She used to eat straight up steamed broccoli off of my plate when she was a kitten. Like owner, like kitten…loves her fruits & veggies. These days, she’s mostly into just sniffing them and generally being a pest, but whatever.
I’ve been posting mostly about food lately, so I want to talk a bit about how I’m getting exercise these days. But first:
How good does this look??
I plan on doing a post for college-aged students on navigating the perils and joys of a dining hall, but suffice to say for now that I have access to a pretty amazing one where I teach. We’re required to attend a formal sit-down lunch with the students 5 days a week (Monday-Friday), so it would seriously stink if the food choices were bland or confined to chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks. This was a homemade chickpea burger over a salad of mixed greens, cucumbers, black olives, roasted Mediterranean veggies, and a little feta. Smear some hummus on there and call me stuffed.
Speaking of Mediterranean…in less than three months, I’ll be heading to Greece and Italy with my school for a class trip over spring break. I’ve never been to Greece (I went to Italy in 2007), and I’d say I’m equally excited to experience the culture and history as to eat all the FOOD. I plan on packing lightly…Lord knows I’ll end up with a suitcase full of olive oil and wine, with my jeans ditched in the Adriatic Sea (they won’t fit anymore, anyway).
It’s actually fitting that I mention my trip to Italy in 2007. At that point in my life– the summer before my senior year of high school– I was uncomfortably overweight, and had been since freshman year.
It was a really frustrating time for me, since for most of my childhood, I had been a totally normal weight. I was an active kid and played outside after school nearly every single day; participated in three sports in middle school (soccer, basketball, and track); and ate a normal diet. My family always sat down to dinner together, there was a veggie at most meals (whether I liked it or not); my sisters and I almost never drank soda (home-brewed iced tea is big in my house); we weren’t big sugar cereal people; and even though we always had some little treat around– whether it was m&ms in a candy dish, or Tastycake cupcakes in our lunch (my Philly friends, you know you did too), none of us ever really went nuts eating any of it. I give my mom much credit for my balanced way of looking at treats now.
Despite the presence of all of these positive food-related factors in my house, I ended up gaining a good bit of weight when I entered high school because I stopped playing sports altogether. I had entered a rigorous private academy, and wanted to focus on academics. 30+ pounds and three years later, I felt awful in spite of my GPA.
Most people visit Italy expecting to gain weight. All that pasta! Gelato! Olive oil! (wine and limoncello too, of course, but I was on a school trip). During my 10-day trip, I actually lost weight, despite a daily gelato. There were so many flavors to try…
Hm. For the record, pistachio and dark chocolate were the best.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that I lost weight, since we walked absolutely EVERYWHERE, all day long. Pedometers weren’t really a “thing” from what I can remember in 2007, especially for carefree high school seniors, and absolutely noooo one had a smartphone with a GPS app, but I really wish someone could have tracked the countless miles we logged on that trip. I remember walking into my house after my parents drove me home from the airport, and sleeping on and off from 7 pm until noon the next day.
That trip was in early June, and at that point, I had the rest of the summer free. I wasn’t planning on working, since I had college visits coming up and a summer reading list the size of the coliseum. I got up the day after my epic snooze, realized I had the whole day free, and ended up doing the one thing that felt natural…
I went for a walk.
The next day, I went for another one. I repeated that the day after, and the day after, for the entire summer. Three miles in the early afternoon, and sometimes another three after dinner (which actually aids in digestion and helps to control blood sugar levels). I combined these walks with more careful consumption (it was definitely a “diet,” but I ate smaller meals more often and never felt truly “restricted”), and lost over 15 pounds that summer.
Since then, any time I’ve lived an inherently active lifestyle, I’ve felt and looked healthier. I gained the usual college 10, but when I lived abroad in England for a year, I walked and biked absolutely everywhere. That, combined with cooking my own meals– that was the year I truly learned my way around a kitchen– I felt light and had more energy. My weight, which wasn’t a concern at this point, did happen to level out from all those freshman and sophomore year pizzas (and illicit beers…).
All of this is to say that I truly believe, from my personal experience, that walking IS exercise. So, even though I’m not exercising in a gym right now after my disaster of a race a couple weeks back, I firmly believe that I am logging enough miles walking in a day that I am keeping my body moving and happy.
I downloaded a pedometer app, and aim to reach the level of “active” every day. This was Monday night’s reading.
As a teacher on a pretty big campus, this isn’t terribly difficult for me to do. I’m certainly not equating reaching 6-10,000 steps in a day to training for a 10-mile race– far from it. But I believe in listening to my body, and right now, it’s telling me to slow down and look around, and to reach back to my roots. When it comes down to it, I will always be a walker. Running engages a very different side of me, and fulfills me in ways walking never could: the challenge factor, the satisfaction of crossing a finish line with head held high, the beauty of sweating it out on a morning run with the world to myself. However, when I really want to think, I lace up, leave the Spibelt at home, and amble away. And it’s enough.
Side note: studies have shown that as long as walkers expend the same amount of energy as runners, you still reap the same health benefits. For example, if a runner goes out for a three-mile run in 25 minutes, the walker would gain similar benefits, as long as she walked three. The difference is, it’ll probably take the walker 45 minutes to do the same thing. US News put out an interesting article on this topic back in March. This study showed that daily activity plus eating a serving of nuts every day showed the most positive impact on individuals…yay for walnuts! Healthy fats for the win.
I plan to embrace walking for the next month or so, until I return from Christmas break in early January. I wanted to be able to bike and attend Boot Camp classes until break, but you know what? I trust my plant-based diet enough to let my level of activity wane a bit for this season. In a couple months, you’ll hear me complaining about icy 5-milers and being sore ev-ery-where. But for now, I’m happy to put one foot in front of the other…just not at an 8-mile-minute pace.
It’ll truly be an “exercise” in patience.
What’s your favorite non-impact workout? Do you prefer to walk, run, or both?