Schneider Electric NZ, my employer, has made a commitment to providing a healthy workplace and encouraging all of us to make better lifestyle choices. As part of this, a 10,000 Steps Challenge was organised through Vitality Works (check them out here). Myself and 114 of my colleagues were issued with pedometers, a website was set up to log our results, and each team was set the challenge of virtually walking the length of New Zealand in 8 weeks. Here’s what I’ve learned from this challenge:
- In my normal life, I am not nearly active enough.
- Even though I am a busy person, it is possible for me to find time for regular exercise. Occasionally this means my children eat pizza for dinner. I just have to make the time in my day and schedule it in – and most importantly look for the opportunity.
- Sometimes giving my kids pizza for dinner is an excellent trade off if it means we get to go for an hour of adventuring around our neighbourhood together. We found a bird’s nest on our last trek, stop and take photos of things which catch our eye and occasionally have fun finding somewhere to shelter from the rain.
- When I walk with my 7-year olds, I should accept that I need to take a plastic bag to collect litter. They are tidy Kiwis and it is good to see that the messages about rubbish are getting through to them, but I can only carry so many plastic bottles at once. It is funny hearing them tut tutting away at the level of rubbish “why do people leave their bottles lying around?” they ask in a tone of perplexity. Perhaps also hand sanitiser…
- It seems there are three levels of walking. Light walking or ambling, which is what I tend to do with my 7-year olds. Lots of stopping to smell the roses, picking up litter, taking of photos and exploring interesting looking spaces. Moderate walking, where I can sing along to the music in my ears or have a conversation, but I get a bit puffed. Vigorous walking, where I can neither sing nor talk, although I try. This last has lead to the urban myth spreading in a 3km radius from my house about the crazy singing walking lady.
- If I am going to walk, I also need to stretch.
- Music makes everything better, even a hard walk. Although walking at dawn, I find I prefer the sounds of the birds waking up. We have a lot of birds in our neighbourhood, especially our native Tui, who have such beautiful songs. In the quiet before the cars are rampaging through the streets, you can hear them calling to each other.
- Sunrises are beautiful. Despite this, I am not and never will be a morning person, and far prefer sunsets. Sadly, the time I can guarantee that I will exercise is first thing in the morning while the rest of the world is asleep.
- Walkers are friendly folk, and almost always exchange a “good morning” or a “hello”, especially if it is unreasonably early. There’s often a shared grimace and acknowledgement that yes, we’re mad. Runners and cyclists? Not friendly at all. I guess it’s because they have less time to smell the roses and are very focussed.
- It’s lucky that we only did this challenge for 8 weeks, as it turns out that you can become obsessed with achieving more steps each week. I wasn’t interested in competing with anyone else per se, but I found that I wanted to do more steps each week than I had the previous week. This led to me setting a 100,000 step target for the last week of the challenge. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that it is 243 steps from my front door to the end of my driveway and back. Yes, there have been days when to get to the total I need I have just walked up and down the drive a few times. I’m quite looking forward to next week when I can swap out a walk for yoga without feeling guilty (yoga doesn’t give you many steps).
- There is nowhere within a 3km radius of my house which does not have hills. I generally have to walk up at least one hill to complete my walk. There are two particularly nasty hills. One looks innocuous, but is long and arduous. The other one looks heinous as it’s short and very steep. It turns out that the shorter hill is one I just have to attack and it is easier than it looks. The longer hill requires continuous pushing and a consistent effort and is always the harder hill. After 8 weeks of regular walking, I still can’t get up it without significant effort. Sometimes the tasks in life which seem the most difficult are straightforward and the hardest part is starting. Sometimes the only way to get through a difficult time is by consistent and determined effort.
OK, so that was eleven things! My big takeaway is really that I can do it. I can exercise regularly, and I am much healthier and happier for it. If I can do it, so can you! Go get a pedometer or find some type of healthy challenge that works for you, find some like-minded friends or colleagues, and go for it!
PS In my final week, I reached an unprecedented total of 114,000 steps. This is a substantial improvement from the 67,000 steps I managed in my first week.