Want to Change Your Fitness Life? Try This New Habit

It still makes me laugh. Ava and I were both signed up to participate in the Baltimore Running Festival. Every year I do one running event to change it up and test my fitness level. I would be running six miles as the first leg of the 26.2 mile Relay. Ava would be running the other three legs or 20.2 miles.

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Two days before the event we had to drive into the city and pick up our race packets. We parked our car and started walking to the Convention Center. And, that’s when I saw it and laughed about it for the first time.

People who had trained for weeks, and in some cases months, to run between three and 26.2 miles were getting on a bus so they wouldn’t have to WALK less than a mile.

Seriously?

Two recent events brought this memory to mind which evoked another laugh. First, I listened to a podcast about aging. The second was I watched a video about making your bed every morning.

Three weeks ago I wrote a blog about the dangers of sitting and offered four ways to create a lifestyle of moving more and sitting less. Just after I posted that article I listened to a podcast called Live Long and Master Aging. The episode featured an expert on how to mitigate serious health issues later in life.

The host and guest talked about a bunch of different things, but spent a few minutes (35:00 into the episode) on just how important it is to KEEP MOVING as you age. The benefits of moving more and sitting less as you get older are profound.

Obviously, as you move less you burn fewer calories which can lead to weight gain. That can cause you to want to move even less than you are. Inactivity can also lead to muscle and bone loss which increases the possibility of falls. That in itself can lead to a nasty cycle. When you’re afraid of falling you move even less which makes falls an even greater risk. Physical inactivity also can harm your immune system, blood circulation, and hormonal balance.

I was struck, listening to this podcast, that I couldn’t just leave this topic to one blog post. The importance of moving more and sitting less is too big to limit to just one article.

In 2014, Admiral William McRaven gave the commencement address at the University of Texas. His topic was how to change the world. Almost five minutes into his speech, Admiral McRaven starts to tell the graduates how to do this. His first recommendation…

Make your bed.

Admiral McRaven explained, “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished your first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and encourage you to do another task. And another. And another. And, at the end of the day that one task completed will turn into many tasks completed. “

He continues, “Making your bed will also reinforce in life that the little things matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right…so if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” Admiral McRaven’s speech soon went viral and since 2014 has been viewed many millions of times over.

It’s amazing to me how much our culture discourages us from moving. I’m not sure when that started. Perhaps, when we no longer had to get up to change the channel on the TV. You might argue it was even before that with the advent of the automobile.

When and how it happened is no longer relevant. We live in a culture that works hard at making life as “move-free” as possible. Seeing people who were fit to run long distances get on a shuttle bus to avoid a one mile walk was a reminder of this. My laugh when I saw this came from a place of sadness.

With a fresh appreciation for the power of moving more, since I just wrote about it, the podcast, a reminder of this shuttle bus memory, and Admiral McRaven’s speech it got me thinking.

Is there an equivalent to making your bed that’ll help people change their fitness and health perspective? Is there a small and simple habit that can serve as a regular reminder to move more?

A few years ago I went to see U2 in concert at Fedex Field near Washington DC. I’ve written about this concert experience a couple times. It was one of my top two concerts ever. Anyhow, I got there early and parked at the Stadium Metro station for five dollars. I wanted parking that made it easy to leave and didn’t cost much. The Metro Station was perfect, but not many others agreed because it was over a mile away.

I got there early and walked towards the stadium passing a long line of cars slowly making their way to parking that cost as much as $60. I smiled and enjoyed the walk on a warm summer evening. This is how I park. I almost always head for the back of the lot or the cheapest lot that’s far away.

When I started this blog I promised myself I would not offer the stereotypical recommendation to getting more steps by parking in the back of a parking lot. It’s cheap advice and, quite frankly, it doesn’t really add that many steps to your Fitbit.

But, I realize now there is great value in this advice that has nothing to do with getting more steps. It’s a perspective changer…just like making your bed every morning.

There is, perhaps, no greater visual metaphor for our “move-less” culture than a parking lot. All the spaces at the front of the lot are filled while the back of the lot is nearly empty. We are willing to drive slowly up and down the rows hoping to find an empty space mere feet from the building entrance. Or, we’re willing to sit in our car and wait as someone slowly transfers bags from a cart to the trunk knowing that valuable space will soon be ours.

I understand for some, parking near the entrance is done for reasons of health and safety. I am not trying to bring a feeling of shame upon you for parking close. Instead, if possible, I’d like to invite you to consider parking a little farther away next time.

The idea is to change your perspective. We want to place greater value on moving more and less value on moving less. Parking farther away is a small thing we can do almost every day to reinforce that. To paraphrase Admiral McRaven, parking farther away will give you a small sense of pride knowing that you chose moving more over moving less. In time that will encourage you to move a little more the next time. And the time after that. And the time after that.

Your long-term health depends on it.

Another thing that will encourage you to move even more is a 30 Day Walking Challenge. This Challenge has three different levels depending on how much you’re moving right now.

Level One is for those who are just getting started on a new fitness journey. You’ll set an easy daily step goal and make a commitment to reach that goal for 30 days. This free download includes a contract you can sign with yourself and a way to track your progress. I call it a Win Tracker because every day you reach your goal is a WIN and you should feel that.

The next two levels are for those who already have a step goal and want to supersize it for 30 days adding even more fuel to your fitness momentum.

FITBIT

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 link above to buy 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.

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