Monthly Archives: October 2013

10 things I’ve learnt from 10,000 Steps

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:

  1. In my normal life, I am not nearly active enough.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

    One of the boys thought this was worth a photo. I think he liked the DANGER.

    One of the boys thought this was worth a photo. I think he liked the DANGER.

  4. 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…

    Take that Miley Cyrus! A found sword (aka stick!) and an imaginary bow and arrow on a rest break.

    Take that Miley Cyrus! A found sword (aka stick!) and an imaginary bow and arrow on a rest break.

  5. 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.
  6. If I am going to walk, I also need to stretch.
  7. 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.

    Trees and flowers in Kuirau Park, Rotorua on a walk a few weeks ago.

    Trees and flowers in Kuirau Park, Rotorua on a walk a few weeks ago.

  8. 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.

    The view from my drive yesterday at 0600

    The view from my drive yesterday at 0600

  9. 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.

    I do stop and smell the roses - here is proof. It is also proof that early mornings and I are not good friends.

    I do stop and smell the roses – here is proof. It is also proof that early mornings and I are not good friends.

  10. 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).
  11. 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.

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Being Still

I follow a number of different blogs from bloggers around the world. Themes (or is it memes?) come in ebbs and flows. For a while, Sheryl Sandberg provoked a rash of commentary on working outside the home mothers versus stay at home mothers. The latest theme I have noticed is one of pausing, stopping, reflecting, slowing down, enjoying little moments and looking at life quietly.

First, it was Amber at The Usual Bliss, who discovered her quiet place with the mountains. Then Caitlin Kelly, the broad behind the excellent Broadside blog, went walking in the Grand Canyon and had a few epiphanies about silence. There were a few others as well, and articles in the local paper. This got me thinking. Does my brain ever stop? Am I ever truly quiet, truly still? Am I ever at rest, aside from when I am sleeping (and based on the weirdness of my dreams, I’m guessing that my brain doesn’t rest then either!).

Physically and logistically, with the number of bodies in my house at any one time, I am fairly constantly on the go. When I am not working, playing taxi driver, chief cook or laundry-washer, what do I do? I read, I am on the internet (reading news and blogs) or Facebook, I am emailing. What about when I’m not doing that? I’ve started walking again recently and swimming, and these are the times when I am probably at my quietest.

But even when I try and empty my mind and be conscious of nothing but the water flowing past me, or the sound of the wind in the trees, I find myself counting my steps, wondering what the inside of that house looks like, seeing how much further those people have built their rock wall in the last few days  or concentrating on how my arms are entering the water and lengthening out my kicks. The concept of an empty mind, filled only with quiet peace, is very attractive in this busy world of ours, but does not seem to be something I can easily achieve.

Then the question comes. Do I actually need to learn how to be still? Will that refresh me? Is my brain just a busy one? Do I need “still” in order to have balance in my life?

If it’s not quiet and still, then what does refresh me? The walking and the swimming does, although it is hard going. Writing refreshes me. Seeing beauty in the world around me refreshes me. More and more the time I spend with my children refreshes me – along with all the normal challenges they present!

So perhaps what I need is not to be still, but to be less busy. To place more importance on simple basic things and less on technology and activities. To be more aware of the beauty around me – to stop and really look at it.

My boys and I went for an amble the other day. We had no agenda and no time frame. We played cops and robbers at the park, looked at a large motorway development near our house, and spent some considerable time pondering the meaning of these markings on the pavements. We all had a lovely time, and at the end, the boys wanted to know when we could do it again.

What were these mysterious markings?

What were these mysterious markings?

Waiting for the spirit of the avatar apparently!

Waiting for the spirit of the avatar apparently!

More strange markings...

More strange markings…

This tree made me pause, then stop the car and take a photo. I have it as my wall paper now and it brings a smile to my face every time I swipe to unlock.


The sun broke through the clouds on my drive to work this morning, and those fingers of light came down and touched the stormy sea in the harbour. It wasn’t safe to stop, but the sight of it lightened my drive.

Sunrise walk on the beach

Sunrise walk on the beach

And how about these crazy beautiful blossoms against the bright blue of an early spring sky?

photo-18 photo-19 photo-20

I’m going to try and be more aware. To appreciate the beauty around me. To enjoy small pleasures. What about you? Are you able to be still or do you need to be still? How do you do it?

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