Devote time to one major walking (or running or some other type of cardio) session at least a few times a week. Start with whatever amount of time you can physically maintain, increasing the duration each week by about five minutes. Do intervals for most of your walk. That means doing bursts of faster walking (or running, depending on your fitness) that will seriously increase your heart rate and work your muscles to the max. You can do your intervals outside or on a treadmill. Start by walking (or jogging) five minutes at your usual pace to warm up. Then alternate two minutes of faster walking or running with two minutes of recovery walking or running. Your faster pace should feel like an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 in intensity, and your easy pace should be a 4 or 5. If you prefer to cycle, row, or do some other form of cardio, go right ahead, alternating two minutes of faster-paced work with two minutes of recovery exercise.
In addition to a formal daily walk, take numerous miniwalks throughout the course of the day.
Adding Steps For . . .
Here are some ways to add a few daily miniwalks, depending on your lifestyle.
Busy Parents with Young Babies. Nearly all infants love riding in a stroller. More often than not, the stroller will soothe your baby to sleep. As an added bonus, if you have a colicky baby, your stroller time may be your only quiet time during your day. I knew one mother whose colicky baby cried from 3:00 P.M. to midnight on most days. She often put the baby in a stroller and walked a half-mile loop around her neighborhood — over and over again. Without fail, the screaming always stopped by the time she reached the end of the driveway, giving her the entire walk to collect her thoughts and wits before returning home. If you have more than one child, bring the older one along on your walks or walk with the baby around the playground while keeping an eye on the older one playing on the equipment.
In addition to giving yourself some needed quiet time, daily walks with your infant will help you to reduce stress and lift your mood, which can help fight off the postpartum blues that stem from shifting hormone levels. You’ll also bathe yourself and your baby in sunlight, which, research shows, will help you both to sleep better at night, particularly if you take a morning walk.
In addition to burning calories by walking, you’ll also tone your chest and arms as you push the stroller, especially if you take things uphill.
Start with an infant stroller that allows you to place your baby in a car seat facing you. This provides your baby more comfort, as many newborns don’t particularly like being flat on their backs. It also provides a better vantage point for you to see what your baby is doing. By around six months, when your baby can sit upright, you can progress to a jog stroller, which is lighter and easier to maneuver than the typical baby stroller.
For a little more variety, consider taking things off road by placing your infant in a front-style or backpack baby carrier, depending on his or her age. This adds weight to your body, forcing your legs to work harder. As with the stroller, your infant will probably fall asleep in the pack, giving you needed quiet time.
If you are stuck indoors on a rainy day, you can still sneak in more steps. Put your infant in a sling or baby carrier and walk up and down the steps in your home or apartment. Or, drive to an indoor mall and power walk as you window-shop.
Busy Parents with Children Age One and Older. Some parents tell me that their children at around age one just say “no” to the stroller, backpack, and bike trailer. These on-the-go children simply don’t want to be contained. If that’s the case, I strongly encourage you to carve out some “you” time where you can get in a longer, uninterrupted walk at a brisk pace. Perhaps you can share babysitting with another parent. One day you watch the kids so your friend can have some child-free time. On another day he or she watches them so you can walk or run.
Consider forming a walking club for other parents with young children. Meet at a nearby track or park. Everyone should bring blankets, toys, and, of course, children. During each meeting, one or two parents sit it out to supervise the kids while the other parents walk or run. Use these additional ideas to sneak in more steps:
Play chase and other active games. Encourage your son or daughter to chase you around the yard or house and vice versa. As your children age, take part in the active games they devise. Join in on tag, baseball, soccer, and other games rather than sitting and watching.
Take a nature walk. Young children love the outdoors. Head to a nearby park and meander. In addition to allowing your toddler or older child to expend some energy, you’ll be able to teach him or her about trees, leaves, plants, flowers, and other aspects of nature. You’ll also build your patience as your child stops every few steps to inspect leaves, sticks, and other treasures.
Go up and down the steps. Most toddlers are fascinated by stairs. Rather than always gating them off, every once in a while open the child-safety gate and encourage your toddler to climb up and down while you follow close behind. This allows your toddler time to practice an important skill as you also get in some active time.
Use a wagon. If your toddler hates the stroller, you might have some luck pulling him or her in a wagon, especially if you pack it full of stuffed animals and set off on a fun adventure. Head downtown and pull your child around Main Street or the mall. Let him or her out as needed.
People Who Work Lots of Hours at a Desk Job. Many of my clients spend more time at work, thinking about work, and getting ready for work than they do any other activity. Even when they’re not in the office, they generally are still working either by cell phone or notebook computer — or both. I often ask them what they do to stay active during the day, and here I’ve compiled some of their tricks.
Take a break. No matter how stressed you feel to get a project completed, take at least two breaks a day, one in the morning and one in the midafternoon. During this 5 to 10 minutes of nonwork time, go for a brisk walk around the office or — if possible — outside. This 5- to 10-minute session will not only help you burn a few extra calories but will also recharge your mental and physical batteries. On top of these two official breaks, take a walk break whenever you find yourself spinning your wheels. All of us have segments during the day when our brains partially shut down, whether we like it or not. A brisk walk helps lift the brownout, sharpening your brain for the rest of the day.
Hold a conference walk. Walk with colleagues to brainstorm or solve problems. Movement has a way of simultaneously opening up the creative mind while shutting down the critical mind. Those folks who annoy you during meetings because they seem to talk just to hear the sound of their own voices? They’ll be less likely to do so while in motion. The walk-and-work session will help keep everyone on track — no pun intended.
Use the least important parking space. Who cares that you clawed your way to the top in order to get the chosen space with your name on it right next to the office door? Park your car in the spot farthest away from the door and hoof it in. The short, brisk walk will help wake you up in the morning, readying you to face the day. Follow this mind-set no matter where you need to park your car. As one of my clients, Christine Capulong, puts it, “Rather than wasting my time circling a parking lot in search for a space closest to the store, I instead look for the space closest to the entrance of the lot.” She also never takes elevators, mounting stairs two at a time.
Discuss matters in person. I’m not sure when it became commonplace for workers to call or e-mail each other rather than speak face-to-face. When you need something from someone in your office, make it a point to get out of your chair and physically place yourself in the same space as the person you are talking to. Not only will this help you to log more steps, but you’ll also be more likely to effectively get your point across when you can use body language and tone of voice in addition to your actual words.
If you dine out for lunch, walk to your destination. Pick some dining spots 10 to 15 minutes away, and walk to and from lunch.
People Who Travel for Business. Although you can’t help but remain motionless during a certain part of the travel experience, you probably have more opportunities to sneak in steps than you think. Consider the following tactics.
Never use the moving walkways. Store your luggage in an airport locker, or invest in a backpack carry-on. This allows you to more comfortably walk the concourses. Also, invest in comfortable travel shoes. Timberland and other companies now make fashionable dress shoes with comfortable rubber soles designed for airport navigation. Once you have the right shoes and luggage, you can more easily take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator (you’ll probably have them to yourself and can avoid the crowds).
Move in the morning. As soon as you arrive at your destination, take a walk. This will help to prevent jet lag. Then, especially if you’ve skipped multiple time zones, follow up with a brisk walk or hike early during your first morning at your destination. Your morning walk will help to reset your body clock to your new time zone.
Go prepared. Pack one of your favorite exercise books or DVDs (mine will always work in a pinch), and if your room does not have a DVD player (check ahead of time), you can always watch the program on your laptop.
People Who Are on Vacation. Although many people backslide during their vacations, I personally think your time off from work and away from home is the easiest time to sneak in fitness. Each vacation destination will offer up its unique set of touristy ways that can keep you fit on the road. If you are staying near a lake or pond, look into paddleboat, canoe, or rowboat rentals. If you are staying in snow-capped mountains, look into skiing, snowshoeing, and snow hiking. If you’re at the shore, try some bodysurfing, bodyboarding, paddleball, beach football (my favorite), and beach volleyball. If you’re staying at a vacation home, see if there’s a horseshoe pit and start up a game. Walk on the beach. Wade through the hotel swimming pool. Consider the following options.
Take walking breaks during road trips. If you are driving to your destination, stop every few hours at a town park, playground, or restaurant with a play area. Allow your children to romp around as you walk. Or, join in with them by playing tag or kicking a ball.
Take an active cruise. Some large ships house pools, golf simulators, rock walls, basketball hoops, fitness centers, jogging and walking areas, and instructor-led fitness classes. During your sea and land excursions you can burn calories as you snorkel, swim, hike, scuba dive, and horseback ride. While on a cruise in Turkey, I started every morning doing push-ups and sit-ups and taking a morning swim followed by an invigorating hike. One hour under the Turkish sun made breakfast taste that much more delicious and worthwhile.
Walk everywhere. You can get in plenty of unstructured exercise by walking as you sightsee. One of my clients, Sabina, arrived in France about a week before her wedding. She spent each morning walking the French countryside. “It helped me to connect with my environment,” she said. Stroll through your destination’s downtown, the local zoo, and other destinations. If you’re staying in a city, walk the streets to pick your nightly restaurants rather than relying on the hotel staff, phone book, or travel guide. Check out menus and make your reservation. You can easily get in three hours of walking a day just by seeing the sights on foot.
Schedule an educational vacation. Wrap your entire vacation around an activity, such as learning to sail, ski, swim, hike, or play a sport. Travel agents can hook you up with any number of vacation packages that will keep you active and satisfy your yen for knowledge. If you have children, look for packages that include excavating dinosaur bones and other anthropological expeditions.
Sign up for an adventure vacation. Numerous companies will not only help you stay in shape while you are on vacation, they’ll help you get in the best shape of your life. For example, one adventure travel company, Backroads, organizes cycling, kayaking, and hiking trips all over the world. Another company, Trek Travel, organizes cycling trips through Tuscany, Provence, and Denmark, among many other destinations. Many of these companies offer gentle, intermediate, and hard-core excursions, matching their adventure vacations to your fitness level and skills.
Copyright © 2006 David Kirsch
The above is an excerpt from the book The Ultimate New York Diet
by David Kirsch
Published by McGraw-Hill; October 2006;$24.95US/$29.95CAN; 0-07-147582-6
Copyright © 2006 David Kirsch