Back in 2014 I ended up with a knee injury that caused me to wear a brace. It was pretty ecruiciating to walk most days and I found out that I tore my miniscus which is a little muscle on the inside of the knee. Up until that point I was walking every day in heels for work and at least an hour in workout gear after I arrived home. On weekends I tried to clock 4-6 miles on Saturday. But my knee was in the worst pain. It left me from walking all of the time to zero. Soon enough my muscles grew out of shape, stress increased and I entered a lower point in my life.
Being that walking was my number one form of exercise up until that point outside of dance which now I could do neither for a while. It was so hard and frustrating. I think we all go through peaks and valleys of working out and feeling really fit. I’ve been unhealthy and skinny and I’ve also been healthy and fit. I had to start slow after my knee injury and build back up my endurance to walking. I’m sharing this with you all, because whether you are out of shape, overweight or have undergone an injury yourself you can increase your activity little by little everyday to get enough activity in to help maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The other day I ran into an acquaintance whom saw me walk often to pick my daughter up from after school care. She asked if I still walked as much and I answered “yes, of course.” Now I just walk to different places since my kiddo rides the school bus. I thought back to that time in my life when walking a mile felt so heavy and difficult. It felt like with each step my body was made out of lead. I thought with so many people’s new years resolutions includes getting back into shape or exercising regularly today would be a good time to talk about building endurance by increasing your step count.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
I always have a purse big enough to throw a pair of flats in it. NEVER use the excuse that your shoes are uncomfortable. You can store a pair of flats in your desk for lunch walks or keep them in a larger purse if you are going out for the evening. Recently, I bought this pair and they required ZERO breaking in. Actually, I have a ton of cute flats that are comfortable and stylish for dressy outfits. I’ve rounded up my top used flats and sneakers for you guys below if you are looking for a good pair. Choose a neutral color like blush, white, black, tan or a navy so they go with lots of outfits!
Download a Step Tracking App
Last week I shared about my Favorite Features of the IPhone Watch which uses an activity app to push you to exercise, burn calories and stand throughout the day. Prior to my watch I used both the Apple Health App and Runtastic App to achieve tracking my steps. What I really like about the Runtastic App is how it shows you on a pie chart displaying every month the days you hit less than half of your goal, less than your goal but more than half, and when you hit your goal. It also averages your activity steps every month. I loved using it! Even though I have my watch now, I still reference Steps on my phone when I do not utilize my watch. I think the first step in improving ANYTHING in your life is to begin by tracking progress. Take a picture of today in a typical workout outfit and start monitoring what your body is doing over the next few weeks.
Create the Habit of Walking
Our bodies love knowing what to expect. For the first two-three weeks just make it a point to walk every single day. Maybe that’s for 15 minutes at lunch or when you get off work. Set an alarm to remind you to get up and get moving no matter what. When I worked at a desk I used to walk the first half of my lunch break and the second half I’d eat what I brought for lunch. It worked out perfectly for months. Once I created that habit, I would walk for longer and faster periods of time to burn more calories. So much of exercise is mental (ask any yogi and they will talk about how the alignment of the brain and body is key to holding half of those poses!) For the first few weeks just focus on a walk every day to get into the habit of it. Don’t worry about speed or distance. Set a time of 15-30 minutes and just get moving.
Take the Long Route
Unless I’m in a HUGE hurry I park as far from anything that I can and walk. It may be a trip to Target or meeting up with a friend at dinner but I park at the furthest point from the entrance in the parking lot as possible. If I’m at a shopping center I park at one end and do not move my car until I’ve run all of my errands in that area. Yep, the long route is an easy way to get more steps in daily. Walking takes so little mental effort. You put shoes on and get up to go. It takes me far less time to park at the back and walk inside somewhere than it does to fight traffic finding a close spot. If I’m just grabbing a few things from a grocery store, I walk to it! I am lucky that I live about a half mile from a store but I can take longer routes if I have extra time to pick up a few groceries. I also live within 2 miles of two coffee shops. You better believe I walk to both! Taking that long route gives me a reason to exercise.
When Strapped for Time Set a Timer
Most days I have some sort of a schedule or time constraints therefore I set a time for half of the time I have available to exercise and walk in a single direction. When the timer is up I turn around. For instance, if I am awaiting a friend for lunch and arrive 10 minutes early I set a timer on my phone for 5 minutes and walk down the street. Then, when the timer goes off I turn around and come back. A good rule of thumb is 1,000 steps for 10 minutes if you are going at a moderate pace. All of those little 10 minute increments add up! Another trick is to take an extra lap all the way around the grocery store or even a department store when shopping. We have humongous grocery stores in Texas and most of the year it’s really warm. I take advantage of their air conditioning and add a lap in before I check out.
Take a Walk When Recieving Phone Calls
Whether you decide to pace around your home or go on a strut outside phone calls are an easy way to get more steps in. Plus, you feel more energized when you are engaged and active. I use my walks to catch up with friends, make work calls or even conference calls that don’t require a lot of notes. Again, it’s super easy and only requires you to get up and get moving. Lately, I’ve entered the world of listening to podcasts. A walk is a perfect time to kill two birds with one stone. Go for a walk before work for 15 minutes and listen to a motivating podcast or informational podcast. I’ve been loving the Instagram Husband series! It’s been really insightful and inspirational. You can also learn a new language while walking with a language podcast or app.
Take the Stairs or Walk Up an Escalator
This is probably my favorite tip! I take the stairs up parking garages (yes all five or six flights) or at the airport to get to baggage claim. If I see the option to only take an escalator I walk up or down to stay moving. I also live on the second floor at my apartment building so getting in multiple flights is pretty easy with a dog needing to go out several times a day. Remember you are looking for the long route at all times. Take advantage of stairs and you’ll see you work muscles in your legs you didn’t know you even had.
Involve the Family
Dogs are a good way to get you out an moving. They are always eager and love to spend time with you. They can easily add a couple thousand steps to your day without you having to give it much thought. There was a time where I would walk my dog while pushing a stroller with my toddler. We’d go for hours stopping at a park to play. I’d bring snacks for the kiddo and a coloring book or her tablet to play with to keep her busy. Now she’s too big for that so we use walks to spend quality time together. I stay off my phone and focus on our conversations. It’s so much like car time. My daughter now walks 4-5 miles with me to grab dinner, go to the grocery store or just make a few laps at the park. Oftentimes, I incentvize her to make the process a positive thing. But really, she enjoys getting to talk more than anything!
The more steps you take, the lighter your body will feel. You can reference your step tracking apps and pictures to keep you motivated and track your progress. Start by just walking and soon you’ll find your body feels so much lighter, you have more energy and you are naturally incorporating more steps into your every day life!