Thursday, March 31, 2016

Walk The Talk

The daily log of steps. March 12 was NOT a
day as I was suffering from a bug that
weekend. I spent the next day making
up for it, though.
"Do you want to join the walking challenge with us?"

February marked the beginning of the cube farm's annual walking challenge. I remember gritting my teeth after my coworker asked me to join. Oblivious to the internal struggle churning inside me she patiently waited for my answer. 

She didn't know about the promise I made to myself the day before. I solemnly swear I will not participate in any company challenges. Like ever again. I always regretted saying yes for reasons I won't get into right now. 

But I had a choice---bitch about not having enough money for airfare to visit my oldest spawn in New York or join the walking challenge for a chance to win the grand prize $150 gift card to Southwest Airlines. 

I acquiesced in begrudging silence choosing to walk the talk. 

The Mission

Each four-person team was required to log in from 7,500 to 10,000 steps a day for six weeks beginning February 10, 2016. 

The Incentives

Each team could aim for either the Sidekick goal or Super Hero goal or both. Once we surpassed the goals our team was entered into a raffle. 

Super Hero goal : 1,680, 000 steps average 10,000 per day/per team member wins a grand prize of $150 Southwest Airline gift card

Sidekick goal : 1,260, 000 steps average 7,500 steps per day/per team member wins 
Medieval Times and movie tickets

All challenge participants received a pedometer to track our steps. As soon as I clipped mine on that was it. I turned into a walking beast. It didn't take a full day for me to realize walking 10,000 steps a day was---dare I say---hard. I was active, yes, or so I thought. The little pedometer clipped to my waist seemed less inclined on tracking my steps and more on mocking my fitness delusion. 

I've read the articles and studies that touted the benefits of walking. I've heard the catchphrase---Sitting is the new smoking! 

The Guardian published an article last November promoting walking benefits and how it lengthened our life span. 

A sedentary person who increased his or her steps from 1,000 to 10,000 a day, seven days a week, was found to have a 46% lower mortality risk. If increased to 3,000 a day five days a week, the person had a 12% lower risk.

My tribe knows I'm a competitive person...with myself. It's an irrational and crazy character attribute but my competitive nature is directed solely at myself. Who needs enemies, right? 
Some would call it a strength but most would call me crazy. 

If my day was winding down and my pedometer didn't show I was close to the 10,000 steps I wasn't deterred. I walked (sometimes jogged) around the house, up and down the hallway, into the living room, back into the kitchen then started over again. My boyfriend Ray would sing she's a maniac, maniac on the floor by Hall & Oates when I did this in the house. 

My granddaughter was over one weekend and asked why I didn't just lie and log in the steps. Well, number one, it's not right to lie about that and number two, it's cheating but I would be cheating myself out of healthy benefits. She pursed her lips in deep thought for a few seconds, shrugged, and went back to playing on my iPad.

Every night I wrote down my total number of steps for the day into my Passion Planner and logged them in every morning as soon as I stumbled into the cube farm. (You can see the daily log in the image above.) 

My company is big on health and wellness providing us with all the tools, as well as resources, to pursue a healthy lifestyle. I have a sit/stand desk, a walking station in the corner of our suite, a free state-of-the-art gym accessible to employees, and a cafe that only serves nutritious meals. (No sodas and candy bars allowed.) It would take more time creating excuses for NOT exercising than to jump on the walking station for ten, twenty, thirty minutes. 

A few weeks into the challenge we had a team member go on medical leave. Aghast at the news after my boss announced it at our team meeting I blurted out, "You mean she can't walk her steps?!" 
"Oh my god, Nannette, that's what you care about?" 
Okay, I'm kidding. 

Missing a team member meant we either replace her or walk her steps in addition to ours. 

You can bet that I aimed for twenty-thousand steps a day to make up for my missing team member. Walking 10,000 steps a day became second nature. It wasn't long before I discovered my walking groove at the cube farm: 1.5 hours in the morning on the walking station, 20 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical at the company gym, or 15 minutes of walking outdoors, and 1 hour on the walking station before I left work. 

Excessive much, you ask? Maybe. But my crazy way of operating guaranteed 20,000 steps every day during the work week! (The log above showed where I succeeded and where I failed) 

Weekends provided an opportunity for creative ways to get those steps in since I had no access to a walking station or treadmill. Surprise, surprise, I got to know my city within a two-mile radius from my home. On the weekends, I hoofed it to the bank, the grocery store, Paris Baguette, Dollar Tree, the park, the library, and the post office. 

Within three weeks of this challenge my clothes fit better and the pile of pants I contemplated donating went back in my closet. 

If you're reading this and think "Oh gawd, she's so extreme, I couldn't do all that crazy walking! Ain't nobody got time for dat!" WAIT! Just hold on. YOU CAN! You totally can! 

Walking Benfits
Find your own groove but I encourage you to walk every day even if it's for ten minutes in the beginning eventually building up to twenty minutes a day. Studies have shown walking 20 minutes daily can prevent an early death

My Way Isn't The Only Way

  • On the walking station at the cube farm, I'd blast my headphones with my pre-selected Pandora stations. The maximum speed of 2.0 was not a hindrance! I jogged and danced, not caring about how insane I looked. The 1.5 hours I walked in the morning were easy when I was transported to a music festival in my head. You don't have to imagine dancing at a music festival but find your own way to get your body moving. 
  • Walking outdoors either at the cube farm or in my neighborhood gave me an excuse to practice mindfulness. I walked in the present moment feeling the way my body moved, how I breathed with the movements of my legs and the way each step impacted the sidewalk; savoring the wind softly lifting my hair; noticing the yellow butterflies flying over a bush as I walked past. 
  • Find out if there's a Farmer's Market you can walk to. My city holds an awesome one every Saturday morning that's half a mile from my house. Just make sure you bring your own bags and buy items that aren't too heavy to carry home. 
  • My city houses a spectacular library that's also my second home. Walking to the Cerritos Library gave me 1.4 miles of relishing the aesthetic landscape of Cerritos. Knowing I had to walk back home prevented me from checking out a heavy stack of books I didn't need or couldn't carry. My gluttonous self always checks more books than I can read in the allotted three week period. 
Safety First
Of course, safety is key when you start any fitness routine. Always check with your doctor first to get the green light for starting one. Of course, drink plenty of water! I aim to drink at least 3 liters a day. Eating clean also helps. 

When walking outdoors always stay alert for distracted and reckless drivers. There have been a few times I've almost been hit by drivers texting on their cell phones, running red lights, or not paying attention. 

New Habits
I've heard it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. In my case it took six weeks to get into the habit of walking 2-3 times a day. Now, my body craves it---physically, mentally, and spiritually. When I walk outdoors I listen to positive affirmations, repeating them out loud, clearing my head of negative detritus. 

My team never did win the prizes even though we reached both goals. What I did win was a mental shift on exercise (walking is just as good, if not better, than running) and a healthy long-term habit that promises to put the brakes on premature death. 

My Challenge
May I challenge you? 
Get up. 
Put one foot forward. 
Put the other foot forward. 
Have fun! 
This is me on the walking station right
before I'm transported to the
Coachella raging in my head. 
The pedometer that never left my
waist for six weeks. Well, give
or take a few days when I forgot it
at home. But we all have smartphones
to track our steps, too! 
Excuse the chaos (and Captain
America paraphernalia) but this 
is my stand-up desk at 
the cube farm.