Just Move It…Step by Step

A couple years ago when I started my Refuse to Diet journey I was over 300 pounds and had a lot of pain in my knees, my feet and my back. I couldn’t do a lot of exercising because of the pain, but I knew I had to gain muscle strength and that I had to move my body to get my muscles stronger. So I started where I could. Some days that meant moving my arms and legs while I was lying flat on my back in bed. Beats not moving at all!

What I find so ironic about all this is that I used to be a swimmer and a swim coach. I swam several miles every day. Even as an adult I continued to swim. Even as an obese adult I swam. I’m glad I didn’t allow my size to keep me from doing things that were healthy for me. Then something happened and I stopped swimming. I changed jobs and I moved. It was no longer easy for me to get to the pool, so I stopped going. But I didn’t replace it with anything else and I lost a lot of the fitness that I had…because I had been one of those people who was pretty fit even though obese.

Not any longer. So I stopped kicking myself for getting out of shape and just started where I was at that moment. That’s what I encourage you to do.

Step 1 is Awareness.

Just like eating, we are not always aware of how much (or how little) we move our bodies. For the first week write down when you actually move, whether you would officially call it “exercise” or not. Don’t try to add exercise in or make it more intense. The goal is to establish what you are doing right now…your exercise benchmark. You can use the same notepad or journal that you use for the food benchmark, or if you’d rather you can have a separate one. For me, it is easier to have it all in one place.

For example, if you walk from your car to your desk, write that down—and if you can estimate how far it is, note that. If you haven’t a clue what the distance is, write down a note to help you remember about where you parked. That way if you later are parking a lot further away you will be able to see the improvement you made! Do you walk to the mailbox? Climb stairs to put the kids’ clothes away or do the laundry? Do you walk the dog? If you go to the gym, what type of exercise do you do and for how long.

If you have a pedometer use it and write down the number of steps you walked every day. If you don’t have one, you can get one for less than $20 at stores like Target, Kmart or Walmart. Go ahead and buy one, but don’t wait to start your journals!

Step 2 is Assessment.

Don’t use this as an opportunity to beat yourself up, just look at the journal and really see how much time you spend moving your body. I work at a computer all day so I don’t get to move around a lot during the day. Since I work from home I don’t even have the walk from the car to my office!  Looking at your journal can be a wakeup call that even though you feel tired at the end of the day, you have not actually spent much physical energy. The irony is that by incorporating exercise into our daily lives we will actually have MORE energy and we will feel better in the process…but it starts with small steps.

In looking at the journal and reflecting back on your week and your life/work situation do you see any areas where you can easily add more moving? Can you park further away from the door, at work, at the store? Can you take stairs instead of an elevator or escalator? Can you walk to the mailbox instead of driving the car?

Write down some ideas that come from reviewing your list.

Step 3 is Action.

Choose 1-3 things from your list that you can commit to for the next week. Like in the “mouth” section it is better to choose only 1 and actually do it then to go for 3 or 5 and not hit them. Moving the body is a bit different in that you might want to choose different activities for different days. For example perhaps you decide you will park further away from the office door on Monday, Wednesday, Friday but you have early meetings on Tuesday and Thursday and you are not sure you will be able to get there early enough for the extra walk. In that case you might choose to walk around the building at lunch on Tuesday and Thursday. And since you don’t go to the office on Saturday and Sunday you decide you are going to walk up and down the stairs at home twice on the weekends.

After the week is over, check back in and see how you did. Did you do what you committed to? If not, determine what kept you from your goal. Did you set too aggressive a goal? If you did, then scale it back a bit for next week. Did you just forget or run out of time? Then maybe the activities you chose weren’t at the right time…try working something in early in the morning and then you can check it off you list right away! Did you do great Monday-Friday but missed the mark on Saturday and Sunday? Look more closely at what you can do on the weekends to move your body more that is easy—either in your house, your neighborhood, or something in your normal routine.

If you don’t work outside the home then you might have to make it a point to get up and move during the day or develop a schedule so you get your routine in first thing in the morning. I have a routine I do before having my morning coffee and I also get up and take short walks around the house to get me off my rear. Even though these walks are only a couple minutes long they give me a good mental break and help perk me up physically too as I get the blood flowing again in those lower limbs!

Later when you are regularly doing these new activities and you starting to be aware that the walk in from the parking lot is getting easier, then you can add some additional movement.

You can:

  • Add more activities
  • Add more time to the existing activities
  • Add intensity to the activities

Eating the same thing every day gets boring…we know that, so we cook different foods for each meal and generally we don’t eat the same dinner every day. For some reason we think there is something good about doing the same physical activity every day. It’s not that there is anything WRONG with it, after all there is nothing wrong with eating the same food every day as long as it is nutritionally balanced…it is just BOR-ING.

Boredom leads to inactivity. Prevent that by mixing it up. Try something new. Go for a walk in a different neighborhood. Call a friend and go for a walk together. Walk backwards. Go to a park and swing. Play Frisbee with the kids. Put on some music and dance. Get an interactive video game like Wii. Walk in place during commercials of your favorite television show.

Set goal markers. Knowing how far you are moving now allows you to set a goal to do more. Whether you are using a pedometer to count steps, swimming laps in a pool or parking your car farther away, you can gradually increase the distance you are going. When walking outdoors, note where you turn around and make a goal to go 3 steps further the next day.  It is those little steps that will get you to the healthy, energetic, slender body you are looking for!

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