getting 10,000 steps when the days are shorter

Sunrise on a dark Autumn morning

Autumn is here and the days are shorter. It’s getting harder to fit in my 10,000 steps. It takes roughly and hour and a half to get 10,000 steps. A third of that, I get in an ordinary workday, just walking from my car to the office and back, and trips to the Xerox. But an hour a day must come from a dedicated walk.

I used to be able to walk an hour before work, but not anymore. It doesn’t get light until 6:45 am now.

For a while, I was getting up at 4:15 am, driving to the gym, walking an hour, and then going to work right from there. The benefits of that included getting all my steps done in the morning and I was always early for work. But that drive to the gym… 40 minutes of driving for an hour of walking doesn’t make a lot of sense. And I love to walk outside. In nature. Watching the sunrise.

I started waiting until it was light, getting in a half hour walk before work and then doing another half hour after dinner. It works, but I’m a few minutes late for work everyday. So, waiting till it’s light enough to walk is also not the perfect plan.

How am I going to continue my 10,000 step journey? It’s only going to get darker and colder (and snowier) until next Spring. Yesterday, I did do my half hour in the morning (late for work) and a half hour after dinner, and came in at 10,006 steps for the day. Just made it.

Giving up my steps is not an option. I’ve come to rely on them to help me with stress and worry. Walking outside helps me put things in perspective, makes me calmer, and I love the little “nature break” that I have each day.

Our winters are cold and rough, so I’m trying out all kinds of scenarios in my head to see if I can find a routine that will carry me through winter.

The only thing that makes sense for me, is to at some point buy a treadmill. That way I can walk without being killed by a snowplow, or getting into an accident driving on ice covered roads to the gym. And I would always be on time for work.

A good treadmill is $600 on sale at Sears. That’s a huge commitment of money. I’m still not sure I want to go that route. I guess I’ll cross that road when I come to it.

Right now, it’s still fall, and my only problem is shortening daylight. So, I think I’ll get that walk in this morning and try to be on time for work. One day at a time seems to be the plan.

Photo by DLM





Aging backward is in the eye of the beholder

imageWell, here’s something I didn’t expect. I’ve been doing these steps for a while now. I’ve been eating healthier, losing weight, and even using some pretty expensive facial products. All positive improvements, and all designed to help me age backwards. Yes, that’s right. I just read a new buzz phrase, and it’s captured my interest. Can we really age backwards? I’ve kind of been killing myself trying lately.

I thought I was making some progress, too. Rolling back the years and slowing the inevitable progression of time.

Let me tell you a story. I went to the YMCA this morning at my usual crack of dawn, did 3 miles on the track, and swam (doggy paddled) for a little while. I was relaxing in the hot tub, when the elderly gentleman next to me struck up a conversation. We were talking about age, and he said, “So, what are you, 65?”

“Ummm. No?” I replied, a little huffily. “I’m 60.”

And suddenly, all the hard work and maintenance I’ve been doing, seemed to dribble away like so much hot air out of an old balloon.

I look 5 years older than I am? What the hell??

Needless to say, I went to work in a giant funk. What is the purpose of trying to age backward when it appears that I’m aging faster?

An existential crisis for sure. I moped all day about it. But, tonight I’m finally coming to grips with it. I’ve decided that a) the elderly gentleman probably had major cataracts and couldn’t see me properly or b) maybe I used to look 70 and this is an improvement, or c) why do I care what someone else thinks anyway? I thought he was 80. Maybe he was really 75. It’s all relative.

I’m going to continue my journey. With any luck, I’ll still look 65 ten years from now. Or, I can stop being fixated on a number. Yes, I like that approach best of all.

Photo by Andrew John Manzella

professional walker for hire

Sunrise Shadow Legs

I just decided something, this morning, waiting for daylight so I can get my walk in before work. I’d much rather walk than work everyday.

Are there professional walking jobs? Maybe a mail carrier or dog walker? Are there other jobs where I could just be outside walking all day?

I have a friend who is a “world walker”. He walks across continents for a worthy cause near to his heart. His name is Colin Skinner and he has walked thousands of miles for Hospice awareness and many other causes. I admire him greatly. That is some dedicated walking.

I also recently watched the movie, A Walk In The Woods, which is the story of Bill Bryson’s trek on the Appalachian Trail. This also inspired me to start walking, and I wish, as a 60 year old woman, that I had the guts to make that trip.

I can’t imagine anything better than walking all day, camping under the stars and waking up to do it again. Traveling with just foot power must be an amazing feeling.

At the moment, I can’t just quit my job and walk away somewhere, but every time I do walk, I feel like it’s all I want to do. I’m not sure where this feeling will take me. Maybe nowhere, as realities and responsibilities keep me chained to one place, one task. And fear, real and imagined, holds me back too.

But maybe, someday, I’ll find a way to do a little long distance walking that’s not too dangerous or scary, and that won’t put me in financial ruin.

Until that day comes, I’ll do my daily practice of 10,000 steps and I’ll keep my eyes open for opportunities that might require a professional walker.

Photo by DLM



planning for winter

imageLately, it’s been getting harder to finish 10,000 steps a day. It seems like everything is conspiring to derail me, including Mother Nature and the tilt of the earth’s axis. The days are getting shorter here in the North East, so I can no longer get out there and get some steps before work, because it’s technically still night time. I live in the country with no streetlights and I’m not about to walk up and down these rough country roads in the dark. Besides, we have coyotes. I’d like to see them before they see me.

Also, paradoxically, our weather has been more like the rainforest than upstate New York lately. A few days ago, it was 93 degrees with 75% humidity. I don’t think walking in air that feels like a sauna towel is fun.

So, I’ve been turning to a treadmill to get my steps. I don’t like it much. It’s boring, and the quest becomes only a mission to get steps, not getting outside and being in nature.

The last few days have been gorgeous fall weather and I’ve been out there walking again, but I have to adjust for the ever shortening daylight. Now instead of walking at 5:45 am, I’m finding that I need to run out there at 6:30 when it’s finally light out, do a quick half hour up the hill and back, and then rush to work, (and most likely be late). Then I have to get right out there again after dinner, or risk coming back in the dark with all those coyotes.

What am I going to do in the winter? It will be dark until 7:30 am and dark again at 4:30 pm. Not to mention our famous mega snow storms and serious footage of accumulated yuck. There aren’t even any sides to the roads in the winter. Nowhere to walk, and the very real risk of being hit by an over-zealous snow plow.

This is going to take some planning. And I think there are treadmills in my future. There’s no way around it.

But for now, it’s fall, and even thought the days are shortening, it’s still possible to get my steps in outside. I’ll just take it as it comes, I guess.


back in action

Sunrise on a country road.

After the hike last Sunday, which will always be known as “The Hike that Killed My Knee,” I am back to walking 10,000 steps a day. My knee actually healed in a couple of days. Maybe it was the turmeric milk, or maybe it was just because I rested it when it needed it. Or maybe it was a little of both. But I’m back in action, trying to get those steps in everyday.

10,000 steps is almost five miles a day. Since my job has long periods of sitting at a desk looking at a computer, I have to make a conscious effort to walk as much as possible. Some days it feels like all I’m doing is walking. A little in the morning, during work, after work, before bed. It’s never ending.

Take yesterday, for instance. I woke up not feeling terribly great. A little bit of a stomach bug, maybe. So, I didn’t walk before work. It was all I could do to get there on time. It was a very sedentary day, because I have a large amount of work to get finished in a short amount of time. Hours of prolonged sitting in front of the computer. I did get up after lunch (which I worked through) and walked the parking ramp for about 20 minutes. When I got home, I only had 2,900 steps. What??

This was a sad state of affairs indeed. So, I went for an hour long walk after dinner. It actually got dark on the way home, but I was intent on getting these steps done! This only gave me a total of 8,900 steps. Still not enough!

So, I danced. I turned on some techno music and danced like a crazy person for 15 minutes. I did not feel like dancing, but short of walking in circles around my house, it was the quickest way to add steps. At last! 10,022 steps. Done.

Why am I doing this? Am I a puppet and my fitness tracker is the puppet master? Maybe a little. But I also like that I am getting stronger, and vanity of vanities, I’m losing weight when nothing else has been working. Since I started this in May, I have gone from 154 pounds to 139. To me, this is gold. Being active really works where dieting alone was failing miserably.

The other benefits of walking are many. It gets me outside. I see new things, like sunrises and sunsets. It keeps me active. All of these are good when you are rounding the bend to becoming a senior citizen. Yes, yes, yes… 60 is the new 40 and all that other newfangled boloney, but the fact remains, the older we get, the more things can start to deteriorate at an ever increasing rate.

I believe that we need to keep moving as we age. It’s the best gift we can give ourselves. And having a goal of 10,000 steps a day isn’t unreasonable. Even if it means I’m dancing alone in my bedroom at night.

Photo by DLM

temporarily sidelined

Poor little sneakers worked hard.

Well, here I am with a strained knee. Of course, I haven’t been to a doctor or anything, but the fact that I can’t bend my left knee without excruciating pain and I’m walking like Festus from Gunsmoke leads me to believe that I have an “over-use” injury from my hike yesterday.

Lessons to be learned from this include: Don’t participate in a hike unless you have trained for the distance and the skill level. Don’t push your aging body to do things you’re not ready for unless you want an injury. Know when to stop.

My remedies include a knee brace and a nightly cup of warm turmeric milk. Maybe it works, maybe it’s placebo, but it makes me feel better.

I am woefully behind in steps today, but I’m willing to make the concession that I might have to sit this one out. The one thing I should not do is keep on pushing through pain. So, I am feeling sad that I don’t have 10,000 steps today, but I am also feeling like I am making good sense by resting my knee.

10,000 steps a day is something I want to do for the rest of my life, but if there are times when I can’t or shouldn’t, that is okay too. I’ll just pick it back up when I can. By taking care of myself today, I live to hike again.

Photo by DLM

first hike and lived to tell the tale

Why would they nail this word to a tree?

This morning I drove to a park in the forestry for my very first hike. You know, the six to seven mile hike that I signed up for a couple of days ago.

It was pouring rain. Since I was nervous about this hike, I naturally thought, “Oh good. Maybe they’ll cancel.”

No such luck. Twelve die-hard hiking enthusiasts showed up, in various degrees of water repellent clothing. I was wearing a very long, very blue, flowing plastic poncho that I had once saved from the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. I know this because it said “Maid of the Mist” right on it.

I knew these people were die-hard hikers, because a) they didn’t even acknowledge the rain, and b) almost all of them had hiking poles.

Now that is something that I hadn’t thought about. Hiking poles? Really? Why would anyone need hiking poles for a walk in the woods? Oh, naiveté.

We started out down a road into the park, and very quickly veered into the woods. Straight up the side of a very large, tree covered hill. The rain had made the trail very slippery and muddy. It mattered not. Like leaping mountain goats, everyone flew up the vertical incline. I was in the back of the pack, sliding in the mud, trying to keep up.

I just need to mention that this hiking club has some of the nicest people that I’ve ever met. Seeing me do my third triple axle down a mud covered trail, someone offered me one of their hiking poles. Oh. What a difference. This magic pole and I quickly became very good friends, and I stopped sliding like Bambi on the ice.

Our six to seven mile hike actually was a seven to eight mile hike, and I kept up until the very end. After three hours of up and down and crossing that creek, my left knee seized up and left me in crippling pain. This is a knee that has never complained in it’s life. My left knee is the “good knee”. Possibly the only working, pain-free joint in my body. And yet, “ping…” it went out on me and I could no longer trip over one more tree root.

We had just come to the road leading back to the cars, and I had kept up all the way. I was just congratulating myself, when the entire group decided to dive back into the woods in search of a “really neat backwoods way” to the parking lot, I had to politely decline this new off road adventure. This was above and beyond what my knee could do, so I elected to take the sissy walk back to the cars on the road.

Two of the women walked with me to keep me company, and to make sure I could make it back. Did I mention how nice everyone was on this hike?

Sitting in my car never felt so good. I had walked eight miles in three hours at a pretty fast pace, and only hurt one knee. I’m pretty proud of myself right now.

So, as I write this tonight, my muscles have seized up like an old Buick, and I am limping around like a one hundred year old woman. But it will pass. I can’t wait to go on the next hike. I just have to get a pair of those fancy hiking poles first.

Photo by DLM