Wow – it has been a long time since I’ve updated a post. It’s amazing how time flies when you are busy with family demands. And I have had a lot lately!
However, all those demands have really left me pining away for some “me” time. I miss my friends, I miss my blog (in all seriousness!) and probably most of all, I miss exercise. Once upon a time in my life I used to train A LOT. And although the purpose of that training was for competition, I discovered along the way that physical activity was an excellent stress buster! (Frankly, I think it kept me sane during high school and university.)
So I really notice it (especially in stressful times like these) when I’m not moving my body. But (sigh…), gone are the days when I had time to train twice a day. In fact, being a busy working mom, gone are the days when I had time to train twice a week!
And honestly, that’s okay. Being a mom for the second time means I had an idea what I was getting into with another baby – I knew intense multi-hour training sessions were likely a thing of the past. And despite the occasional twang of nostalgia I get watching the Olympic athletes, my knees are also thanking me! But my mental health is not, and nor are all the other bits of my body that are starting to feel rusty.
So intense training aside, all bodies still need exercise. I know I need it to bust stress, but the benefits of physical activity are nearly endless: it improves our cardiovascular health, prevents disease, and improves mood, sex and sleep, etc. etc.! And guess what: the Canadian Physical Activity guidelines recommend adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week. Oh, and further to that, did you guess that 85% of Canadian adults are not meeting that guideline?
Yikes! I have a degree in exercise and health physiology – I was not going to be a part of that stat! But with stress abounding and a baby I can’t put down, how on earth was I going to find the time to get 150 minutes of exercise in??? (I don’t even get that many consecutive minutes of sleep in a night!)
But, maybe I was making a mountain out of a molehill… I chase two kids around, surely that counts as physical activity? What if instead I just made the simple goal of using walking as my physical activity? And what if I tried somehow to quantify the activity I do already do (with my kids no less!) in a regular day?
It makes perfect sense really. Why hit busy women over the head with more demands? And as it turns out, with a little research I discovered walking is possibly the best exercise you can even do! (And yes, I did have to research this a bit because as someone who once trained twice a day, I had a hard time accepting that walking could be as beneficial as what I used to do. I mean don’t you need to push harder?? And faster???)
Well, it turns out no – you don’t.
In a lot of health circles these days, you will hear the buzz word “paleo”. And although most of the time it refers to some dietary principles, it can be applied to an entire lifestyle. Basically, paleo refers to the idea that modern humans are best adapted to the way of life we likely would have had at the end of the Paleolithic era (think hunting, gathering, stone/bone/wood tools and a nomadic lifestyle). The reasoning behind this is that genetically and anatomically, Homo sapiens really haven’t changed much since that time.
So if you were a lovely paleo lady, you would have walked. Some days you might have also ran a bit to evade danger, and maybe you would have occasionally climbed a tree in search of food, and pulled yourself up over rocks and other uneven terrain. But really, you would have walked – A LOT. And our bodies are very well designed for it (Katy Bowman is even writing a new book about it which I believe is called “Move Your DNA” – and click here to learn more about why walking is so awesome and necessary!). Your day-to-day distances would likely have varied based on food needs, the weather, your age, etc., but I’ve heard estimations ranging from 6 to 16km a day (keep in mind your movement would have been for survival, and you would never have thought about planning your exercise!).
Okay, 6 to 16km a day… am I anywhere near that chasing my kids around? Just how much walking do I do in a regular day? How many steps do I take?
Thinking back to my kinesiology days, I remembered that pedometers were kind of a craze for a while. As much as I hate to admit it, that was over 10 years ago now… but, it turns out their popularity is returning. And they are quite useful in measuring how many steps you take in a day and therefore estimating how much distance you are covering and how much physical activity you are getting. In fact, there is a great campaign going on in Alberta right now to try and get everybody walking more – its called UWalk (check it out here for more details!). In an effort to help, UWalk has supplied pedometers to libraries throughout the province. So for me to estimate how much activity I was doing in a regular day, it was as simple as signing out the pedometer and hooking it on my pants for a day! The goal they set is 10 000 steps per person per day (it turns out there are actually a lot of 10 000 step programs set up across the world to help get people active). Since 10 000 steps works out to be roughly 8km, I thought it followed the paleo guidelines well.
Now pedometers are actually kind of fun! I stuck it on right away, and as a numbers girl I get motivated when I’m being measured! Even my 5 year old wanted to test it out for awhile! I was so curious to see how many km’s I was clocking in a day…
Well, it was a pretty shocking day.
3000 steps. That’s it. In all my crazy busy-ness in a day, I was actually only walking 3000 steps. That’s only ~2.5 km! By some walking program guidelines, that’s considered a “sedentary” activity level!
It took me awhile to get over my shock. When I last wore a pedometer, I was walking 15000 steps easily in a day, crossing campus back and forth and walking almost everywhere I needed to go. And I guess I always justified my movement life after university since my job kept me all day on my feet.
But apparently while on mat leave I am not moving my feet enough!
And now I have a new goal: get in 10 000 steps a day!! But I have some work to do.
So I put the question out to you – how do you get your physical activity in? Are you getting your 10 000 steps in? Feel free to comment below or share your comments on facebook! I would love to hear from you! Share the motivation!
I like walking but it is tricky here in the winter. I find it difficult to keep up a good pace when I’m walking along on the unevenly shoveled sidewalks! Once it gets a little lighter and brighter in the morning I’ll get back to walking to the LRT in the morning, which is a really nice way to start my day. And maybe some longer walks with the puppy! The February issue of Real Simple magazine had a good article about walking.
Otherwise, I’ve been finding it really hard to get motivated to exercise lately. If it’s boring, I don’t want to do it, and lately I’ve been finding the gym boring. I don’t know that I could ever get into the routine of “training” and just regularly going to the gym/weights, etc. How do you get motivated?
Laura, I totally hear you!!! A couple of weeks ago when I finally decided I was going to go for a walk outside, I literally made it to the end of my street and then bailed hard on the ice. 🙁 Our neighbourhood is notorious for its lack of sidewalk care! Thank heavens I didn’t have the baby on my back, but I still have some bruises to show for it. Winter is definitely a barrier to exercise – be it the extreme cold we seem to be having so much of, or the treacherous walking paths.
I think the gym can be boring too, so it does seem to be a bit of a conundrum. I think part of the problem might actually be in this belief our fitness culture seems to have around the so-called “necessity” of the training routine. Even if you were in a very regular training routine, our bodies do better if the loads/stresses placed on them are continually varied. Not only is it more interesting to mix things up, its better for us. The human body is amazing at adapting, and it can adapt very quickly to a “routine” (I remember learning in exercise physiology that we should switch something about a training routine every 4 weeks – be it the number of reps done, or even the order of the exercises). It’s one of the reasons athletes have so many over-use injuries and muscle imbalances.
I think the key to motivation is keeping it different and fun. We need to remember what it was like as kid when we just moved our bodies because it felt good! I think we need to recognize that any kind of movement counts too. Maybe walk to the corner store for some groceries and carry a bag back, or walk to the LRT (that’s a great idea!), or run around in circles with the dog instead of just walking. I think I will dive into this a bit more though and see what I can come up with in terms of tricks and tips for keeping motivated!