Fitness is Closer Than You Think

The deal the gym offered was too good to pass up. Ten bucks a month with no commitment. I could stop anytime I wanted. Additionally, the gym was open 24/7 so I could even go before work. And, since I’m on a morning radio show I would be getting to the gym in the middle of the night.

I saw the offer online and jumped in my car to sign up. It was January 2.

This was the second time I joined a gym. The first experience was decades earlier. That didn’t go so well. I paid for a full year and only went three times. I was in no hurry to repeat that, but since this was a month by month deal I felt like I had nothing to lose.

Gyms intimidate me. I’m not a big guy, so I feel very self-conscious with how much weight I’m lifting.

Or, not lifting.

I just know that everybody is looking at everybody else and comparing workouts. I always come up on the short end of that comparison.

I never felt comfortable handling the free weights because how much I was lifting was far more obvious than at the machines. At least when I had to strain it might appear I was lifting a whole lot more than I actually was.

I was convinced I was being watched because I was watching them. Part of that was me trying to learn the gym culture. The best I could hope for was not being an obvious gym newbie. I watched how those who were more experienced used the equipment. I looked at what they were wearing. I even took notice of how they used their time between reps.

It was so exhausting.

I used the gym regularly for a few weeks before I discovered excuses to miss a workout. Since I signed up in January there were many days when the weather made it more challenging to go. I did one workout at 3am, but that felt creepy so I never did it again.

My most memorable day at the gym happened while I was using the treadmill. I was watching the TV screens when one of the shows was interrupted by a news bulletin. Since I wasn’t listening all I had was live video that didn’t make much sense.

There was a plane floating in the water with people standing on its wings.

I couldn’t stop watching what was unfolding on the screen in front of me. That event became known as The Miracle on the Hudson. It made Captain Sully Sullenberger a national hero for saving 168 people by landing his plane on the river after a bird strike killed both engines.

I easily did an extra 60 minutes on the treadmill that afternoon.

But, that was the beginning of the end. I actually kept my membership active for a few years because it was so cheap and I always thought I might go back. But, I didn’t.

A recent survey about fitness from Freeletics, a fitness and lifestyle coaching app, asked more than 2,000 people about their attitudes towards fitness and exercise. One of the questions focused on the excuses people use to not exercise.

This survey was done before the pandemic and some of the answers may feel odd, but I believe it’s actually a great time to reflect on what might have kept us from pursuing fitness so when life returns to something approaching normal we’re ready to move forward.

Over the next five weeks we’ll examine the top five reasons to NOT exercise. Coming in at #5 is this one:

The gym is too far away.

I’m certain that for some who use this excuse, the gym really is too far away. For others, including me, this is more about how much hassle is involved in getting to the gym and using it once you’re there.

At the heart of each of these perspectives is that exercise happens at some “other” place. That means distance or inconvenience can become a barrier to exercise.

This is one of the BEST things about walking. It really is fitness hiding in plain sight because you don’t need to “go someplace” else for exercise.

If you’re wondering about how effective walking is for fitness check this out. The Centers for Disease and Control recommends we each get between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate activity each week. That means if you go for a 30-minute walk every day and you are walking fast enough to get about 3,000 steps in that half hour, the intensity is likely enough to satisfy that recommendation.

To be clear, every step we take is beneficial, but not every step has equal value. In other words, if you are moving at what I call “grocery store pace” you’re likely not reaching moderate intensity. Those steps still have some benefit, but they would be considered as a light intensity activity.

Ove the years, I’ve truly enjoyed some amazing walks in fun places. I’ve written about some of those, including Washington DC, New York, and Venice. But, most of my steps happen in places that tourists don’t visit. And, that’s the beauty of walking for exercise. I don’t need a special place. I don’t even need to get in the car.

I have five regular places where I walk for exercise. You likely have similar options available to you even if you’ve never thought of them as an alternative to “going to the gym.”

THE NEIGHBORHOOD (part 1)

We live on a main road. It’s not walking friendly…AT ALL. Thankfully, across the street is a road that takes us back into a wonderful neighborhood that is very walking friendly. Technically, we can’t claim it’s “our neighborhood”, but it’s close enough that we’ve adopted it.

The neighborhood has several miles of connected tree-lined streets. There are no sidewalks, but it doesn’t matter because car traffic is light. It’s also a very hilly community which is a great opportunity for raising our heart rate.

I have a route through the neighborhood that’s about three miles long. When Ava and I walk together this where we go. We’ve had rich conversations on these walks. This has been our go-to course during the pandemic as we made it a priority to get out and keep moving.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD (part 2)

Sometime I don’t feel like a long, hilly walk so I’ll take a different route through the neighborhood. This second route is flatter and ends at the elementary school. If I want a quick 20 minute walk, this one is perfect. I can also walk around the school if I want to go a full 30 minutes.

The school also has two baseball fields which I really enjoying walking around when the weather is cool. Those fields are in full sun so it’s great option when the temperature is lower, but not so great during the heat of summer.

THE KITCHEN

Seven years after we moved into our house we had an addition put on. We live in a small rancher and for a bunch of years there were eight of us trying to navigate the space. The addition made the kitchen larger and added a couple of bedrooms in the basement.

We also knocked out an existing wall between the kitchen and living room leaving a nice space with a brick fireplace in the middle. That also gave us a loop between the kitchen, dining area, and living room.

When the weather is not fun for a walk through the neighborhood and the house is empty I’ll walk “the loop”. This may not sound very fun, but I make it fun because our Alexa is in the kitchen. I see how many of my old favorite songs I can think of in 30 minutes as I’m moving.

Because walking in loops can be annoying for others I only do this when no one else is home. I know they are grateful for that.

IN THE BASEMENT

If you think walking loops around the kitchen and living room sounds not fun, you’ll love this option even less. Our basement has enough space that I can walk back and forth at a pretty good pace. I’ll do this when others are home and the weather isn’t good.

Our basement is darkish and somewhat cluttered. Hardly the vision of fitness romance. But, it’s a great place to move. To take my mind off my surroundings I’ll often listen to a podcast as I walk.

I can chose one depending on my mood….whether I want to learn something, be entertained, or be inspired. This makes a 30 minute walk fly by!

AT WORK

Ok, technically I have to get in my car to go to work. But, I have to do that anyhow. We have a second floor at the radio station with offices and cubicles. There’s a nice loop around the cubicles which lets me get in some walking before our morning show starts.

I get to work early enough to do some laps around those cubicles while I get my voice ready for our morning show. I learned the hard way that my voice needs careful warming up or bad things happen. Since I need to spend time doing that, I might as well be moving.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

If you have used the excuse that the gym is too far away, is there a place or two that’s convenient for you? You may discover opportunities for fitness hiding in plain sight.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY

If you’re just getting started, I want to recommend a 30 Day Fitness Challenge. Most fitness goals end in failure because they start way too big. Setting the right goal to get started is critical!

This free guide will help you do that. It also includes a contract you sign to keep your daily commitment. I know that sounds a little cheesy, but it can be just the motivation you need on a day where keeping your fitness commitment feels too hard.

Every day you reach your goal is a WIN. This guide also includes a a 30 Day Tracker to help you celebrate each of those wins. It’ll feel really good as you track these. But, more importantly it’ll help you build fitness momentum that will last.

You can get started today with The 30 Day Fitness Challenge.

It’s probably no surprise to learn that most people who set a fitness goal don’t finish. The first 30 days are the most critical!

If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the Fitbit Inspire HR. While it’s not cheap, it’s less than a few months at the gym. The Inspire HR also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.

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(By the way…if you use the link above to but a Fitbit Inspire HR this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)

Lastly, this blog is designed to help you embrace walking as a fitness activity. It’s sustainable, flexible, effective, and fun. Every week I post new articles with stories and helpful suggestions.

If you click FOLLOW (below on your phone…to the right and above on your computer) you’ll receive an email with a link to each new blog post.