starts in a standing position and drops into a squat position with his hands on the ground, then kicks his feet back and lowers himself into a pushup position. He then jumps from a pushup position back to a squat and jumps straight up as high as possible, with arms overhead. He repeats as many as he can for 30 minutes.


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