For the past decade or so, I’ve noticed a spate of books and articles in the vein of “The Year of…” fill in the blank. “The Year of Living Biblically.” “The Year of no Internet.” “The Year of Eating Only Locally Grown Foods.” I keep thinking I could write one called “The Year of Doing Nothing Much Special.”
Ah, but 2014 was the year I celebrated my 50th birthday, and I did set myself a goal for the entire twelve months. It wasn’t a hugely transformative change, nothing like learning to make my own clothing from organic cotton and then wearing only things I produced myself, or moving to a cabin in the woods with no electricity or indoor plumbing. My goal was simply walking a minimum amount every day.
I wanted a number that was meaningful in terms of my age milestone. I wanted to make it attainable and not too overwhelming so that I wouldn’t give up and not do anything at all. With two teens at home, managing things for an elderly parent, plus my day job, my life often resembles a frantic game of Whack-a-Mole. Time is a real issue. And money’s an issue. I can’t commit myself to something if it requires a lot of equipment. But I didn’t want to make it too easy. I wanted to have to make some effort and get enough exercise to benefit my health. I settled on 5,050 steps per day minimum. With my stride length, this works out to about 2 1/4 miles.
I’ve been writing down my numbers in a little journal, like Rain Man with his notebooks, each night before I go to bed. Date, steps, miles. I’m not sure why I need the documentation, but I have it.To be honest, I figured I’d have a at least a few off days where I didn’t quite make it. But I was wrong, peeps! I’ve met my minimum goal every single day for 365 in a row – January 1 through December 31.
Many days were easy. If I didn’t have to drive my son to school, I could walk to work. And once there, I’m often on my feet. I work split shifts two days a week, which means two round-trips on those days. If I’m able to walk both times, I can break the 10,000 mark without much extra effort. On days when I didn’t work and the weather was terrible (I’m talking ice storm terrible), I found myself doing things like walking in place as I stirred food on the stove. As my 16-year-old observed, “You can get a lot done if you don’t mind embarrassing yourself.” The biggest challenge came in early April when I had a terrible cold. But I made myself move. I’d get up off the couch every half hour or so and walk circles in my house while heating a tea kettle. Then I’d collapse and remain in a heap for another half hour while sipping tea.
I have an old friend who does nothing by half measures. One of his obsessions is physical fitness. As a friend, he’s 95% wonderful and 5% completely annoying. The 5% reveals itself when it comes to the topic of out-of-shape people. He used to be a little chubby himself, and you know how nobody is so fanatical as a convert. Several weeks ago, he posted a rant on Facebook about people using pedometers and how 10,000 steps a day was nothing as far as exercise. 10,000 steps should be a baseline and you had to do something else in addition to walking, he said. I started to respond with something along the lines of “Come live my life for a few months and then we’ll talk.” But then I realized this kind of thing is the reason there’s a “hide this post” option.
Yeah, 5,050 steps isn’t a huge number. But’s not nothing, either. It’s not even next to nothing; it lives in a different neighborhood. Yeah, my weight hovers on the line between what the current medical charts call the “normal range” for my height and what they call “overweight.” But I had all of my middle-age tests done and got excellent numbers on my report. Cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure – all great. My doctor actually used the word “optimal” and said she wished her numbers were as good as mine. So I figure whatever a bathroom scale has to say falls into the “hide this” category along with my friend’s fitness rant.
It feels good to have stuck with it. I find value in making myself keep going, even when I don’t feel like it, in order to meet a bigger goal. And no matter how little in the mood I am for walking, once I start I always remember that I love it. I love walking. There’s a however coming, though…
However, for 2015, I’m allowing myself an occasional day off. I’m upping my overall minimum steps goal, but measuring it in weekly increments. I plan to count weeks Monday-Sunday. If I have my steps in by Saturday, I can relax for a day. If I’m behind, Sunday is a good day to catch up. My target for the new year is 45,000 steps per week. If I meet it, I will have walked 1,000 miles by the end of the year.
Goodbye 2014. I’m closing the book on you.
Onward to a new year.