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Archive for January, 2010

“It’s not the work that’s hard – it’s the discipline.”

                                    -Anonymous

There are times when I don’t want to walk.  

Sometimes when it is really hot or cold or raining or my backpack is really heavy with work stuff, I resent having to walk up the long hill to work.  I dream of a parking space right next to the door of my office building. 

Sometimes I don’t want to walk during lunch – I’d rather read a magazine or talk with my co-workers while enjoying a leisurely lunch. 

Sometimes on the drive home from work I dread the thought of changing clothes and going right back out the door to walk my dog. 

We all have those days. 

The question is how do we motivate ourselves to get up, skip the work shuttle, spend part of our lunch hour walking and walk the dog when it’s really the last thing we want to do?  

I always have a list of reasons that I want to walk in the back of my mind that I think about whenever I’m tempted to skip a walk.  Something on this motivational list almost always gets me out the door to walk even when I rather do something else or nothing at all.  Here is my list:

  1. I know I’ll feel guilty if I skip my walk. 
  2. I know I will have more energy after I walk then before I walked.
  3. My walk during lunch will be my only ‘me time’ I have.  Why skip that?
  4. I can’t disappoint my dog.  She has waited all day for this walk.
  5. I know I will be in a better mood after I walk than I was before I walked.
  6. If I skip my walk eventually my jeans won’t fit – I hate trying on jeans.
  7. I love to walk on a sunny day in winter and a cloudy day in summer.
  8. I know if I don’t feel like walking then that means I need a walk.
  9. I’ve never finished walking and thought “I wish I hadn’t done that.”
  10. If I walk then I can eat chocolate guilt free. 

My list gets me walking about 99% of the time even on the days when I have no motivation to walk.  Are there days that you don’t want to walk?  How do you motivate yourself when you get the urge to skip a walk?  What’s on your list?

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Do you get 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week?  No.  Why not?  Study after study suggests that as little as 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week can give you a healthier, happier and longer life. 

If there is a little voice inside of you saying it’s time to be more active then try walking.  Walking is an activity that almost everyone can do any place or time.  If you choose to walk you’ll find that the excuses you’ve used in the past to avoid exercise won’t be a barrier anymore.  

You might identify with some of the most common reasons below that people say they don’t exercise.  Scroll down to find the most common reasons that you don’t exercise.  Then learn how walking will be the excuse buster allowing you to focus on accomplishing fitness goals instead of avoiding exercise.  

No Confidence

  • I don’t know what to do – I feel stupid;
  • I don’t think I can do it – I am afraid;
  • I’m embarrassed;
  • I’m too big.

You already know how to walk.  You’ve had a lot of practice walking and you are well trained for this fitness activity.  You don’t have to learn how to work tricky equipment or remember the steps to a fitness routine.  All you have to do is walk.

If you are uncomfortable walking in your neighborhood, find a local park for walking. You will blend in with all of the other walkers – young and old and of all sizes. 

No Time

  • Exercise takes too long;
  • It gets in the way of other obligations;
  • It’s inconvenient;
  • I have to care for my children and/or other family members.

Walking is always available if you have appropriate shoes.  You can fit 10 minutes of walking into your day pretty effortlessly.  Be creative.  Walk around the block or parking lot before and after work, walk for the first 15 minutes of your lunch break, walk while your child is at baseball practice or dance class. 

Keep a comfy pair of shoes in the car or at work so you will always be prepared to squeeze in 10 minutes of walking.  To start, set a goal to walk at least 10 minutes every day.

Remember that your children will get older and your family obligations will change.  By developing a walking habit now you will have more energy today for your many obligations.  Take care of yourself now so that you can take care of others in your life. 

Health Concerns

  • I’m out of shape;
  • I’m too old to exercise;
  • I don’t want to get injured.

Almost everyone who doesn’t have a chronic or limiting health condition can walk safely at any age.  Start off slow aiming for a 5 to 10 minute walk each day and gradually build up to 30 minutes. 

No Motivation

  • Exercise is boring – no fun;
  • I can’t commit – I keep quitting;
  • I keep procrastinating.

What do you like to do?  Do you like talking with a friend, listening to music, feeling the sun on your face, having more ‘me time,’ spending more time with your family or spending time in natural settings?  You can do all of these things and more while walking.  Call a friend to walk or recruit some friends for a walking group, enjoy nature while walking at the park or greenway, get more ‘me time’ by walking solo or have more family time by planning family walks.  When you choose to walk, it is easy to include some of your favorite people, places and things with walking to keep it fun and to keep you motivated.  

No Results

  • Exercise isn’t changing my body;
  • Why should I bother to exercise;
  • Exercise is all for nothing.

A proud sense of accomplishment is one of the first results you will notice after walking.  You will start to feel stress melt away within minutes after you start walking.  You will notice increased energy and alertness.  You will almost always feel better after walking than you did before you walked.

No Money

  • I can’t afford a gym membership or exercise classes;
  • I don’t have the right exercise equipment;
  • I don’t have proper exercise apparel.

Walking is basically FREE.  All  you need are shoes.

If you walk, you don’t have to join a gym, pay for classes or buy special equipment. 

Look around and you will see that most walkers wear whatever is comfortable and weather appropriate…we walkers aren’t into flashy and we seldom worry about what to wear when we walk. 

No Effort

  • Exercise zaps my energy;
  • Exercise is too hard;
  • Exercise hurts;
  • I’m too tired to exercise.

Walking is one of the easiest fitness activities you can do.  Your body is made specifically to walk.  Your body should not hurt during or after walking if you start off slow and gradually increase your time and intensity.

If you feel tired, take a walk.  You will feel alert and energized after walking. 

External

  • It’s too nice to be inside exercising.
  • It’s too hot, cold, rainy or snowy to exercise outside.

When the weather is bad you can walk inside at the mall, community center, or indoor track.  If the weather is nice then take advantage of a beautiful day by walking outside at the park, in your neighborhood, on the greenway, or investigating your own town on foot.  No matter what the weather is outside, walking can work for you.

Have You Walked Today?

Have you ever let any of these excuses stop you from being more active despite your best intentions?  Are you convinced yet that walking can be your excuse buster and let you achieve your fitness goals instead of avoiding exercise? 

Don’t let one more day pass without walking.  Start today, no excuses.

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Imagine stepping out your door, the sun is shining, big billowy clouds are casting playful shadows, a slight breeze blows and the temperature is a perfect 72.  On a day like this it’s not hard to get motivated to go outside and walk.  Once outside in the perfect sunshine your walk is effortless and enjoyable and you walk longer than you planned. 

Back to reality….like last week’s record breaking cold snap which submersed half of the country into bitter cold.  At my house last weekend the high temperature averaged 23 degrees.  Since the average high in January is a bearable 45 degrees, a high of 23 degrees is COLD!  Despite the cold and despite my threats to the contrary I managed to forego the shuttle and walk 8 minutes uphill from the parking lot to the office and, of course, I walked the dog – she even got an extra long walk on Sunday when it warmed up to a balmy 27 degrees.

Even though it is easier and certainly warmer to take a shuttle or to stay inside on a cold winter’s day, the next time you are tempted to avoid winter’s cold, grab your walking shoes instead and you will be rewarded.  Believe it or not, winter is one of the best times to walk outdoors. 

Winter Walking 

Why is winter one of the best times to walk outdoors? 

Walking outside in winter is peaceful.  There are so fewer people on the trails, sidewalks and public spaces that you often feel like you have the space all to yourself.   It is quiet.  You will notice the quiet in the park, in your neighborhood, on the sidewalks, almost everywhere…so many people avoid going outside that it offers the ones who do a tranquility that is missing during the rest of the year.  

Walking outside in winter gives you a different perspective on nature.  You will see a very different view of the landscape now that the trees are free from leaves and the ground is free from brush and sometimes covered with snow.  You will notice that on a sunny day the sunshine is brilliant and the sky is a deeper shade of blue.  If you are lucky enough to walk at dawn or dusk you will see the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets showcasing beautiful shades of pinks, purples, oranges and reds.  Amazing. 

Walking outside in winter gives you a breath of fresh air.  We stay cooped up during the winter with our windows shut tight.  Oftentimes the only fresh air we get is walking from the parking lot to a store or office.  Walking in winter will give you a big dose of fresh air and this winter air is healthier for you than the stagnant, ozone-laced air of summer.  Take in a deep breath and breathe.

Walking outside during winter keeps you away from the crowded track at the gym or community center.  Many of us start or renew our fitness goals with the New Year – we shouldn’t let weather be a barrier to reaching our goals.  A lot of daily walkers will tell you that walking outside on a cold winter’s day can be done almost every day.

Walking outside during winter will expose you to sunlight and that can help if you are prone to seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  SAD is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year – most frequently in the fall and winter months when we are exposed to less sunlight.  Experts recommend treatments such as going outside and exercising as much as possible during fall and winter if your symptoms are not severe. 

Keep a Routine

It’s not always easy to motivate yourself to go outside in the cold, and sometimes dark, to walk.  One way to tackle this is to keep a routine from which you rarely deviate.  For instance, walk before work with a neighborhood friend, walk outside during your lunch break or walk as soon as you get home from work before you do anything else.  On those days when your motivation is low just tell yourself you will walk for at least 10 minutes and then you can stop whenever you want.  Most of the time you will continue to walk through your normal routine even though you have given yourself permission to stop early.

Another idea is to establish a shorter outside walking routine during the dead of winter…maybe 15- 30 minutes depending on the temperature….sometimes the most important thing is to just keep up the routine and get out there even if it is for a shorter amount of time.  Be sure to take advantage of warmer days, especially during the weekend, when you can schedule a longer walk to help make up for your shorter daily routine. 

Be Careful

You should be especially careful walking outside during the cold months of the year. 

  • Cold is relative.  Don’t try to walk outside if it is dangerously cold for you.
  • Wear a hat, gloves, scarf, wool socks and extra layers designed for cold weather.  You can always take items off if you warm up. 
  • Wear appropriate footwear for snow and ice.
  • If you walk in the dark or low light, walk in lighted areas, wear a reflective piece and keep a small flashlight in your pocket.
  • Walk in familiar and safe areas.  Stay aware of your surroundings.  Bring your cell phone.
  • Always drink water to stay hydrated.           

Give it a Try 

If you are tempted to let the cold keep you inside, bundle up instead and give winter walking a try.  Discover how enjoyable winter walking can be.  If you start an outside walking routine now, you will feel a remarkable sense of accomplishment and personal triumph every day that you conquer winter’s cold.  And just think how easy it will be to walk outside in a few short months when the weather is perfect.

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7 Day Challenge

Have you made a choice to walk today?  “Of course,” you say, “I walk everyday to move around.”

At Walk Today “walking” means choosing to walk when you don’t have to…like when you walk from the parking lot to your office instead of taking the shuttle or walking during your lunch break to get some fresh air or walking around the neighborhood for fitness.

You can choose to walk right now*.  Go ahead….right now!

If you’re reading this at work

Can you take a few minutes to walk around the block, walk around the parking lot, walk up a couple of flights of stairs or walk to the other side of the building?

If you’re reading this at home

Can you walk down the street, walk around your yard, walk up and down your stairs a few times, walk around your house…you get the picture.

How was it?  Was the fresh air energizing?  Did stepping away from your desk give you a mental break?  Was it challenging to walk up the stairs?  Did you feel more alert?

You can experience these benefits and more if you choose to walk every day.  Every day? Sure, walking every day will maximize the benefits to your body and mind and before long you won’t want to miss a day.

Take the 7 Day Challenge*

Sometimes the most challenging part of starting a new activity is actually getting started.  The 7 Day Challenge is a manageable way to start a daily walking routine by committing to walking 10 minutes everyday for the next 7 days.  If you are already walking every day, you can add 10 minutes to your normal routine or walk faster.

To help you successfully complete the 7 Day Challenge, write down your answers to the following questions:

1.  What is the #1 reason I want to start walking every day?

2.  When and where can I schedule a 10 minute walk on each of the next 7 days?

3.  What is my back-up plan for walking if there is a schedule conflict or the weather prevents me from walking outside or getting to the walking track, etc.

Refer back to your answers if you are struggling for motivation or if it becomes difficult to find the time or a place to walk during the Challenge.

Feel the Experience

Each time you walk during the Challenge, try to fully experience your time walking and begin to discover what makes walking joyful for you.

Pay attention to your body. Stand up straight, move your arms while you walk, feel your hips stretch as you move your legs, reach your arms over your head and reach for the stars – feel the stretch in your spine.  Do you feel more agile?

Breathe, breathe deeper. Does the extra oxygen give you an energy boost?  Can you feel your heart beating stronger and your lungs working harder?

If you walk outside, pay attention to your surroundings and embrace nature.

  • Are you walking at the time of a beautiful sunrise or sunset?
  • Do you see birds or other animals?
  • Are the stars out-is the moon full or crescent?
  • How does the sun feel on your face?
  • Does the cold, snow or rain make you feel triumphant?

If you are walking alone try to clear your mind to give yourself a mental break.  Enjoy your ‘me’ time.

If you are walking with friends or family enjoy the time together free from distractions.

Reflect

After you walk each day for the next 7 days, reflect on your accomplishment.  Was it easy to get motivated to walk each day?  Why were some days easier than others?  Did you like walking alone or did you prefer to walk with others?  If you weren’t able to walk every day, what were the barriers that caused you to miss a day – can you think of a way to work around these barriers in the future?  Are you finding joy in walking?

Click ‘Leave a Comment’ at the bottom of this post to share your 7 Day Challenge experiences with others at Walk Today.

*The American Heart Association recommends that doctors “screen all patients with a history of cardiovascular disease or who are at high risk of a heart attack or stroke before they start a vigorous exercise program.  People who are obese, have diabetes or other serious medical problems, or who have been sedentary for a long time should talk to their doctor before starting any exercise program.”

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Can you figure out from the clues below the one activity that can change your life?

  1. All you need to start is a pair of athletic shoes.
  2. This activity will help you sleep better.
  3. You can choose to go solo, grab a partner or join a group while doing this activity.
  4. It requires no training or classes.
  5. It can lower your cholesterollower your blood pressure, lower/maintain your weight, and lower your risk for cancers.
  6. This activity can bring you closer to nature.
  7. This activity will improve your emotional well-being.
  8. You can include your family, your friends and/or your dog during this activity.
  9. It can improve the health of your heart.
  10. It can be done almost anywhere and at any time of day.
  11. It can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis and Type 2 diabetes.
  12. It can improve your flexibility and balance.
  13. It should be done in at least 10 minute increments – 30 minutes/day.
  14. This activity can be done for a lifetime.

Did you guess walking?

It’s hard to believe that something we’ve all been doing since about the age of 2 can be the solution to many of the physical and mental health risks that we often face in a modern society.

Our bodies are built to walk and by simply increasing the amount of time that you walk each day, you can change your life by improving your physical and mental health.

Is Walking Right for Me?

Maybe it has been a while since you’ve been active or maybe you are thinking of joining a health club.  You may be wondering if you have the time to walk or if walking will really help you reach your goals.  You might be questioning if walking is really the right fitness routine for you?   If so, scroll down to answer the following questions.

  • Do I want a fitness routine that can be started for the cost of a pair of shoes?
  • Can I commit to a physical activity, do it in at least 10 minute increments and work towards 30 minutes a day?
  • Do I want to exercise with my family, my friends or my dog?
  • Do I want an exercise routine that can bring me closer to nature?
  • Do I want an exercise routine that lets me choose to go solo, grab a partner or exercise in a group?
  • Do I want a fitness activity that requires no training or classes and that can be done almost anywhere and at any time of day?
  • Do I want to improve my flexibility and balance?
  • Do I want a fitness routine that can lower my cholesterol, lower my blood pressure, lower my risk for cancers and lower or maintain my weight?
  • Do I want a fitness routine that can improve the health of my heart, prevent osteoporosis, and prevent Type 2 diabetes?
  • Do I want an exercise program that will help my emotional well-being, help me problem-solve and help me manage life’s daily stresses?
  • Do I want to start a daily fitness activity that I can do for a lifetime?
  • Do I want to sleep better?

Did you answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions above?  If so, I encourage you to locate your sneakers and some weather appropriate clothing and take a walk today!  If you’re a new walker, take a 10 minute walk at a pace that’s a little faster than normal*.  If you are already walking regularly, add 10 minutes to your normal walk time or try to walk faster during some or most of your walk.  When you’re done, give yourself a big pat on the back – you are changing your life for the better by walking.

*The American Heart Association recommends that doctors “screen all patients with a history  of cardiovascular disease or who are at high risk of a heart attack or stroke before they start a vigorous exercise program.  People who are obese, have diabetes or other serious medical problems, or who have been sedentary for a long time should talk to their doctor before starting any exercise program.”

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