Breakfast

I am a breakfast meeting guy.

There is nothing like getting up and sharing a hearty meal with a good friend.

Except when you want to walk to breakfast and it’s 30F out.

Christmas was wonderful and we had a great couple of days, but there wasn’t enough activity and there was wayyyyy too much food. So I forced myself down the street on foot today.

I’m glad I did it, but I am waiting for it to get a few degrees warmer before I head back home…

Walking in Winter

It’s been too long since my last post. Lots of challenges lately.

First, my day job has been quite busy and stressful. That has cut in to my exercise time, which is ironic because exercise really helps manage the stress. When things are busy, I need to amp up the walking even more. Lesson learned.

Next, there is the weather. As it gets colder, it’s just harder to get outside. So I’ve spent more time on the treadmill. It’s better than nothing, but I do miss getting outside. I have been trying to make the best of it by doing more reading on the treadmill – that’s been good.

We did have a stretch of a few great days here in NoVA with temps in the 60s, and I definitely took advantage of that. But we’re back to normal on that front: 30F this morning as I walked to meet a friend for coffee. And I’m still at the coffee shop typing this, letting it warm up just a little more before I head back home.

It is Christmas Eve, and all negatives aside, I absolutely love this time of year. All the kids are home – there is simply nothing like hearing the banter among them. Great to have them around, even if only for a short time.

And on Christmas, while I try to keep up my walking, it’s interesting – humbling – to think about Mary and Joseph having to walk from place to place. They were told there’s no room for them, on the verge of bringing their son into the human race, not fully realizing the significance of the days and years to come for them. I walk for exercise and go home to a very warm comfortable house; they walked because that’s just how they got from place to place. And they were turned away.

I’m so comfortable. Jesus left his father’s home – the ultimate comfort and glory – to experience walking through life among us, with us, as one of us. Thank you God for your son’s walk among us. And that walk continues today.

Stress Reduction

Cutting wayyyyy down on stress is one of the many unexpected benefits of doing alot of walking.

If you watch this blog over time, you’ll see me call out MANY of the unexpected benefits of losing weight and getting fit.  My motivations were all negative, and I have been so amazingly blessed and surprised by all the positives I didn’t see coming.

I used to be a pretty stressed out dude.  I did my best to hide it, but that was probably not successful in the eyes of most people who know me.

And I may still be a little tightly wound, but I am MUCH less stressed than I was 8+ months ago.  I sleep so much better.  I worry so much less.  I have a much easier time letting go of the little things.  I don’t have a perfect handle on this (and never will in this life), but I’m heading in the right direction.

I have some big things going on in life right now.  A year ago, I would have been sleepless as a result of them.  They do weigh still weigh on me, but not nearly as much.

I also don’t think it’s just a physiological response.  I don’t deny the reality of the physiological benefits, but I feel as if getting healthier through my walking has really helped me see things more clearly – that I am not in control of most things in life, but God is in control of ALL of them, and I really can trust him.  “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  Luke 12:6-7 (ESV).

This has also helped me focus on moving the levers I can control and not worry about the things that are out of my control.  The discipline of getting healthier is pretty straightforward – you have two major levers at your disposal: what you take in (eat) and what you burn (exercise).  I had to learn a new measure of discipline on both those counts.  Sleep is arguably another lever here, but in my experience, getting better sleep has been largely a function of the Eating and Exercising levers.

One other important spiritual impact here is simply the time to pray.  This is a discipline that I am quite poor in.  But being out in God’s creation (versus on the treadmill in front of a TV) simply provides great clarity of though and appreciation for all that he’s placed around us.  Walking is not as “efficient” as running in terms of calories burned per hour, but it has the incredible benefit of helping me to slow down, appreciate things, think, and pray.  I find that when I plug in, I lose that benefit.  So I get outside when I can and enjoy the sights and sounds around me, and the clarity of mind I get that draws me closer to my creator.

All that said – it is a gorgeous Fall day here, and I am heading out with Yankee.  Enjoy the day!

These Are The People In Your Neighborhood

There have been many many unexpected joys I’ve found in walking in my neighborhood. I want to write about them all eventually. But I was reminded today about one in particular: meeting the people in my neighborhood.

It’s a bit sad – well, VERY sad – that it’s taken 12+ years for me to meet so many folks around here. But I’m finally getting to it. These are the people you wave at when you pull in your driveway, when you get your mail, when you bring in your trash cans. They’re also the same people you avoid most of the time.  You stare straight ahead, pretend to read that mail, maybe even make a phone call that you didn’t need to make, just so you didn’t need to interact with That Neighbor.

Today I was joined for a walk by my lovely wife on an absolutely gorgeous Fall day, and we tooled off around the block – and then some. Well, she loves yard sales, and we happened to catch a late season yard sale just around the corner. I typically like to make fun of yard sales, but at some point I concluded that it was fun for both of us – she got to make a useful purchase and we both got to meet neighbors we’ve never met before.

Another point on this: I am a talkative guy and I do like to meet folks. But I when I walk, I’m on a mission: I want to get those 3-4-5-6-7 miles in. So I don’t naturally want to stop and chat when I’m walking. I’ve had to remind myself to slow down and just talk to folks when there is opportunity.

My grandfather knew how to do this. He and Grandma used to drive around on Sundays and just visit friends – and stop and talk with complete strangers as well. Grandpa would talk to anyone about anything.  I’ve always felt that I learned that from him to some extent. Now I’m relearning it and remembering to slow down and just talk. So stop me for a minute if you see me and Yankee out there :)

It’s good to know your neighbors. They may need your help – someone to talk to, a couch to be moved, or help in a real emergency.  And how can you love your neighbor as you love yourself if you don’t even know them?  Thank you Lord for my neighbors.

Tools I Use

Here are some of the most helpful tools I use to keep me walking.  Nothing here is a paid product endorsement – I’ve just found them very useful.  I’m sure there are other good tools out there – please share them if you have suggestions.

Fitbithttp://fitbit.com

It’s an awesome pedometer and helps you figure out how much sleep you’re getting.  At first, the pedometer shows you how inactive you really are.  Then, it motivates you to get moving.  It has a great smartphone app (I use the one for iPhone) and very good web tools to show you how you’re doing.  I also track all my food with it.  Getting enough sleep is very helpful for losing weight, so this helps there.  But I wasn’t interested in calling my blog TheSleepingGuy.

MapMyWalkhttp://MapMyWalk.com

This is one of a family of apps that use GPS to actually track where you’re going and how much distance you’ve actually covered (compared to Fitbit, which is an estimate of how much distance you’ve covered).

BTW, both of the above apps have social networking aspects – you can have Fitbit Friends and MapMyWalk friends.  Fitbit friends are fun because you can Cheer and Taunt them.  MapMyWalk friends give you motivation to get out of bed and keep up with them.

There is a world of opportunity for apps that can take data from apps like these, correlate that data, and help make useful suggestions.  Young Comp Sci majors who may be reading this – hint hint!

Clip-on lamp – as Fall sets in and it’s dark in the AM and PM, this is very helpful.  I have a very small LED one by Cyclops (I think) that at least makes me a little more obvious to the cars that drive too fast in my neighborhood at 5:30 am and 9 pm.  I found multiple options for these clip on lamps on Amazon.

Good Sneakers – and lots of them.  Walking about 70 miles a week or more, you can wear out a pair in about 3 months.  I have a large foot (15 4E) and the best thing for my shoe shopping has been the Internet.  New Balance seem to fit my wide feet well most of the time, but not always – so buying a few pairs at a time with Free Return policies give me a better chance of finding what I need and sending the rest back with minimal hassle. 

Music player – well, not really.  Since I have been walking outside, I have really been enjoying being unplugged – not being in front of the TV on the treadmill.  I guess as I age and my hearing is not getting any better, I feel the need to be more aware of what’s going on around me (note the reference earlier in this post to cars that drive too fast).  And since I’ve been doing that, I’ve really come to enjoy hearing the birds, the other dogs as they bark at Yankee, and even meeting people in my neighborhood.  More on this in the “Unexpected Benefits of Walking to Lose Weight” some other time.

What tools help you get out to get fit?

Making it Work

I’m on business travel this week.  Wherever I am, I still try to get lots of steps in.  I’m just over 20k for the day, so I think that qualifies for today.

Here’s how I do it, even when away from my “normal” environment and routine.

I aimed to get up at 5 am and get a good hour in.  Was not successful with the 5 am thing.  But at about 5:30 am, MapMyWalk told me a friend had just finished a workout, and that got me moving.  I still got in about 45 minutes of walking on the treadmill – so not a horrible start.

I’m staying at a hotel close to the office I’m working at this week, along with a restaurant where I like to meet with my engineers and managers.  I’m walking between all three locations.

During a break in the meeting this morning, I knew the rest room would be packed (it’s a big meeting), so I walked down to the first floor to use the facilities there.  No waiting, plus extra steps (and stairs).

After lunch, I got in about a 15-minute walk and a friend went with me.  More steps there.

We had a team social event tonight almost a mile from the hotel, but I walked to and from it.  A little chilly, but another way to get steps in.

BTW, I do get some comments on walking (Colleague: “You’re walking? Seriously? I can give you a ride across the street.” Me: “Thanks, but I like to get my steps in.”).  I was jokingly (I hope) accused of being a bully on a business trip earlier this year by encouraging my colleagues to walk.  That’s OK – losing a ton of weight is worth the comments :)

I ended the day on YACC (Yet Another Conference Call) and I paced in my hotel room for 30+ minutes. The new bluetooth headset has better range than I thought.

So – that’s how I do it, and how you can do it too.  Find ways to do some extra walking in during the day.  It’s really not that hard.

Man’s Best Friend

Let me just say that I have the best walking companion in the world: Yankee.

Yankee is an 11-ish year old pound hound that we adopted almost 11 years ago.  She’s blond-ish, about 50 pounds (a little less now), and looks like she may have some greyhound in her.

For about 10 years, she got some good walks, but not nearly enough.  In the past 8 months, she has been on MANY walks.  She has probably logged more miles with me since February 2013 than we did in the entire time we’ve had her prior to that.

She is my walking buddy.  Yes, she gets distracted by the occasional squirrel (much more than occasional this time of year), she wants to meet most of her canine people (and gets a little too aggressive sometimes) – but she loves to walk and still gets excited every time she thinks I’m getting ready to go.  Every time.