Back in June, I embarked on a new project to build a healthy life habit (as I discussed earlier, from Shawn Achor, the happiness guru). I challenged myself to 21 straight days of exercise, and I think I wrote about it when I was about halfway through. It turned out to be a successful challenge. I managed about 25 consecutive, and when they were over, I took a day off and got right back on the treadmill. It has been an interesting experiment that challenged a lot of things I thought about myself.
I have never been a person who enjoyed exercise. I went to a college that required 8 gym classes for graduation, and I did have some fun learning cross country skiing and playing racquetball and cross country skiing with friends. That was about it. Sometimes Jamie and I develop a walking routine, but it often falls apart after a month. Sometimes we go through hiking phases, and I usually complain bitterly about being forced to march in the woods. What happened in those 24 days, though, was that I honestly began to enjoy walking on the treadmill. I enjoyed it so much that I began to feel that I needed it. In fact, a couple of weeks ago I had to take a week off for an injury, and it bothered me all week that I couldn't exercise. I was hugely relieved to get back to it.
My next challenge was the age-old question of finding time. It wasn't too difficult during the summer. Jamie was very supportive and gave me the 30 to 60 minutes a day I needed on the days when we weren't all walking together. When I started back to work full time, however, I was concerned about how I could fit in my exercise. By that time, I was determined to make it work. Although I still have to take one day and one week at a time, I am working out (no pun intended) how to carve out the time in my day. I decided that if I set myself a weekly distance goal, I can chip away at it on the days that I DO have time. I have been using 10 miles as my goal and have found that if I walk half of it on the weekends, it's not too difficult to fit in the rest on two or three days during the week. The last three weeks, I have been doing office work and training teachers so my schedule is not what it is during the school year, but I'm making it work for now by walking before I go to work. When classes start, I'll work it out again, probably on two afternoons during the week.
One of my best friends in this challenge is my pedometer, which I started wearing each day. I thought that maybe if I track how far I walk during the day and how far I NEED to walk during the day, I can plan out how much exercise I need to supplement my everyday activity. It hasn't quite worked out that way (hence the 10 mile goal), but wearing the pedometer has had other interesting results. I have started enjoying incidental exercise. Instead of trying to fit 10 errands into one trip, I'm willing to make two trips to add a little more exercise. I'm willing to take extra trips to the compost or the laundry. I park farther away at the store so I can rack up some extra steps. At work, I take the long way. I discovered last week that if I leave my office, walk down the back stairs, walk the length of the first floor hallway, walk up the front stairs, and return to my office, I clock about 1,000 steps. If I do that a few extra times on the days I don't have time to exercise, well, maybe I WILL make time. I added dumbbells to my exercise routine and just purchased exercise bands. I started running a little (just tiny little .25 mile sprints for variety; I'll never be a runner). I find myself dreaming of buying a bike rather than dreaming of taking a nap, and the idea of taking Duncan to the Rail Trail sounds exciting rather than tedious.
I don't know that I'm out of the woods yet. In fact, I'm nervous about posting this because I may quit tomorrow, and you'll all know that I have failed again. I feel more optimistic than that though because I'm really enjoying it. I'm beginning to see all the benefits I never believed were real; I feel more energetic and less stressed and am seeing my weight loss attempts revved up a bit. I almost feel secure that exercise has become part of my life, which is good because I have a new 21 day challenge waiting in the wings.