I’ve been dressed like this all winter…
…pretty much. (I don’t cover my head because I don’t want to smash down the 10 hairs I have strategically swirled around for maximum coverage.) Okay, maybe this is a little bit of an exaggeration, but if I could walk around town in the winter with a blanket thrown over my already multi-layered form without being judged, I would. I am a big, giant, cold baby. I bundle up when it gets below 70. And we have had the stupidest, coldest spring ever. So no one has much noticed that I’ve been getting in shape again this winter. It has been a stealth operation. Until now.
Since I’m finally able to bear arms again, (ha ) now that it’s warming up, I have recently been greeted by several friends with , “Wow, you’ve been working out, haven’t you?” Formerly fat girls everywhere know that words like these should be set to music and accompanied by fireworks and a chorus line of show girls carrying placards that read, “You Are Amazing!” That’s what it feels like anyway. Happily I’ve been able to respond with, “Why yes, yes I have. Thanks so much for noticing.” When they turn away I do this…
This question is usually followed by another. “What have you been doing?” And that’s where the excitement ends. I can’t tell them my weight loss is due to some quick fix, much-touted diet craze. I haven’t been drinking water with cayenne pepper and maple syrup, eating tons of grapefruit, or downing cabbage soup. I have been eating a well-balanced diet with a focus on whole foods, but not restricting anything, (because some days this girl just NEEDS chips and cookies.) I have been somewhat restricting calories, but to a reasonable 1200-1500 a day. Yes, I still find this restrictive as my natural inclination is to eat like this guy…
(How awesome is America? This wonderful, crazy-kitsch statue of Paul Bunyan can be found in Akeley, Minnesota.)
When I tell them about my diet they then say, “Well you must be working out like crazy.” Nope. Regularly? Yes. Like crazy? No. I go to the gym and lift weights twice a week. I do a fully body workout, generally doing 3 sets of two different exercises per muscle group. It takes me 1-1.5 hours, depending on how much chatting I do. And then I walk 4-6 times a week. I can see their thought bubbles and they say…
No tales of Insanity, or Jillian Michaels, or competitive Cross Fit. I walk. But I don’t find it boring – I LOVE to walk. So much to see when you’re out and about in town. And walking can be a really great workout, (which is the point of this post. You were wondering when I’d get to that, huh?)
When I ask the people in my family if they want to walk with me they first ask exactly what kind of walking do I mean before committing to going with me. Here are my variations…
a)Duck walking – my term. I don’t technically “race walk” because there are a lot of rules, but this style comes pretty close to what I do, and it is my fastest gait. I can do about an 11 minute mile. I usually only do this if I know I’m going for just 3 miles. (Competitive race walkers do about 6 minute miles and for uber long distances. Isn’t that crazy-cool?)
No one will walk with me if I have this in mind for the day’s workout, in part because they can’t keep up and in part because I look ridiculous and they don’t want to be seen with me.
b) Crazy walking – my kid’s term, because this is how I start to walk if I’m caught in a crowd of slow walkers, and I start to get agitated, stepping around said crowd. (I live in a tourist town. Getting trapped in slow moving crowds is a given.) It’s a fast pace, but not like my duck walk – about 11:30 – 12:00 minute miles. I usually do 3-5 miles at this pace.
c) Workout walking – This is my usual clip. Fast but not crazy. 12-12:30. I can do this pace for a very long time, (but not sure that I should until my ankle gets operated on. Am still contemplating a half-marathon and I think I could do it at this pace, maybe 12-13 minute miles for that distance.) If I’m walking at this pace I try and go 4-8 miles. This is the pace my family prefers if they are accompanying me.
d) Strollee walking- no fitness agenda at all. This is the pace I walk my little Cairn Terrier, Texie.
Any faster and she stages a strike. No idea what the pace is here as it’s strictly a just- for-fun walk, and to get my lazy-assed dog out the door for some exercise, lest she becomes rotound.
Walking is truly a perfect workout. So long as you’re ambulatory you can begin a walking program. I think some people think it’s not enough of a workout, but I say give it a whirl. Because the thing with walking is that as you become more fit you can mix it up – you can go faster, or longer. And walking makes finding excuses to not exercise REALLY tough. It’s cheap, you can do it anywhere/anytime, you don’t need a coach or trainer, and you can start at pretty much any fitness level. Okay, yes, it’s not very cool sounding when you tell people that you’ve started a walking routine for your exercise program. There are no awesome t-shirts you can wear to show allegiance, or neat equipment you can talk about at cocktail parties, and if you participate in any races you are unlikely to place high in the rankings. BIG F***ing deal. Seriously. Because what regular walking can give you is your health, and that’s WAY better than a t-shirt.
If you’re new to fitness walking here’s a link to a beginner walking schedule. http://www.thewalkingsite.com/12week.html. And if you’re already in pretty good shape try and walk a little faster, or a little longer. I’m sure you’ll make a very sexy duck-walker.
But the big thing to walk away with here (cracking myself up with the puns today,) is that the most important part of any fitness routine is consistency. Slow and steady wins the race. Daily focus on your health and fitness will help you reach your goals, and you will be happier for it. Winning!