Little Steps

As the weather warms up, we all get a little spring fever, and getting outside gets easier and easier.

However, schedules, social obligations, work and other things can get in the way, and suddenly booking out 45 minutes to go for a walk or run can seem daunting at best.

So, break it down into manageable bite-sized pieces. Research shows that small workouts are just as effective as long ones. Even doing medium intensity 10-minute workouts in bursts can keep your metabolism going all day. Training wise, it may not be the best training for a race, but getting a move on once or twice a week in “mirco workouts” can maintain your training and supplement your long run days.

I’ve been trying these “micro workouts” for awhile, and using my fitness tracker (I use a Jawbone UP), I can tell you that I get just as many steps on my mini-workout days as I do on the days that I block out a regular 45 minutes on the treadmill.

The Other Benefits of Micro-Exercise

The benefits of these mini workouts are not just physical. I can personally attest to the fact that it really breaks up the day and helps when the day starts to drag and when I need to get the creative juices flowing again.

As many of you know I work in fundraising and development for a non-profit, and that can involve a great deal of writing, changing hats, emailing, and phone calls. It also can unfortunately, mean an awful lot of sitting. About a year ago, my boss noticed my tendency to take “desk lunches” rather than going out. She advised me that even though I get bogged down and focused on the day to day, I would still be just as productive if I allowed myself to get a little break.

I took her advice and started going out for little lunchtime walks. Sometimes it’s just for 10 or 15 minutes, but sometimes I can fit in 20 minutes to half an hour. In the warmer months I walk around our campus and surrounding neighborhood. During our cold, Wisconsin winters, I am lucky to have a school gym, and hallways that allow me to get my steps in, indoors.

I’ve started incorporating stairs into my workouts as well, and even have a coworker who joins me sometimes. We’ll do little workouts up and down the steps—not enough to work up such a sweat that we can’t go back to work, but enough to get our heart rates up. It’s unbelievable what a boost I get for the rest of the afternoon!

Now I realize that not everyone is lucky enough to have a gym, or stairs in their office but get creative! I’ve seen friends walk in circles around their conference table, or walk in the staff lounge or workroom. The idea is to simply get more steps (yes even if it isn’t that exciting). If you really can’t find the space in your cubicle or office, bring gloves, a scarf and try to bundle up for just a little bit of fresh air each day.

Pacing the Halls

I was recently reading about the new trend of “home walking” which is where people do just that—walk around their homes. It sounds silly, but it really does help get the steps in. Challenge yourself to take the long way to your kitchen, run up and down the stairs with one item, rather than consolidate loads of laundry, or pick up your house one piece at a time. It’s amazing how many extra steps you can add.
Circling the gym

I’ve found that when I’m a few steps shy of my goal at the end of the day, I can walk in the hall while I brush my teeth, wash my face, floss and do my bedtime rituals and log an extra 200-300 steps (at least).

Cooking, cleaning and other household “boring ol’ chores” can add up quickly to many extra steps throughout the day. Some of my most intense “step days” are when I haven’t even been trying, but when I’m instead, working on a house project like reorganizing the basement or craft room.

Walk with Your Best Friend

Sam is the primary dog walker in our house, and Frankie and Tatanka love going on their walks with their “Papa”. Every time I join them on their walks (which is 3-4 times a day) I find that it’s a great way to rack up the steps. Often it’s just a bathroom walk around the block, but sometimes we end up going for a little longer, or adding a few more blocks on to our route.

Last summer I started taking Frankie, one of our pugs on my walk/runs with me. Tatanka has longer legs and quite a bit of stamina, and he can keep up on an entire two mile run with Sam. Frankie on the other hand likes to take things slow, in typical pug fashion, which is just fine with me. I started taking him during the warm up portion of my run, and then stopping back by the house and dropping him off while I went on with my workout.

It was interesting to find how much I started to look forward to, and rely on our walk/runs together. Frankie would get excited for them and even though they weren’t long, or intense, it gave us time to connect, and a little one-on-one “mom and pug” time.

Sam and the boys

If you don’t have a pet that is relying on you for their exercise, try scheduling a walk with a friend, your significant other or family. Sam and I love going for long walks together (or short walks) and find time to get one in every few days. During our walks we talk about our day, make plans for the future, enjoy each other’s company and have an opportunity to connect without technology or interruption. It’s so much better than just vegging out in front of the television together, or staring at our phones or respective computers.

No matter what way you find to fit in a little more exercise, try to fit in a few extra minutes of activity per day. A ten-minute walk here, and a twenty-minute jog there, a trip up the steps or a few paces around the laundry room will really add up.

So what about you? How do you get your heart pumping and fit in extra movement? What do you do to make your day more active?