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I am not a dog person. Lately, however, I have been appreciating the dog people of my life in a whole new way. In the past couple of weeks, I have enjoyed long walks and even better conversations with great friends as they take their four-legged family members out for adventure. On more than a few occasions, the Fionas, GiGis and Higginses have begged for fresh air and a good meant-for-exercise run. I have been reminded that like children, when it comes to dogs, there is no “later” option. I have also been reminded that unlike children, there is no choice to stay inside, regardless of the weather, when a potty emergency arises.
During a recent trip to the Berkshires, I stayed with two different dear friends. It was so great to sit and sip tea, sharing both memories of our past experiences as well as our current storylines. We moved from room to room, becoming more and more comfortable in the coziness of great couches as we reconnected. In the mornings, it was great to wake, enjoy healthy breakfasts and continue our conversations. The dogs interrupted, though, and needed to get out, leaving us no option but to pile on the fleece and comfie clothes. In both cases, we walked a bit before unleashing the dogs; they immediately bolted and played with an exuberant and almost frenzied sense of freedom. Although we didn’t sniff trees or chase squirrels with them, we did find a brisk pace that filled all of us, each day, with life. The autumn colors were vibrant and so were we. Women running with dogs.
Since those great escapes into the woods, around empty schoolyards and through quiet, small town neighborhoods, I have had occasion to accompany other dog owner friends and family members on their daily journeys around the block. For me, it has been a great, untapped source of exercise. My boys want a dog and may one day get a non-allergenic one. For now, our fish Rosie will do. I will, however, visit dog-loving-friends more often and focus not as much on the leaping , lapping adn subsequent sneezing and watery eyes as on the potential for a great trek, rain or shine.
I’ll have to remember this next weekend as we head to ME for a pre-Thanksgiving family gathering at my younger brother’s new home. Perhaps I will count on Emma, the resident Jack Russell, to keep my calories eaten/calories burned equation in check.
This morning as my bus crossed Mass Ave Bridge, I was heartened to see so many people walking and biking. I usually listen to NPR on my iPod radio or read Newsweek during my commute, but I always look up as we cross the Charles River and take in the view of my adopted city through the windows of the No. 1 bus.
Boston is vastly different from my Midwestern hometown in many ways, but one of the reasons I chose to move to Boston was so I could live in a place where I do not have to drive or own a car. Walking is my favorite mode of transportation, and spring weather reminds me how much I love using my feet to get from Point A to Point B.
In Minnesota I drove everywhere, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the world’s best driver! However, every friend in Minnesota has a driveway or free street parking, all stores have parking lots, and many businesses even have drive-through windows so you don’t even have to get out of your car at all to order coffee, do your banking, pick up dry-cleaning, or return DVDs. One summer when I was in a car accident that crunched my little red Chevy, I was determined to bike or walk everywhere while my car was repaired. This goal proved nearly impossible in a city built for driving. And it was kind of ridiculous that I spent an hour walking to teach an aerobics class and then an hour walking all the way back because I had to go very much out of my way to avoid the highway overpass standing between the gym and my apartment.
I hope I never take for granted the walk-ability of Boston. My favorite restaurants are all within a 20-minute walk from my apartment, I can speed-walk to the Back Bay Healthworks in 10 minutes and, if I want to see whether there are any Boston Ballet tickets for the Sunday afternoon performance, I can walk to the Opera House, too. I have had to transition my shoe collection from stilettos and fiercely-pointed toes over to flats and rounder wedges for safety reasons but, when the sun comes out and it’s warm enough for flip-flops and tank tops, it thrills me to see how many Bostonians do the city walk. Of course, this morning I watched them from my bus seat, but I know that if I want to walk to work in the morning, I can. It takes an hour, and it’s hard to do on the days I carry a gym bag (which is pretty much every day). But I’m in great company when I commute to work on foot. Walking will always be better than my rural commute on a two-lane highway, going 20 mph, stuck behind a John Deere tractor.
So tie on those sneakers and walk to your next destination. Just watch out for the cobblestones!
Last weekend I spent a few days visiting my dad in North Carolina. I enjoyed some much needed rest, since the words “stress” and “busy” aren’t even part of my dad’s vocabulary. Over four glorious days, the only items on my agenda were walking the dog, watching the Olympics, reading the newspaper, and sitting down for meals with family.
As much as I love challenging workouts at the gym, I have learned that my body also needs periods of recovery. This knowledge, however, has come over time. In the past I felt nervous about being away from my home gym because it meant interrupting my workout routine. I liked the security of my regularly-scheduled fitness classes and of knowing the elliptical would be there waiting for me if I needed it. Routine is important, but it’s not everything.
I panicked briefly this weekend when I realized a 2-mile walk around the lake with my dad and his fluffy little dog Sunny would be more about “stopping to smell the roses” than it would be about burning chocolate ice-cream calories. Then my dad pointed to the gulls on the lake and said, “Isn’t this nice—this lake and walking trail that everyone can enjoy?” I took a deep breath and noticed a swan on the water, appreciating the calm and the chance to recuperate from my hectic schedule. Slowing down is necessary. Recovery is essential.
Now I’m back in Boston and back to teaching classes with gusto! My muscles feel rejuvenated, and I’ve had a good reminder of how much better our workouts can be if we’re well rested and refreshed at the start.
Stretch, sleep, and be still.
When I moved to Boston last May, I decided to live in Beacon Hill mostly because my daughter lives here and I wanted to be close by, but also because I wanted to be a true city-dweller and live without a car. Walking would good for my health I knew, and if I had a car, it would be much more difficult to convince myself to walk. I walked more last summer than I had for years. But I still found the mile to the Pru something to be avoided on most days. (Many taxi drivers benefitted from my laziness.)
When I started at HW in November, I felt very virtuous on the first day I walked there from home. It took about 30 minutes and was actually enjoyable. Bonnie (my trainer) told me that walking outside was as good (or better) than the treadmill or the elliptical, as long as I walked at a good enough clip. In an effort to get me to the gym, she even told me that if I walked there and felt very resistant to more exercise, I should just forget it and go to the spa. This was great psychology. It got me to HW on many days when I couldn’t bear the thought of cardio; however, I never completely skipped it.
Even though I haven now gotten over my dread of cardio machines, they are still not my favorite. So a month ago a bought myself a pedometer and started walking in earnest. (I also bought long underwear, so I could walk when it was really cold). My pedometer is great. I have owned several that didn’t work well, but this is an Omron and it’s very reliable. One great feature is that in addition to recording the gross number of steps I take in a day, it breaks out the “aerobic” steps—these are the steps I take at a rate of more than 60 steps per hour. It also gives me the number of minutes that I walked at that rate or faster, so I am able to count those minutes as legitimate exercise.
I am aiming for 10,000 steps a day, but most days I far exceed it. The pedometer really has encouraged me to walk more and more. One remarkable Saturday a couple of weeks ago I hit 19,000! Last week I walked from Beacon Hill to my department at BU (2.5 miles) in 70 minutes. I’m very short (5 feet) with a very short stride, so I was really moving. I can’t wait until the weather gets nicer, so I’ll be likely to walk even more.
Do you incorporate walking outside into your exercise routine?
Since I started working out again and watching what I eat, posting here, and writing my own weight loss journal, people have been asking me questions. A question that is most frequently asked is how to get started when you are coming back to exercise or just beginning to workout.
My response is; just do it. Pick an activity you think you can do for twenty minutes or so, and start. Walking is the easiest activity to start with. It’s cheap, easy to do, and you already know how to do it. You can walk outside if the weather is nice, or you can walk on a treadmill inside if you prefer or the weather is imclement.
Starting out is definitely the hardest part. You may feel that you can’t do it, or that twenty minutes isn’t enough to get any results. You may feel silly, or that everyone is looking at you. You can do it, and when you are starting out, twenty minutes may be all you can do. Read the rest of this entry »
As I’m typing, I’m over 38,000 feet in the sky (thanks to the wifi on Virgin America flights, that is! So neat!) I’m going to San Francisco for a three-day food festival. Yes…you read it right, a food festival….in San Francisco, only one of the best foodie destinations in the country. Tastings everyday, sit down dinners, and lots of that beautiful California wine.
Here are some tips for staying on track while vacationing in a foodie city: Read the rest of this entry »
There have been only a handful of days so far in 2009 that have seen the thermometer creep above 45 degrees. On each one of those days I have felt a beckoning to go outside and walk. There was one strange day when, in sunglasses and short sleeves, I ventured out for an hour-long walk, crunching last week’s snow beneath my tennis shoes the whole way. Mark Twain once said that “One of the brightest gems in the New England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it.” I can definitely say that the tauntingly beautiful weather we glimpse, only to be plunged back into the darkest winter, is driving me crazy.
I began exercising seriously last May when the weather was too beautiful to resist. Although we had bought a treadmill two years before with the intention of taking up regular exercise, nothing had stuck. My usual routine is to come home from work and sit in front of the computer for a few hours to catch up on news and such until it’s time to make dinner. Then I sit in front of the TV until bed. But something about this glorious spring after such a long and snowy winter caused me to dig out my sneakers and sweatpants and venture outside. I have the advantage of living near a bike path, and so I was able that week to go out every day after work and walk, as slowly and awkwardly as I liked, unmolested by traffic or stoplights, or commuters gawking from their cars. In less than a year I built myself up from 30 minutes of walking to 60 minutes of power walking/jogging.
It was not natural then for me to be outside, let alone to be exercising, but it was more enjoyable than any exercise I had attempted before. Now on those days when the sun peeks out from the grey clouds and the piles of crusty snow melt into the gutters, it feels unnatural to be inside. Even in the cold of winter, I would feel guilty when I skipped a trip to the gym or a walk on my treadmill. Even on the longest and busiest days, I would feel refreshed and energized by going to my results training sessions. I think this is one of the biggest things for me and my weight loss. Eating is almost a passive thing; you can make choices to swap out good for bad, and if you’ve eaten too much you can always stop. But adding something into your routine can be difficult. Now that I’ve made regular exercise part of my life, I realize how miserable I am when I try to go without it.