Activity Trackers


Dear Friend,

I heard you got a fancy new watch! And now you’re into tracking steps. We all know that 10,000 steps per day is the recommended activity level, but why?

I recently read this article from the Washington Post about the history of 10,000 steps. In summary, Americans average 4,000 to 6,000 steps per day doing regular things- working, walking around home and the community, etc. Add 30 min of moderate exercise and it adds up to 10,000 steps. There’s not a lot of science behind the number 10,000; it’s just a target to get people on track for 30 minutes of daily exercise. 

Are activity trackers important in fitness and wellness? Well, it depends. If you are a competitive person, and/or motivated by numbers, a fitness tracker will likely keep you moving. On the other hand, if you aren’t competitive or a data-junkie, an activity tracker won’t make as much of an impact on your motivation for achieving steps. 

Recent studies have shown that inactivity and lots of sitting during the day is one of the worst things for your heart and overall health. Getting up and moving frequently during the day is essential to overall health and wellness.

Many days when I’m busy doing the mom thing, chasing kids, running errands, etc. I get discouraged because I didn’t make time for a workout. But on these days my step tracker can be a positive surprise at the end of the day, letting me know that yep, I was busy and I made it to my step goal.

But now is the time of ‘work from home and the kids are back in school’ days. I really excel in the sport of sitting. Looking at my step total at the end of the day is quite discouraging. It’s so hard to get and move during the day, especially when it’s winter outside! My step tracker is an external motivator to get me moving. 

If you are new to step tracking, how do you start? First, get a baseline of your own activity level. This can be tracking steps, noticing the amount of moderate exercise in a day, and possibly how much sleep you get each night. After tracking for a week or so, develop reasonable goals to increase any areas that are less than recommended amounts (10,000 steps, 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, 7-8 hours of sleep each night). If it suits you, create some friendly competition. Most of the common devices (FitBit, Garmin, Apple Watch) have a find friends feature, enabling you to see step counts of your buddies. Plus, this helps with accountability for those who are externally motivated!

Then, wear it! Consistently. And pay attention to any patterns. Is there one day a week where you step way over your goal? Figure out why. Same goes for days that are not as active. A step tracker can be a great tool to keep you going on your wellness journey. 

 

If you want to read more about Fitness Trackers, here is an an interesting article about why so many people quit using trackers after awhile.

And if you are Garmin user like I am, this Another Mother Runner Podcast  is where I learned how to really use my device!

Keep on stepping, my friends! I’m always up for a step challenge, anyone want to try and beat me?!

 

Wellness and Motherhood

Dear Mom Friend, 

Wellness and Motherhood, what a loaded topic. With the presence of social media, we get a perspective into the lives of many other moms. There are mommy blogs, facebook groups, and influencers.  How do all these moms get all the things done during the day? How am I supposed to fit exercise, cooking and cleaning into my day? How do I not compare myself to the moms on instagram, as well as the moms at the bus stop? And how can I think of wellness for myself when there are so many people depending on me?

I sincerely believe that wellness is vital to motherhood. By making space for wellness, we care for ourselves and therefore take better care of those around us. You’re asking yourself, how do I start? You’ve got 3 kids under 5 at home and a partner working long hours. Or, you manage daycare pickup and drop-off each day, just barely touching down when you land at home for the rush of dinner and bedtime. 

These are big questions without straightforward answers. One answer, however, is changing the way you think about and perceive wellness. 

Here are mindset shifts to help bring your mind and body closer to wellness:

01

Embrace your place and live in your season

We’ve all heard of the idea of ‘seasons’ of life. Well it’s true. Time scheduled around feedings evolves into preschool drop-off and then meeting the school bus. Acknowledge that, yes, you might be in a tough season right now, but it won’t last forever!! Embrace where you are and set realistic goals for your current season of life. 

When I had 3 kids under the age of 4, there is no way I would have attempted to train for a 10 mile running race, not a chance! But now that my kids are 8, 8, and 6, going for a long run on Saturday mornings is very doable. 

Check out the book “The Lazy Genius Way” to learn more about living in your season.

02

Notice what you already do for Wellness

Are you an avid reader? Do you listen to podcasts? Enjoy cooking? Intentionally connect with friends? If so, you are already doing wellness! Notice the little things you already do in a day and mentally call them Wellness. Then build on your success! You can do wellness because you already are. 

03

Let some things go

Making time for exercise and wellness might mean letting some things go.  I know this is so tough; as moms, we set such high standards for ourselves and our mothering responsibilities. I used to pride myself on feeding my kids homemade, healthy snacks. Easy enough when everyone was home and we could just grab something from the fridge. But now all 3 are in school and I just don’t have the time and mental space to create homemade snacks in addition to packing lunches! So we do something I told myself I’d never do: take an individually packaged snacks (I can’t believe that I’m admitting this to the world, but Pirates Booty is saving my life). The time saved by not making muffins and trail mix means more time for me doing what I enjoy. 

Since I’ve already confessed my prepackaged snack strategy, I might as well confess about screen time for my kids. Here’s the deal: I like to run in the mornings and my husband likes to sleep. I’m a much more pleasant person when I exercise in the mornings, everyone is better off. My husband is a much more pleasant person when he doesn’t have to wake up before 7am, everyone is better off. So what do we do with two 2-year-olds who think 6:15am is a great time to start the day? Utilize the babysitter known as Daniel Tiger. I would meet friends to run at 5:45am two mornings a week (social time plus workout = awesome!), and before leaving home, I’d turn the TV on to PBS. Seriously. I got my run in, my toddlers would waddle out of bed and watch TV for a half hour, and my husband would sleep. Thinking back, I can’t believe this worked, but it did! And I feel no guilt. We were all more pleasant people because of this strategy. Now, my kids know that on Saturday mornings they get to roll out of bed and watch Netflix because Mom is running and Dad is sleeping. Wellness wins!

04

Each minute counts- they all add up

 I challenge you to add 5 minutes a day of a “Wellness Activity.” I’m not saying go meditate each day for 5 minutes, just start to add little bits here and there. There are countless resources on YouTube for 5-10 minute workouts. You don’t even need to change your clothes, just find a 5 minute ab workout and go for it (hint: create a playlist on YouTube of short workout videos you like for quick access). 

Keep a book in your car so that when you’re in the pick-up line, you can read instead of scroll. Or sit in the parking lot of the grocery store and read for 5 minutes before you go inside!

 

Every Minute Counts

Just Ten Minutes

Dear Busy Person,

Ten Minutes.  That’s it. Don’t worry, I’m not asking that you meditate for 10 minutes; I mean go for it, if that’s your goal. But 10 minutes of exercise. Embrace your athleisure wardrobe and put the “athlete” part to work. 

I’ve been struggling lately to get a good second strength workout in during the week. Maybe I lack the energy and stamina at the end of the week, maybe I’m tired out from working. Who knows.

But I’m trying a new thing. I have my favorite short workouts saved on a YouTube playlist: a 10 minute abdominals, a 10 minute upper body, and a 10 minute lower body.  These workouts don’t have jumping or crazy cardio- I don’t break a sweat.

Necessary equipment, dumbbells and resistance band, is kept right on the floor in front of the TV so there is no “I can’t find what I need” excuse. And I write ‘workout’ on my to do list- things written here get done. So the minute dinner is in the oven, or the kids are actually playing nicely, I go to my YouTube playlist and work my muscles for 10 minutes.  Check that off the list!

A while ago, I wouldn’t have counted this 10 minutes as actual workout; I needed to have my workout clothes on, move intensely for 30 minutes, and break a sweat in order to call it a workout. But I’m learning and teaching myself that any little bit counts. My body thanks me for taking the time to strengthen my muscles, no matter how long that time is. 

Confession: I’m still learning how to accomplish the 10 minutes on my busy work days. Now that I’m shifting to more in-person time at my job, I can’t whip out my dumbbells while in yet another virtual meeting. On days that my schedule is lighter, yes, I can sneak in the 10 minutes at the beginning or end of my workday. But I haven’t mastered squeezing 10 minutes in when my schedule is booked solid. But I’m getting there!

Ten Minutes. I’m committing to ten minutes, not daily, but 2-3 times per week to get my strength training in. Anyone going to join me?

 

Strength Training

Dear Runner Friend,

Awesome job logging all those miles! I’m so impressed with your consistency, getting out there running everyday. How do you avoid injury??

We all know someone who can run/bike/exercise endlessly and never get injured. Does this person just have ‘the right body’ for the sport? Well, maybe. But maybe it’s the behind the scenes work that person puts in to keep their body strong. 

I’m a physical therapist. I know the importance of muscle strength. I tell people all the time to strengthen muscles to decrease pain and move better. But I didn’t really live it. I hated strength training. I was in and out of physical therapy myself for years battling a chronic IT band injury. I’d do my exercises, get stronger, and the pain would go away. Then gradually I’d stop doing my exercise and run without pain for awhile, but it always came back. I hated lifting weights. I knew what to do, I just didn’t do it.

Well, about a year ago, a running friend of mine said, “Do you want to check out this strength-cardio class at the gym?” (in addition to not liking to lift weights, I was NOT a class person). I agreed to just try it out.  And you guessed it, I got hooked! There was something empowering about being in a gym full of people throwing weights around with an instructor yelling at me to do more. Now I know this is not everyone’s thing, but it worked for me. 

I noticed myself getting stronger, running a little bit faster, and having more muscle definition. (Secretly, I really like to have nice looking shoulders when I look at myself in the mirror while drying my hair). But the best part is, a year later, I haven’t had to go back to physical therapy for my injured right leg! 

I know you feel like it’s not a workout unless you get your heart rate up, so I challenge you to find a strength training routine that makes you sweat. It doesn’t have to be an hour long class at the gym. You don’t even need to lift weights; body weight strength exercises can do wonders. Put your mind to and build some muscle!

Where are you at with strength training? Do you dread it? Love it?

“The body achieves what the mind believes.”

-Unknown-

 

Create a Calming Ritual

Dear Busy Mom Friend,

I hear what you are saying: the hours of 4:30-6:30pm are the WORST each day. I’m tired and hungry, my kids are tired and hungry, and I want to be done with All. The. Things. But sitting down with my feet up is not an option. Instead, I light a candle, grab a bubbly water, take a few deep breaths, and carry on. For some reason, the simple act of lighting a candle allows me to let the yelling and complaining just roll off. 

 

Now that I realize the impact of this 30 second ritual on my mood, I’ve tried to weave it into other stressful times of my day. I guess it’s not realistic to say to my coworkers, “can we pause for a minute so I can light my calming candle?”, so I use my ritual during parenting times. And it actually helps!

 

What actions do you take to find calm in the chaos? Closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths is a great way to recenter your mind. Or playing your favorite playlist to change the mood. I would recommend staying away from picking up your phone and scrolling. Scrolling may be calming in the short term, but it doesn’t help regulate your emotions to calmly approach the present stressful moment. 

 

Why have a calming ritual? Because when you are calm, others around you will calm.  Yes, for real, kids included. Maybe you already do something automatically to calm down- name it! Recognize that the space around you is a circus, and then take control of yourself with your calming ritual. 

 

After listening to a great podcast (Live Free Creative Podcast episode 126) about routines and rituals, I started naming my routines and rituals. This task of naming what is calming has empowered me to take control of my emotions during the circus that is 4:30-6:30pm. 

 

Now is the time to share…what is your calming ritual?