How I Walk 20,000 Steps Inside Without a Treadmill

“What are you doing?” texted my wife. “Is that you stomping around the basement?”

I walk 20,000 steps a day. This has been my daily Fitbit goal for more than two years. I am not advocating this as a goal for others. In fact, I believe for many people 10,000 is not even a good goal. You can read why HERE.

It took me years to reach 20,000 steps a day. I gradually increased the goal as my fitness level grew and my fitness momentum accelerated. I even had a few months where my goal was between 25k-30k, but realized that required too much time so I backed it down to 20,000.

Every so often I re-evaluate whether this should stay my goal. And, each time I make the same decision. I’m the best version of me when I’m getting 20,000 steps a day.

Moving this much keeps me healthy. I feel good. Walking is also when I do my best thinking and problem solving. I’m creative. I pray better when I’m walking and also feel calmer. In other words…walking helps me process life and 20,000 steps a day is just right for me. More steps do not make my life better. I’ve tried that. And, fewer steps are not enough.

So, 20,000 steps a day it is. And, most of those happen inside. Does that surprise you?

I love walking outside. We live in a quiet neighborhood with lots of trees.

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I took this picture during a walk in our neighborhood last autumn

Each season has it’s own beauty and different weather can add another layer of fun. Yes, even rain and snow can be enjoyable if I’m wearing the right stuff.

I also love walking around cities. The energy is invigorating and I love discovering new parts of cities I know well, like Washington DC, Baltimore, and New York.

But, that’s not every day life. And, even though I’ll do a neighborhood walk most days when the weather is nice it’s not how I get most of my steps. They happen inside without a treadmill.

I admire people who can run or walk on a treadmill for long periods of time. I don’t have the mental discipline to do that. I get bored way too fast and can’t wait to get off. If you have easy access to a treadmill and love walking on it you can stop reading now. There’s not much for you past here.

If you don’t have a treadmill or, like me, it’s not a fun way to reach your Fitbit goals here’s how I get most of my 20,000 steps inside.

THIS GOAL IS NON-NEGOTIABLE

There are two reasons I give myself permission not to reach 20,000 steps:

  1. I’m sick or injured and walking that much would be harmful.
  2. There’s a crisis I need to take care of. The people in my world are far more important that any Fitbit goal.

Other than these two reasons to stop, my 20,000 steps a day goal is non-negotiable. It doesn’t matter whether I feel like it, what the weather is, or how crazy my schedule gets, I’m moving 20,000 steps. I don’t ever have a conversation with myself about whether I’m going to reach my goal. 

This is the number one answer to the question, “How do you get all those steps inside?” I find a way. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you’re committed to the goal. If I started to waver when it’s not easy I would end up only walk outside when the sun is shining and the temperature is comfortable. I know myself too well to believe otherwise.

I WALK INSIDE MY HOUSE

We live in a modest size rancher. We bought it more than 20 years ago when we had five children. The house had three bedrooms and one bathroom. Soon after we moved in I converted space in the basement into a fourth bedroom. Then I added a second bathroom using a closet and six feet of our hallway that was dead space beyond the last doorway. That bathroom is my gold medal home renovation moment. 

We added a sixth child a year later, and then had a kitchen addition put on five years after that when the house simply felt too small for eight people. We also added two rooms in the basement below the extended kitchen.

Fast-forward more than a decade and we only have three people living in the house now. Our oldest five children are adults and are scattered around the country. Only my wife, me, and our youngest daughter are still here.

This modest rancher is where the majority of my steps happen on many days.

I have two “walking paths” in our house. My favorite is on the main level. I can walk wide circles between our kitchen, dining room, and living room. There’s a fireplace right in the middle. We have big windows in this space so it feels more open. It’s also delightful to watch the sunset out the patio doors in our kitchen.

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Sunsets in the winter are best because of the bare trees

We also have Alexa in the kitchen and I often ask her to play my favorite songs as I’m walking. It can be really nice!

This is also the path I walk when I’m watching sports on TV in the living room and there’s a commercial break. I especially love watching NFL games. Each has about an hour of commercials and I don’t need to sit and watch those. If I watch two games on a Sunday afternoon, that’s a lot of steps. Even when they are not in a commercial break, I discovered I can do two laps between plays and not miss any action.

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Ava has always wanted those bricks painted. Looking at this picture makes me agree with her.

But, as much as I like walking this loop, I don’t do it when Ava or Emma are in this space. They’re used to me walking a lot, but it can be annoying and I want to be sensitive to them so I limit my “kitchen-living room” walking when they are in the room.  

Our basement is the other place where I can walk a lot. It’s not huge, but I have a “path” between two rooms that’s about 25 steps one way. This is probably where I get most of my steps. It’s a darker because there are fewer windows, but I’ve learned how to use that to my advantage.

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Renovation underway. Still won’t beat the bathroom as my best project ever.

My basement walking is where I plan, create, and learn. Without the distraction of the outside world I’m able to focus better. I’ll plan my week as I’m walking back and forth. I’ll think through projects I’m involved in at work and around the house. I create a lot of these blog posts while I’m walking in the basement. And, I listen to podcasts when I’m basement walking. It’s a great opportunity to learn new stuff.

It was a recent Saturday morning when I noticed the text from Ava, “What are you doing? Is that you stomping around the basement?” That morning I had changed up my basement walking path. My new route took me directly under our bedroom. I walk heavy and I guess that sounds like stomping.

I saw her text, apologized, and returned to walking between the two rooms which is not directly under where she was trying to sleep.

Recently, Ava and I spent the week in a small condo in Myrtle Beach. It was in February and there was one rainy and cold morning that I didn’t feel like walking outside. Ava was still in the bedroom asleep, so I walked back and forth in the living room. It was tiny, but my goal is non-negotiable, so I did what I needed to do.

It reminded me of Jessica Slaughter. She’s a woman who decided to turn her health around when she was in her late 70’s. She lives in a tiny one bedroom apartment. Every morning she walked 3,000 steps between her kitchen and bedroom. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Jessica lost over 100 pounds because of her walking habit and some changes she made with her nutrition. That’s the kind of non-negotiable commitment that is very motivating for me. I love her story!

The beauty of walking is you actually don’t need more than three square feet. One of the things I did when I first got my Fitbit was walk in place. I had heard of others who were dong this. It’s not “cheating”. In other words, it’s not shaking your wrist to add steps. I know people who do that and I don’t get it. I walk for the physical, emotional, and mental benefits…not to simply reach a number on my Fitbit. That’s the only thing you’re accomplishing when shake your arm.

But, walking in place is real movement that doesn’t require a lot of space. I tried it, but like a treadmill I got bored real fast and didn’t have the mental discipline to keep doing it. So, I started hopping.

I quickly discovered that jumping up and down in one place is not easy. It’s kind of like when you start running for the first time. It requires a different level of fitness. But, I liked the challenge and slowly built up my endurance so I could get and keep my heart rate up.

I still do this several times a week for the extra exercise intensity. It also adds twice the number of steps as I would get from walking during the same amount of time. Kind of like running.

That said, I don’t jumping up and down. It can cause injury or create problems if your heart isn’t capable of the increased intensity. I only mention it because it is one of the ways I get steps inside.

I WALK AT WORK

Nothing beats local radio during a crisis. It can dispense the same information as TV and social media in real time, but radio has something other live media doesn’t have. It has intimacy and warmth. Local radio can be a calming friend when the world turns upside down. Local radio is essential.

I work in local radio as part of a morning show. I’m still going to work. Our colleagues, who are not part of the air-staff, are all working from home. The building is quiet except for the Main Studio and two operational employees needed to keep us on the air.

Every morning I arrive at the station a little earlier than I need to. This gives me the opportunity to walk around the building while I warm up my voice. Many years ago, I encountered some significant voice problems because I wasn’t taking care of it. Vocal warmups and exercises each morning were a game changer for me.

I used to do this sitting down. Now I do it while walking. I also use this time to think through and prepare some of the content I’m responsible for each morning. I couldn’t do this if I worked a later day part. But, since I arrive when only one other person is in the building I take advantage of the empty offices to walk around the upstairs cubicles getting my voice ready. 

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I miss my co-workers who haven’t been here in a few weeks.

Even while we are doing our morning show I walk. We often have a couple songs that play in between our talk breaks. While the music is playing I walk back to my office and do other work. I could bring my computer into the studio, but have chosen not to.

And, since I think better when I’m moving, these walk breaks also keep me sharper than if I were sitting in the studio for the entire show.

Of course, every job is different and every workplace is different. What I’m able to do is unique for my situation. But, the non-negotiable contract I have with myself to reach my daily Fitbit goal was also the motivation to find opportunities to walk while I’m at work. I believe what I’m doing is a win-win for the station, our listeners, and me.

Before the pandemic, I asked readers how they were able to create opportunities to walk at work and you can check out their responses HERE.

OTHER PLACES I WALK 

Ever since I got my first Fitbit I see shopping in a new light. The grocery store is an opportunity to buy food and walk up and down each aisle. I used to feel frustration if I was ready to check out and suddenly realized I forgot to get something that’s on the other side of the store.

Walmart and Target are no longer quick in and quick out if I’m way short of my 20,000 steps. And, I have a good friend who uses the mall when the weather is not great and she doesn’t want to walk around her house to reach her Fitbit goal.

For now, these opportunities are limited or not even available. But, soon enough they will be and I won’t hesitate to stop and “shop” on the way home from work if I’m not feeling the love for walking in the basement.

TAKE THE CHALLENGE

One of the great things about walking for fitness is the flexibility. I’m not dependent on the weather or where I am, or even the time of day. Even if my walking doesn’t always rise to the level of “exercise” life is better when I’m moving more and sitting less.

That said, walking is great way to begin a new journey of fitness or to supersize what you’ve already got going. The 30 Day Fitness Challenge will help you build a fitness habit which creates fitness momentum, and eventually leads to fitness transformation.

This free guide will walk you through how to get started. It’s very easy.

If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the brand new Fitbit Inspire 2! The Inspire 2 has double the battery life, and also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.
(By the way…if you use the links in this article to make a purchase 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. Walking is sustainable, flexible, effective, and fun. Every week I post new articles with stories and helpful suggestions to Win at Fitness. 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.

11 thoughts on “How I Walk 20,000 Steps Inside Without a Treadmill

  • I started using my Fitbit several weeks ago. I am more aware of how many steps a day I’m getting-especially now. Thank you for your post.

  • I used to read your posts on fb when I was a walker. Then I unfortunately had lumbar fusion surgery followed by too many setbacks. I couldn’t read your posts. They we’re too painful. I couldn’t walk. After 6 months of PT and absolutely wonderful therapists who never gave up on me when I gave up on myself I’m walking 2 miles a day. I’m ecstatic! It’s not a lot but for me it’s the world. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • You are inspiring Rosanne! So happy you’re walking again. I imagine those two miles a day mean far more than all the miles you used to get…and one day will get again!

  • It is amazing how you manage, and demand of yourself, to get in 20k steps a day. I am truly inspired. I also need a tracking device for my steps, so I will look into your recommendation. Happy National Walking Day!

  • Your posts are GREAT! Thank you. I have upper body stretching exercises I have to do everyday for my back – I jog in place while I do them. For a small house, I have a large finished area downstairs – so I walk in wide circles while I talk on the phone or listen to podcasts. Life your upstairs, I can walk in a circle between living room, kitchen & dining room. I started this (got my fitbit) a few months ago and am amazed at how much more I’m moving.

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