Shake your groove thing yeah, yeah. Show ‘em how we do it now….
All of the young readers are perplexed, and I’m sorry, but this is the price you pay for being, well, younger. A little catchup on the reference here.
In our baby steps series, we’ve talked about food. Okay, we’ve talked a WHOLE LOT about food. We’ve also talked a great deal about how we think about ourselves and how we think about food, the ways we use food appropriately and inappropriately, the ways our culture portrays and uses food. We’ve talked about honoring and respecting ourselves enough to nourish ourselves. But we haven’t talked about everything we need to do to be in better health. Heck, in some ways we haven’t even scratched the surface, but even in the interest of keeping it simple, we’re not done. There is an elephant in the room, and I’m not talking about my maternity pictures…
Big Sis and I started with food because… we really like food… AND we truly believe that eating more healthfully makes all other aspects of self care easier. But even with all the healthy food in the world, there’s something simple our bodies need that we’ve not talked about. It’s time to move. NONONONONO, don’t click away. Don’t click away because this is NOT where I tell you exactly how much to exercise every day and how to use some equation to calibrate that perfectly with what you’re eating. Don’t click away because this is NOT where I have some miraculous contraption that will give you a great butt. Don’t click away because I have no interest in having you look at your body to find fault with it.
Stay here and do a little thinking about how much you move your body. I don’t know you – you may run marathons. I know I wanted to. You may have an exercise routine down, and if you DO, that is awesome. If you’re like a WHOLE lot of people and you don’t have time to have an exercise routine, you hate to exercise, you can’t imagine running a marathon being even remotely appealing… stay here and think a little about baby steps. Let me illustrate with a couple of stories…
Mr. Little Sis and I had a really rough couple of years. REALLY rough. I had a miscarriage that nearly killed me. Mr. Little Sis got laid off and then Mr. Little Sis’ Mom died. Believe it or not there are more bits of woe from that time, but those are the highlights. I was low, I mean not talking to anyone, not wanting to do anything, not wanting to go to the graduate program I’d worked so hard to get into. One day a friend asked me to go to the park and as our dogs cavorted and tried to start trouble with other dogs we talked honestly about my fragile state. When I revealed the utter lack of motivation that seemed to start every day for me, he asked a simple question. “What if you pretended you didn’t have a choice? What if you just decided you HAVE to do these things?” It was an interesting perspective. I was attending my graduate program, but was deeply distracted by not WANTING to go because I was so down.
I took his advice to heart and decided to pretend I didn’t have a choice about anything. And one of the first things I decided to do was to start taking a slightly longer walk with my dogs every day. I started parking a little farther out in the student lot and walking in to campus. I went back to my old habit of looking for the worst parking spot at the grocery store and forgetting where all the elevators were on campus. I became the stairs. Each step made me feel more alive, more energized, and more in control of my days in a time when I was clearly not in control of much of anything. I began to run and search out my knee joint tolerance level for pavement pounding, building up a little bit, month by month – slower than even the most judicious trainers would recommend. I was renewed and that sense of renewal, physical and mental, carried me for quite some time, through graduate school and a few years beyond until I found myself carrying twins… There’s no jogging or baby stepping around that one.
There was a day at my OB’s office that when I stepped on the scale and I gasped. The nurse said “Honey, let’s have you face the other way for the next couple of weeks. I’ll let you know if we’re getting into a problem area.” Yeah. A problem area. My children were 7 and 6 pounds when they were born – pretty big for twins, and I was so big with them that I required a walking stick to raise myself from my mandated bed rest position to standing (in order to pee, of course). The few pictures my husband was brave enough to take during this period show a tired woman with what looks like a balance ball shoved up her weirdly cut shirt. The children were born, and they took some of that weight with them, but not enough, and after bed rest and the relatively lower level of physical activity before that time had left me unmotivated, out of shape, and without a starting line at a time when I was averaging about 3 hours of sleep a night.
I don’t know what motivated me – whether it was a friend, something I read, or sheer delusional brilliance, but I ordered a pedometer. There was not a lot I could do in terms of serious exercise with infant twins, but I could walk. Heck, I was already walking a lot – back and forth from bedroom to bedroom, back and forth next to the crib, back and forth in the living room doing the bouncy thing, and up and down the hills of my neighborhood with a stroller. While I don’t recommend counting many things, there is a value in knowing what you are currently doing if you are attempting to do MORE of anything. The pedometer let me set new goals, add some steps over time and give myself the room I needed to get back into reasonable shape, feeling more like myself, and again a little more in control of my daily existence at a time when I really wasn’t in charge at all.
This story is a little more modern… It’s from today. As many of you know, I’ve recently been subjected to surgery on my big toe joint. Apparently I injured that joint at some point and it’s been wonky ever since. That wonkiness led to bone spurs. Ignoring bone spurs while you walk aggressively and occasionally run for exercise is, well, not good. So my rock star orthopedist has removed all those nasty spurs and I have been sitting on my growing by the minute posterior for two weeks. I’m not sure how much of my personality has come through in this online adventure, but let’s suffice it to say that two weeks is pretty long for me and my antsy brain to be sitting still. The difference this time is that I can’t simply now begin to exercise again by measuring the steps I’m taking and increase their number, I have to go WAY back. I have to go to a physical therapist and have him move my toes. That’s step #1 this time. Moving the toes and not beating myself up too badly about the weight gain during my mandated idle time. After moving the toes for a few weeks, I get to take this cumbersome walking boot off and try walking in regular shoes, short distances with ice to follow. At some point in this progression I will be stable enough to have our 85 pound dog join me and take a REAL walk. As for running, rock star orthopedist is not a fan but allowed that I could try it as one part of a multi-faceted approach to exercise. Great.
Baby Steps and Exercise
The point of sharing these stories is to demonstrate a key principle of our beliefs about better nutrition and better health. You have to start where YOU are. Maybe you’re ready to run a 5K, maybe you are ready to walk the dog twice a day, or maybe you need to start by wiggling your toes. Doing someone else’s next step will not get you further down YOUR path. Changing habits and changing our lives and bodies takes time and that oh so elusive (especially for me) patience and some honest thought.
As with all of our endeavors, the Sis sisters recommend facing exercise with an honest assessment of what you currently do. This is not the same as asking whether or not you go to the gym. Perhaps you also have a canine friend who requires walking, maybe you go on hikes on the weekend, maybe you are a floor nurse and walk ALL DAY LONG. The next question is whether your current level of exercise has you feeling as fit as you’d like to be. If not, the follow up to the honest assessment is to choose one thing you’re going to do to increase your fitness level. Execute that plan for a time and see how you feel. I know, I know you don’t have time – seriously I get it. Choose something small that you can add that doesn’t make much time. It’s much easier to adjust your schedule 15 minutes at a time than to add an hour of activity all at once.
Baby Steps to Fitness – Some Really Easy Places to Start
- Parking Lots – Stop looking for the best space, look for the worst, or as bad as you can tolerate and walk it.
- Stairs – Take them all or part of the way to your destination.
- Public Transit – get off a stop earlier and walk it in.
- Don’t use a riding mower – unless you have way more land than you can cover, use a mower you walk behind.
- Extra Stairs – when going up or down the stairs at home, repeat the trip at the steps for a boost.
- A Short Walk – take a few minutes sometime during your day for a short walk – the fresh air and natural light can do wonders for you.
- Errand on Foot – If you live where you CAN actually walk to the market or the library, do it. There are all manner of carts and wagons in the world that can help you bring your loot home.
- Enlist a Friend – we all have friends who are more fit than we are (Big Sis is SUPER scary fit). Observe, listen, pay attention. What do they do that we don’t do? Can we borrow some of their habits, activities, or ask them to take a walk?
- Try Something New – maybe you didn’t like to swim as a kid and haven’t done it since – our tastes do change, perhaps the pool is the place for you.
Increasing our fitness and activity level doesn’t have to mean joining the gym (unless you want it to). What can you do that’s a little more than you do today? Where do you park your car at the grocery store? As for me, my toe moving begins Wednesday (which seems eons away), and I will take it from there, one halting and healthful step at a time.