How to Walk 10,000 steps a day (with little ones underfoot)
June 18, 2014
I’m a believer. 20 days into our Walk-a-thon and I’m convinced I’ve unlocked the secret to maintaining – and achieving – a more reasonable weight and shape than perpetual-post-partum-pachyderm. While I still have 10 days to go before I can lay claim to my prize (I’m coming for you, darling) I thought I’d share some practical tips with y’all for what has worked for me during this little lifestyle shift.
First things first: wear your pedometer (or your iPhone with the free pacer app, if you’re cheap like me) from the moment you wake until the last minute before you flop into bed. I cannot stress enough how incredibly motivating it is to see those steps adding up…or how easy it is to see that you’re just 2,000 or so short of your 10K goal and then make the not-entirely ridiculous decision to drag your laptop out to the back deck, prop it open to an episode of Parenthood on Amazon Prime, and spend the next 20 minutes stepping up and down the 2-stair elevation of said deck while enjoying a little veg out time. Ahem.
Steps are steps though, you get what I’m saying?
In the morning, I try to make a mental list of what things I’d like to accomplish on the housekeeping and errand running front, and which of those might possibly be adaptable to a pedestrian approach. For example, yesterday we had some library books to return and, since our library is less than 2 miles away, I loaded up the double stroller, strapped a baby to my chest and set off with high hopes and huge ambitions. Now, granted, a nearly 4-mile roundtrip with 3 bodies in tow is kind of unrealistic. And it was. We ended up making it no further than a neighborhood park before the sun and the whining robbed me of my ability to persevere, but we did still rack up an impressive 4,000 steps before 10 am and the kids got to play at the park.
Like good red-blooded Americans we later drove the 6 minutes to the library, but we did park in the furthest spot in the lot. I also like to bring the stroller in as a single and push Evie around through the stacks while the boys enjoy the ridiculously overdone kiddie area. Bada boom bada bing, 800 more steps for me.
Once the child herd goes down for quiet time/naps I look at my accumulation for the day and decide whether a trip to the gym is in order. If it’s a day my mother’s helper comes, I run out for a 40 or 50 minute treadmill trek while she holds down the fort. I’ve been trying to make better use of her presence in our lives by scheduling restorative activities for mommy during her visits, rather than simply cramming as many loads of laundry/trips to TJ’s/minutes of scrubbing toilets as possible. I can clean with the kids around me, after all, but I can’t always write, answer emails, go to Adoration or simply chill out with a novel in my hands. Priorities. Plus, I’d way rather be paying someone to let me relax or get meaningful work done than to simply free me up to do housework. Which is meaningful! But not in quite the same way.
Usually by the time late afternoon rolls around I’m sitting at somewhere around 6,000 steps if I haven’t gone to the gym and 9,000 steps if I have. Taking this into account, I’ll strap the baby back on if she’s awake) and make a very, very inefficient sweep through the house, picking up toys and clothing articles one at at time and walking them to their respective homes. This can earn me another 300-600 steps if I play my cards right.
Now it’s dinner prep time. If something is in the crockpot or already cooking, it’s a perfect time for us to load up for a quick evening walk to the park, where I can practice my mother shark circling skills around the play structures or even walk up and down the hill behind the soccer field, still close by and able to keep my eyes on the kids while they play. This particular technique is a favorite because it basically guarantees immunity from helicopter motherhood. And yet, you can still hear a skull hit the gravel and be at someone’s side in under 60 seconds if need be. Win, win.
Some other step-generating activities:
Become a pedestrian in your neighborhood, whether residential or commercial. If you’re stuck in an office all day like my husband is, use your lunch break to walk to a nearby park to eat in, or better yet, eat at your desk and then spend the entire hour walking the neighborhood surrounding your building, looking for a not-too-close coffee shop to call your own.
Do you have a grocery store within a mile or so of your house? You can walk there, yes you can. It sounds crazy, but if you think about it, it’s not as crazy as hopping in the car for one or two items missing from your dinner prep list. Obviously I’m not recommending you try to do your weekly stock-up shopping on foot, but if you’ve got a need for a gallon or two of milk, there’s no good reason not to walk over there and get it.
This is a HUGE difference between Americans and Europeans. Even Romans we knew with their own cars would never drive such a short distance, unless the weather was truly horrendous or they were physically infirm. True, gas is much more expensive there and parking much more dear, but beyond that there really is more of a culture of pedestrianism (is that a real word) that helped to make neighborhoods much more humane and friendly places. You literally interacted with your neighbors every day, because you walked right by them.
Does your kid play sports? Do you have to watch them practice? Attend games? You know where I’m going with this. If they’re playing on a field, chances are there’s a track surrounding them, or at least grassy space where you can pace the sidelines like a psychopath, racking up steps while they rack up goals.
Finally, try walking dates with friends and with your spouse. If that sounds really lame for an actual date, consider a pub crawl or a progressive dinner where you park and then walk from place to place. You’d be surprised how pleasant an after dinner (or between courses) stroll can be.
Do all these suggestions sound like more work and more planning than you’re willing to spend?
Consider this: in the past 20 days, changing little other than my walking habits, I’ve lost close to 4 lbs, dropped an entire pant size, had noticeable thinning in my arms, legs and face, and been told by multiple friends and family members that I look like I’ve lost *all* my baby weight. Ha. Not true, not by a long shot…but my body looks and feels so much better for all the movement! And on days when I’m really intentional about planning for walking, I don’t have to think about finding the time and energy to get to the gym. So, to review: weight loss, more time with my kids, less time in the gym, and better overall health.