This is the second of two blogs on how I manage to walk 20,000 or more steps every day. As I write, it is pouring rain and that is appropriate because today I want to focus on getting the steps in when nature does not cooperate: when it is too wet, too hot, too muggy, too buggy, too cold, or too smoggy to walk outside.
I will be honest: it is not easy. Today, for example, it is already 2:30 in the afternoon and I only have 7,500 steps in. So I’ve got to kick it up a notch to meet my goal.
Let me start with the easy (and obvious) ways. If you want my less obvious tips, skip down a paragraph. Bad weather is, of course, not a problem if you are fortunate enough to own a treadmill or have access to a gym with the machines. You can do great things on them: in 2000 Christine Clark won the U.S. Olympic marathon trials. The kicker was that she was from Alaska and did most of her training on treadmills during the long arctic winters. When I use them at my college, I choose one near a window and people-watch to distract myself from “gerbil-wheel-boredom” but many people watch TV, listen to music, or read books. I have found by trial and error that I don’t read very effectively above two and a half to three miles per hour but I have seen others reading at much higher speeds.
Of course, some people are not fortunate enough to have gyms near them, and some cannot afford either home treadmills or gym memberships. Others cannot afford the time to spend hours at the gym. It is important to me personally to keep this in mind. I see the problem of obesity as a social justice issue. Rates of obesity and the subsequent medical complications vary with class and race, and having both the money and time necessary to change one’s life also vary with income levels. Even “free” resources such as SparkPeople are limited to those with access to computers and the internet. I try to keep that in mind when writing these tips.
When gyms are not an option, big box stores and malls come to the rescue. In my town Walmart is open until 11 PM, seven nights a week, and I have resorted on to doing laps around the inside perimeter on numerous occasions when the gym was closed and I needed the steps. Some days I would get bored with one store and do twenty laps in Walmart, twenty laps in Target, and then work my way down through the other chains.
Once during a snowstorm, I climbed up and down stairs in my apartment building because I couldn’t safely get out even to the big box store. I find running in place exhausting, but about two months ago, I incorporated marching in place to help me get steps in. It involves a lot less pounding on my body (think knees) and on the floor (think downstairs neighbors!). I have also begun marching in place while I brush my teeth, empty the dishwasher, fold laundry, and watch TV (and I do hope all my male SparkFriends are doing all those activities in their homes!). This is useful because it incorporates movement into something you are doing already, so no additional time is required. If you find marching in place while watching TV exhausting, do it slower! Even standing still increases your basal metabolic rate by 10% over sitting.
About three months ago I switched to standing desks both for my desks at home and at work. You can buy expensive standing workstations (e.g. Google “Kangaroo standing desk”) but I built mine for $5 dollars by putting some concrete blocks under my existing desk. As I said in the previous paragraph, simply standing at your desk increases your basal metabolic rate, but the real benefits come because you are much more likely to walk across the room to get something because you don’t have the inertia hurdle of getting up out of your chair. The chair is the killer. Of course, if you incorporate marching in place, then you are off to the races. I have learned to read and type effectively while marching at my standing desk: that way I take a sedentary activity that I am already doing and make it active (an active activity?!). For example, I am walking while writing this blog. You will recall that in the second paragraph I had 7,500 steps: I am currently at 12,261. (I don’t type that slowly, I’ve been working on other things at the same time).
Dr. James Levine, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic, thinks that the solution to the obesity crisis is for all of us to increase our NEAT. NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. It is all those calories that we burn when we are not actively exercising: fidgeting, walking to the bathroom, rolling over in our sleep, and so on. I agree that we must change both our food and exercise ENVIRONMENTS for permanent weight loss and increased health and that this involves finding ways to become more active when we are NOT exercising. Levine is a big fan of treadmill desks (check them out on Google). I have access to a treadmill desk for my own research and they are certainly great for getting the steps in at work, but I am not a fan for two reasons. The first is that most treadmill desks will run you at least a thousand dollars, and as I said above, I am opposed to solutions that are only available to the wealthy. The second objection is ecological. Treadmill desks run on electricity: two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. If we all switch to treadmill desks, we are going to need a lot more coal-fired power plants.
I’m almost done here. Is anybody still reading? In addition to the tips above, I also do all the usual things: I park farther away from the store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, etc., etc. Sometimes it only adds a few steps, but to me there is no such thing as a bad step. Each one brings me one closer to my goal.
Best to you all. ~ TaiChiDancer (currently at 13,388 and counting)
Follow-up: It is now after 11 PM and still raining. I'm going to bed soon. I don't know what my final count will be, but I'm currently over 30,000. Anything is possible, friends. Let's do this.