“Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very fast.”
I have never been a walker. It seemed like it wasn’t really exercise. If I wanted to exercise I would do something that at least got me sweaty. But, as I did my research, the evidence was clear that low level activity was good for weight loss.
Being a teacher, I was able to work in added fitness in spite of my busy schedule. Teachers, are susceptible to multiple time sucks. Students need help before and after class, a fellow teacher wants to talk about a shared lesson, mounds of paperwork, the list is endless. So, for me, I needed a way that I could work more fitness and exercise into what I was already doing. I wrote about this in an earlier post. I know how busy teachers get. And the nature of teaching is exhausting physically, but probably more so mentally. The amount of mental energy teachers invest each day is incredible. By the time the final bell rings, I was so tired, the last thing on my mind was working really hard physically and getting a good workout. I wrote about the fitness and exercise routine I built into my schedule in an earlier post you can read here. But, walking was equally important. I needed to walk more. Here are the steps I took to add more walking into my daily activity.
1. Get a pedometer. Until you know how far you are walking, you can’t make a plan to add more. In order to have an effective plan, you must have data to measure. After I got a pedometer, I spent a couple days wearing it and not changing my habits. I just wanted to establish the baseline. After about 4 days, it was clear I was walking between 2.5-3 miles a day. That was pretty encouraging to me, because I knew that if I walked another 2 when I got home I could easily be at 5 miles for the day. But, I felt like I could increase that. So, I made a goal to add a half mile/day every week. So my first week I tried to get to 3.5 miles/day. This was a great way to incorporate small changes into my activity. I eventually got up to 6-6.5 miles a day at work. Now 2-3 miles at home and I’m almost at 10 miles a day. Awesome! I would recommend adding incrementally like I did because if you try to change too much too soon, you are more likely to give up. Half a mile/day a week was a very manageable amount.
2. The more you can do at work the better. There were multiple benefits to me walking more at work. First, for my employer, they got a much more productive employee. I know it may seem weird that taking time to walk made me more productive, but the added energy I got from walking and being active more than made up for the 10 or so minutes I dedicated to walking. If you have to do it on your lunch or prep, do it, just get that walking in. Second, there was a psychological benefit to doing all of this walking at work. When I got home, I felt accomplished. I had already achieved my daily walking goal many times by the time I got home, so any walking I did with my dog or a friend was icing on the cake.
3. Get a dog. Dogs are awesome. My dog is funny. He was super high energy. When he was a puppy, I had to walk him two times a day
or he was a mess with all of his energy. Even, at 6 years old, he still needs a good walk everyday. I can’t count the number of times I would have decided not to walk, had it not been for the fact that I knew he would drive me crazy if I didn’t. I know it seems like a big commitment to make just to get healthy, but there are added benefits to having a dog as well. I’m telling you, my dog has helped me walk hundreds of miles I wouldn’t have walked without him. And, the great thing about dogs is, they are always ready to walk. They never have appointments get in the way, or an emergency. As a matter of fact, walking with you will be the highlight of their day.
4. Keep a total of the miles you walk. I didn’t figure this out until well into my lifestyle transformation, but Nike+ makes an app that keeps a total of all the miles you’ve walked. It’s been really encouraging as I
reach each milestone. I just crossed 250 miles since May 8th. It’s pretty cool. Also, Nike athletes give you encouragement, and your Facebook friends can encourage you as you go. Good stuff.
5. Get a treadmill or some way to handle the elements. This is a new deal for me. I just snagged one off of craigslist for $25. I powered through the winter rain and cold because I had a thick storm jacket from Nike. However, now with my treadmill, I will probably brave the elements inside. But, the odds you will walk in the freezing cold and rain are slim if you don’t have a way to protect yourself from the elements. If you live in a warm climate, you have no excuse! Also, I would say hold off on buying a treadmill until you are either 150 miles into your walking journey or 3 months, whichever comes first. Make sure you have established this healthy habit before you spend money on exercise equipment, which for most people becomes an expensive clothes hanger.
In the 6 months since I started my journey, I have probably walked close to 1000 miles. I now enjoy the benefits of learning while I walk (currently learning how to speak Spanish), or just having quiet time to think and reflect. Walking is good for your body and mind. Again, try it for three weeks and let me know what you think.
EVERY DAY GETTING BETTER!