Christmas in July

christmas in july-1I had planned to write this post yesterday, as our holiday tradition begins with an Italian feast on Christmas Eve.  But yesterday was stressful in so many ways.

First of all, Ralfie, my dear sweet 10.5 year old yellow lab, experienced four major nosebleeds over the course of ninety minutes.  I do not handle blood well, and I especially don’t respond calmly when it involves a loved one.

I was able to get him into the vet, and the prognosis does not seem good.  The “C” word was mentioned, but I refuse to think about that now.

As if that wasn’t enough, I had to try to complete a paper for this weekend’s writing class.  Fortunately I had completed the research, created an outline, and written the introduction.  Still, writing another 2,500 words while dealing with the distraction of Ralf was more than I could handle.

These two events consumed my every waking hour, and for the first time in 59 days, I did not walk 10,000 steps.

Now, the world did not end, but it would be easy for me to think of myself as a failure.  My goal was to walk 10,000 steps a day for 365 straight days; I missed that goal; I failed.

But this “Christmas tree” reminds me that things are not always as they seem.  If we are willing to change our perspective, we can find joy in the present, despite surrounding circumstances.

flags-1I have mentioned before that our entire county is under construction.  There are orange cones everywhere warning of street closings and temporary detours.  There are flags of every conceivable color to indicate each different utility project:  blue for water; orange for cable; yellow for gas; and red for electric.

I could bitterly complain about the inconvenience, or I can choose to find the spirit of Christmas in the mayhem.

I can choose to feel like a failure, or I can give myself grace, knowing that I put first things first and 10,000 steps was not a priority.  My dog needed me, and I needed to honor my writing commitment.  I did both to the best of my ability.  And that is a different kind of success.

I will return to the walking routine again soon, but in the meantime, Merry Christmas!


The Compound Effect

The Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step ~ Laozi

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time…

Both of these apply to the 10,000 steps-a-day challenge.

When accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle, 10,000 steps can seem monumental.  But taking just one step at a time … one foot in front of the other … mindfully keeping the goal in focus, it becomes a manageable habit.

What I have noticed, however, is a healthy change in one area of life subconsciously transitions into other areas as well.  For example, I find myself intentionally parking farther away so that I can increase my step count.  I now drink water rather than pre-sweetened beverages. I save desserts for special occasions rather than a nightly treat.

None of these activities are considered radical, and I don’t feel at all deprived.  They are just compounded baby steps toward a healthier lifestyle.

This reminds me of one of our favorite movies, What About Bob:

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Employing the Five Senses

Weather these past five days has been uncharacteristically cool and comfortable.  And while these temperatures encouraged me to walk faster, I realized that breaking personal records is not enjoyable for me.  I prefer to walk longer, farther and slower.

Once I allowed myself to slow down, I began to think more purposeful about each step.  Typically I focus on getting from Point A to Point B in the shortest time possible.  Time is money is an axiom I subscribe to.  But if I am not trying to beat the clock, then there is really no reason to concentrate on efficiency.

So instead, I chose to focus on the world around me.  I have always noticed the visual path, but I began to use my other senses as well:  the cool breeze on my skin (in contrast to the oppressive weight of the typical heat and humidity); the floral scents in the air; the bird songs greeting the sunrise.  At the end of the walk, I felt satisfied, joy-filled.  And I realized God gave me these senses in order to fully appreciate and experience life.

But it isn’t just in walking that I tend to ignore four out of five senses; it is nearly all the time.

I used to listen to music at every opportunity – when studying, driving, even reading.  But for years now I have preferred silence.  I love the idea of burning scented candles to create atmosphere, and I have actually purchased several candles to re-create a variety of relaxing moods, but somehow I never remember to light them.

These morning walks, however, have taught me the importance of employing all senses in order to enrich my life – making it fuller, brighter, and more complete.  So this week I shall crank up the tunes, burn the candles, and embrace all life has to offer.


Celebrating Another Milestone

500 milesI received this nice badge in yesterday’s email.

On my “imaginary” trek to the East Coast, I only have about 100 more miles to walk before I reach Nashville, where my son and his wife reside.  A goal I never would have thought possible when I began this simple routine seven weeks ago.

So Brian, clear your schedule… I should be there on or about August, 8th!

In the meantime, this song seems to be stuck in the back of mind…

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Have you ever experienced that rare moment when two unrelated issues in life find a mutual resolution?  This happened to me this week.

Walking issue:  Since the recent epiphany – I do not have to push so hard to achieve the same results – I have decided to add more relaxing walks to my weekly schedule.

There will be some days that I will want to go for speed (I anticipate the cooler mornings will naturally lend themselves to this style of walk), but there will be other times that a stroll will be more beneficial.

However, I know my natural inclination is to walk in step with the music – and most of my playlists involve upbeat tempos.

Reading issue:  I LOVE to read.  In fact, I used to read so much that I maintained a book review blog.  I have numerous shelves filled with unread books.  I always have a stack of library books at home, and another list of books on hold.  I am forever adding books to my  Goodreads “want to read” list.  You get the picture…

I know that good writers are voracious readers and to that end, I have set aside as priority reading those books that fit the genres I write.  I have a basket of Travel essay anthologies and another basket of memoirs; I have a Scholastic Box filled with Middle Grade fiction; I have an entire shelf of books devoted to the craft of writing.  But somehow I never find enough time to make a dent in this reading material.

Solution:  On days that I choose to walk at a slower pace, I can listen to an audio book rather than a musical playlist!

Now some would wonder why I have not done this before, but the truth is… I am a visual learner with a capital “V”  I once tried listening to a required audiobook and missed my exit off the highway!  The issue is that I first focus on what the narrator says, and then translate what I hear into text my brain can read.  It is exhausting!

HP ChamberBut I think MG fiction will be the perfect genre for my walking routine.  The story lines should be easy enough to understand; the characters should be identifiable and easy to track; and the themes should be clear but subtle.  I need to learn the right “voice” to write for this age group and perhaps hearing it rather than seeing it will help.

So today I began the experiment.  I own the Harry Potter books on audio CDs (long story for another time)… and I started with the second book:  Chamber of Secrets (I have already read and/or listened to Sorcerer’s Stone three times already; it is time to move on).  And you know what?  It worked!

I love the narrator’s british accent and listening to the story is not at all frustrating.  I managed to keep a consistent walking speed without pushing too hard.

I walked 4.5 miles – averaged 14.02 minutes per mile – and “read” three chapters in a little over an hour.  It was indeed a win-win!


50 Days … and counting

I have now maintained a 10,000 steps-a-day routine for fifty days (well, actually 52 days, I’m a little late), and thought it was time for a progress update.

I still continue to marvel how the consistency of 10,000 steps-a-day adds up to a notable accomplishment.

  • average number of daily steps: 13,903 steps
  • total number of steps in three weeks:  695,169 steps
  • total number of miles:  489 miles
  • total number of floors climbed: 1,835 floors
  • total number of brisk morning walk miles: 154.45 miles
  • fastest 5k:  37.12 minutes (today!!)

I noted at the three-week check-in that it takes 21-days to build a habit, but I did not feel that was quite long enough for me.  At the fifty day mark I am more willing to call this a habit.  I have now walked despite the weather (choosing to use the treadmill and watch YouTube tutorials on the rainy days); I have walked while on vacation (refusing to take a holiday from the daily steps); and I have learned that every day does not need to be a physical push – I can actually have fun with this.

Here’s to 50 more days maintaining this healthy habit…

Next progress update:  September 3rd

New Personal Record

I was a little skeptical this morning.  It was cold (54 degrees in the middle of July in Kansas?!) and I had not power-walked for three days.

Even though I (once again) reminded myself that the focus is on steps not speed, I was determined to push myself a little bit.

I hit the ground running (as I learned last week) and completed the first mile in 12:11 – a personal record.  Could I keep it up?  I doubted it, but was committed to continue the push.  I completed two miles under 25 minutes – another personal record.  Obviously the cooler weather agreed with me.

In the end, I ran the 5k under 38 minutes – a full 90 seconds faster than my ultimate goal, and I completed the nearly 4 mile walk in under 50 minutes – another record.

While I am pleased with these accomplishments, I do wonder why I was so skeptical.  It is as though I thought past runs were a fluke that I would never achieve again.  Do I fear being lazy? Do I have something to prove to myself?  Am I trying to prove something to others?  Hmmmm….

For now, I will not try to break any more records.  I will push when the weather is cool, and take it easy when it is hot and humid.  In this for the long haul… that is the mantra.