Sneaky Ways to Get More Steps

I started using an activity monitor – again – a few months ago, and it’s satisfying to see the step numbers ticking upward every day.

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The positive reinforcement also motivated me to find ways to get in more steps, every day. 

Most of these ideas are simple, but effective:

  • Schedule walking meetings. My colleague/friend, G., and I have been trying to take a 20 minute walk together nearly every day this summer. Sometimes we talk about work. Sometimes we don’t. We would likely have spent the time commiserating anyway, so the steps and extra Vitamin D are bonuses.
  • Take yourself out for a quick stroll. My neighbor D. and I were talking about this last night: when we feel frustrated with work, we take a quick walk break. It’s only five minutes or so, but it allows time to chill out/cool down, and there’s almost nothing work-related that can’t wait five minutes. Over the past few months, I’ve done this up to three times per day. That’s a substantial number of steps.
  • Find “lost” time. Everyone has junk time in their day, i.e., those moments that could be used more productively. For me, it’s the time that it takes to turn cases over in the OR. Regulations on cleaning operating rooms require at least a ten minute break between most of the cases I do, and with spending two to four days per week in the OR – often doing quick cases in succession – I  quickly discovered that I can walk laps around the perimeter of the OR suites and get at least 500 steps in between cases. I used to spend this time drinking coffee in the doctors’ lounge, FYI. This feels better.
  • Walk around your house – a lot. A few months ago, I started making domestic chores a lot harder than necessary (and, if you follow regularly, you know I hate/avoid all domestic chores). I used to fold laundry like this: dump everything on my bed and fold it while listening to NPR, then precariously carry a stack of folded laundry to each child’s room, my own closet, etc, when I was done. Now I do this: dump everything on my bed, intermittently listen to NPR, grab the first item I see and then fold it while walking it to its proper home. This requires dozens of trips to my kids’ closets, my own closet, etc, but it can rack up a thousand steps or more in the process. More advice on how to maximize this “house walking” strategy can be found here.
  • Be strategic about your exercise. Last spring I was flirting with the idea of taking a bicycle trip to Napa Valley this fall with my good friends J. and B., so I decided to practice biking by riding the Expresso machine at the gym, which is a sophisticated exercise bike that allows you to ride virtual courses and mixes up the terrain. Basically, it’s riding a bike in a video game, and it can be a phenomenal workout. Except … my activity monitor didn’t credit me for any of it. Zip. Nada. However, the elliptical machine does count every step. So when I need to make it count, I’m rocking the elliptical all the way.

Please share any tips you have for getting in more activity!

Hawaii Recap: Running Diamond Head

Sorry for the radio silence!

Lots of posts this week about my trip to Hawaii, which was pretty darn great.

To recap, this trip was part work and part fun. My field’s biggest conference of the year was in Honolulu, and I tacked on two days of vacation on the front end. Spouse also tagged along for the first half.

Here’s where we stayed:

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The Moana Surfrider opened in 1901 and is the oldest hotel on Waikiki Beach.

It’s also located at the end of the hotel strip, nearest to Diamond Head. Here are two shots of Diamond Head from the hotel’s beach area:

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The five hour time difference between Central time (our zone) and Hawaii kept me waking up at the un-ripe hour of 5 AM most days, and that was all the push I needed to put on my running shoes and go for a spin.

One great thing about most Westin hotels is that they provide running maps, and the Moana Surfrider was no exception. (Don’t forget to ask the door attendant upon return for a cold bottle of water and chilled towel. Most Westins also have those ready and waiting).

The first morning, Spouse came with me and we did a 3-4 mile route along the ocean and circled a park. Being up so early meant we got to see tai chi students on the beach, plenty of yoginis with mats on the sand, and lots of surfers. I loved it.

One thing nagged me that day: I saw that the hotel running map had an alternate route that took you all the way around Diamond Head. I knew I had to do it.

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The next day, Diamond Head was mine.

I took a right out of the hotel and ran along the ocean, finally turning onto Diamond Head Road.

I’m chalking it up to forced perspective, but for the life of me, it seemed like I never got to the tip of Diamond Head. I felt like I was running forever and it was mysteriously almost all uphill.

I hadn’t even rounded the halfway point and I was ready to give up. What seemed to be the end of Diamond Head was always out of my reach, visibly taunting me.

But then something amazing: I turned a corner and the city sprawled below me, stretching out to my right.

I’d completely circled Diamond Head and hadn’t even realized it.

The illusion of never reaching the end was just that: an illusion.

There was no official “end,” rather a pentagonal or hexagonal route. The points of the diamond kept shifting from my ground perspective and what I thought was an unreachable tip was really a series of turns that I’d already mastered.

There’s a metaphor for life here somewhere.

The rest of the run was a downhill cruise back to the hotel with a huge smile on my face.

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Staying Motivated

Today is Day #18 of my 100 Day Self-Improvement Challenge and I am happy to report that it’s going really well, even better than I expected.

I haven’t been 100% compliant with all of my daily goals (missed maybe 3 total things over the time thus far), but the goal has always been improvement, not perfection.

Even in this short amount of time, I have noticed many positive changes such as:

  • Better sleep
  • More definition in my arms (thank you, push ups)
  • Recalibration of my food intake (truly humbling experience to document – honestly! – my dietary choices)
  • Better food choices (eat this, not that)
  • Genuine happiness via daily connections with different friends

Potential negatives:

  • Occasional enthusiastic proselytizing 
  • Lack of sufficient rest time to recover from exercising. I didn’t adequately calculate for days off in my plan.

Since I’ll be a quarter finished by the end of next week, I also thought it would be prudent to think now about strategies for staying motivated until the end.

Some tips I gathered in my research about ongoing motivation:

  1. Set a concrete goal and work toward it. It could take the form of a specific date or an event, like a race you sign up to complete or a vacation you plan to take. A great example would be getting in shape for a trip in October to hike the Grand Canyon. This would be a date and an event.
  2. Make a commitment. Specifically, a financial one. I am so, so nervous about the marathon I am running in a few weeks, but I went forward with gusto and booked a non-refundable suite at my favorite hotel during race weekend for some pre- and post-race R&R. I can’t let that opportunity go to waste.
  3. Tell people. Openly committing to something gets others excited for you. Having people ask about your progress provides external accountability.
  4. Think about the WOW factor. This could take the form of visualizing how great it would feel to see the Grand Canyon from top to bottom when you reach your goal or perhaps the feeling you’d get if friends who haven’t seen you in a while would be awed by your physical transformation through weight loss and/or exercise. Or how wowed you would be to slide right into smaller jeans in the dressing room.
  5. Build on the power of momentum. Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. Capitalize on your successes so far. I also find on days that I don’t feel like exercising, I tell myself that I’ll just do 20 minutes. It almost unfailingly turns into double that or more. Showing up is half the battle.
  6. Consider everything an experience builder. Not all workouts are going to be great. Not everything you try will stick. Consider everything an experiment to gain experience, and the more you try, the more you will learn.
  7. Reward yourself. Use smaller awards along the way and a bigger one when you reach a major goal or milestone. The goal itself may be the reward, like a vacation.
  8. Spread the energy! I half-jokingly said that I am prone to compulsive proselytizing these days, but talking about the project ends up motivating ME and keeps my momentum tank full.
  9. Make it fun. My friend S. is an ultra-marathoner and just completed a 100 mile race last weekend. When we’ve run races together in the past, I’ve been amazed to hear her talk about stopping to take photos along the way (she is much, much faster than I am so I hear about it in the aftermath). I usually figure that if I stop, I won’t start again, and my usual strategy is to forge ahead. I envy her ability to enjoy the moment, literally stop at times to smell the roses, and I can guarantee she has a lot more fun during races than I do.
  10. You may not be ready yet, but don’t take yourself out of the game. Change takes commitment. People who study change know that before it’s going to happen, there is a time of contemplation before action. A half-hearted attempt will likely fail. In my own experience, I can say that I’ve had an app to track my food intake for, oh, at least 2 years, but it wasn’t until this project that I started to religiously (and honestly) use it. I’d make small attempts before that were quickly abandoned when I didn’t feel like seeing those two glasses of wine, two slices of pizza, and handfuls of M&Ms staring at me, so I simply didn’t use the tracker. You may not be ready for action right this minute, but surround yourself with the tools you need so that when you reach the tipping point, that app (or those running shoes, or that gym membership) is waiting right there for you. Keep the barriers to change low.

 Keep on keepin’ on, my friends!

 

Running Like A Girl

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I just finished this inspirational book about running, which details the author’s journey from sofa to marathon.

Sample quote:

Running ceased to be about what others might see when they looked at me. It became about what I saw when I ran. I started to find the change in the seasons more interesting than the changes in my body. This weight was the heaviest I could have shed. I was no longer running to prove that I could finish a marathon, or to impress my dad, or to sound good on dates. I was using these runs to give me clarity and focus, to remind myself of what I was capable of, and to spur me on in all areas of my life. I felt unstoppable.

My favorite part was when the author described running the 2012 Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. I ran it, too! Reading her description of the course and the foggy weather brought back great memories, especially of getting a Tiffany necklace as a finisher’s medal.