Five(+) Reflections On 13,693 Steps

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Yesterday I started tracking my steps. My very competitive partner has been trying to convince very non-competitive Me to compete in a “10,000 Steps per Day” challenge because Movement! Health! Bragging Rights!

I’ve been on the fence, because of the challenge / bragging part - that stuff doesn’t motivate me. But I do value my health, I’ve noticed that I’m more sedentary than I used to be, and I really enjoy walking, for the good thinking and daydreaming time. So even though I’m not sold on the idea that 10,000 steps a day is a magical number that, when achieve, bestows excellent health upon the stepper, I decided this week that I’m ready to get back to walking more, so I said ‘Sure! Why the hell not?’

I had a lot of reflections on my first day of doing this, a likely side effect of the extra thinking time. And so I will now share them with you in the hopes that you will immediately start walking 10,000 steps tomorrow. No wait… that’s not the point of sharing stories. Here it is: I will now share my reflections with you because I think they are applicable to all kinds of things, and I can tell you are a person who likes getting s**t done (we have so much in common!)

Reflection #1! Beware of comparison - try to get a new look at your current situation.

Lately I’ve been annoyed with myself for being so sedentary (I still workout 4-6x per week but during my regular working times I’m not very active (perhaps we have that in common as well!). Feeling like I wasn’t doing enough was based on comparing myself to my past self who did a lot more walking and less sitting (in my defense I now need to sit to do certain work things… unless anyone out there wants to surprise gift me a standing desk. I’d be totally okay with that!). But hey, if you’re gonna compare yourself to someone, comparing yourself to yourself is probably fair. Because you’re you. You know who’s not you? Everyone else. So definitely don’t compare yourself to those people.

Reflection #2! It’s super hard to set goals without a baseline measurement.

I was kind of being a jerk to myself even though I didn’t even know what I was talking about and lacked important information to base my opinions on ( a common affliction these days!). Even though I lacked a baseline measurement to prove or disprove that my perception was accurate, my dissatisfaction turned out to be useful because it spurred me to change.

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Once you’ve made the choice to do the thing, getting an actual baseline is super helpful. Because then you can make an actual plan, instead of assuming, guest-imating or just throwing noodles at the wall. So I decided to take the pressure off my treating the first day as a “data collection” day.

Reflection #3! Starting something new doesn’t have to be super hard work.

It just so happened that my first day of aiming for 10,000 steps was hella easy (so then it ‘counted’, obviously!). All I had to do was make a couple adjustments to my regular routine. When I thought more about it, I realized 10,000 is a pretty accessible goal. But doing new things, making changes or reanimating a good habit is hard, right? Especially at the start. Starting things is hard.

Most people (including myself!) are taught that good things come from hard work (which is true!) but somehow that got turned into ‘nothing good comes without hard work.’  It’s okay for things to be easy at the start.  When good things come in a hella easy way, that’s awesome. Because you feel accomplished and proud and most importantly, excited and confident about the next little step. That’s how you get a good momentum going. Sprinkle this idea all over your goals: Make it easy to start, and easy to take the next step. (Then, you know, keep going.)

Reflection #4! Tracking Apps are a useful tool, but they aren’t the magic beans you’re looking for. They aren’t even regular beans!

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Using the app on my phone was so much fun, and very validating. Tracking apps can be useful (i.e. baseline measurement, seeing your progress, not having to do math, etc.) until they aren’t (i.e. you’re only doing it for the app, it becomes a weird obsession, etc.). Even after one day I could already feel myself being seduced by the app, and seeing the number go up - sweet, immediate gratification!

Tracking systems can help put some fire under your feet (or whatever body part you need to move) to do the things you want to do. At the risk of being Captain Obvious, actually wanting to do the thing is important. It might seem like an obvious point, but often people default to these systems, like food journals or exercise logging apps, because they don’t really want to eat better or exercise, but they feel like they should, because Information! Health! Lookin gooooood! All of that is external stuff. Motivation that comes from within is the stuff that lasts. If you’re being motivated by an app, you only need to stop using it and the motivation taps turn right off.

Reflection #5! It’s easy to get on your high horse and judge people who are struggling where you’re succeeding.

I felt sad for people that struggle to get in 10,000 steps. Maybe they are injured or otherwise unable to locomote, but I betcha a lot of those people just aren’t in the habit of walking very much. Which is too bad, because it’s not that hard and it’s so good for you! I admit that the view from my high horse was pretty nice! It’s easy to judge, but there’s no benefit to it. One of the problems with getting up on a high horse is that I’ll likely end up in the same position as the people I’m judging, as least sometimes - like if I’m sick or injured. If you’re ever had to motivate yourself to exercise, or even just move, when you’re in pain, then you know it’s a whole other game, and most of it is mental. So much energy is taken up with pain, which doesn’t leave much for other stuff. In the end my judgment turned into gratitude for my body being healthy and functional, so that worked out! As always, self awareness for the win!

Some choices, actions and habits are easier for some people than they are for others. But we can all make little changes starting right now. It doesn’t really matter what you start with, but rather that you start. Some of my reflections may help you, and you’ll likely add in your own experiences and borrow some other ideas from elsewhere. It’s all good!

 
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Update!

 So I’ve managed to keep this going since I started (it has now been 8 months!). I’m not saying this because my Life Coach-iness means I immediately succeed in every new goal I take on (I wish!). But I thought it might be useful to reflect on how I’ve done it, since honestly - it hasn’t been that hard. On the other hand, I’ve been working on flossing my teeth more often since I was 12, and that’s still a work in progress.

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I’m a big fan of efficiency, so I like to mash a new habit or goal into some existing habits or goals. For example, I’m in a much better mood if I get outside in the morning, so I made it a priority to go for a walk or walk to the gym earlier in the day. Mash it up!  I also find that once I get a couple thousand steps in, I’m more motivated to keep it going.

I also think inefficiency is very overlooked when it comes to movement goals (it’s not so useful in other areas of life!). Walking or cycling or just moving more can be easily facilitated by inefficiency. Like getting off the bus earlier to walk a bit. It’s more efficient, time-wise, to do that, but it’s better for your body! Or cleaning your home in a random manner that requires you to essentially walk in a big circle, instead of cleaning one room at a time like a normal person ;) This is what I tell myself when I’m riding my grocery-laden bike uphill. So hard, so inefficient… so good for my body… yay… I guess (it’s a really big hill… and it doesn’t even make the list of best hills to bike up in Toronto!!)

Which brings me to another strategy that works well for me: trickery! I can get about 1500-2000 steps staying inside and cleaning my apartment, which always needs cleaning. That’s a good trick. I can rack up another 1000 steps having a dance party in my living room. Anyway, no one knows you better than yourself, so give yourself permission to trick yourself in any way necessary when you need a sneaky kick in the pants without feeling like you’re doing a lot of work. I think people work far too hard on habit maintenance and that energy could be going towards new, awesome things.

Finally, a blitz is a good way to get ahead or get back on track. My partner and I went to New York City and walked 26,000-33,000 steps each day for 4 days in a row. Yes, our feet hurt. Yes, we got foot massages. And yes, I wore running shoes everyday like the tourist I was instead of looking the least bit cool. The lasting benefit of this is that now doing 10,000 steps in a day seems like nothing at all. That’s a good trick too :)