I woke up this morning and went about my usual routine... until I stepped on the scale for the first time in week and nearly suffered myocardial infarction based on the numbers that flickered below my feet.
Wowza. I guess a week of mediocre food and exercise choices adds up pretty fast. Except... I don't actually feel like my choices have been that bad -- great run, great bike ride... too many cocktails, clearly, but also lots of good times, laughter, and memories with family and friends.
Rather than dwell on it, I just decided to instantly make better choices -- namely, donned my walking clothes, leashed up the dog, and hit the pavement. Since my heart rate when walking the dog barely skims 100, it was hardly an intense cardio session -- but the meditative benefits were fantastic. It is a beautiful day. I left my iPod and PDA at home and decided to step away from technology for a while -- I always forget how refreshing this is, and as somebody who literally spends the entire day online, the space from "instant communication" is probably really healthy, and something I should do much more often.
When I walk on my own, it's a much brisker walk -- but with Gracie by my side, she actually slows me down. This seems counter-intuitive, but... you don't know my dog. At 3 years old and roughly 68 lbs, she is a ball of tighly wound, high-anxiety, thoroughly muscled energy. She is poorly leash trained (despite two sessions of of dog school and a private trainer), and just about tears my arm from my socket every time a squirrel comes within a 50 foot radius. Walking her usually involves BEING walked, and the only way I can keep her from pulling me right over is to slow down a bit.
After a 75 minute walk, she hasn't slowed down a bit. After two hours at the dog park, she's always up for more. On Saturday, I had the annual picnic with her rescue organization -- which involves about 100 dogs in a lake -- and after 2 hours of nonstop fetching, chasing, swimming, etc... she STILL was full of energy and anxiety on the car ride home. My dog would RATHER be constantly in motion than sit still. She is happier and healthier when she's able to run as much as she wants. If somebody gave her the option of running nonstop for several hours, or sitting on the sofa watching TV... no contest -- she'd run. So while she's motivated by food, she's even more motivated by her own need to MOVE.
This is how humans should be. Before the advent of televisions and internet; cell phones and PDAs... this IS how humans were -- not out of desire, but necessity. We were farming communities. Laborers. Manual agriculture work was a way of life, as was doing the dishes by hand, and washing the dirty laundry with a board, bucket, and scrub brush. There were stables to clean, wood to chop, and homes to take care of. Exercise wasn't found in a gym or an aerobics class, but simply through our way of life. And that's a lot of calories burned that we now hoard, sitting at our desks and watching TV.
Technology, while it has improved our lives in many ways, has also hurt our bodies.
My brother works for a company called MUVE, and based on the research of Dr. Levine at the Mayo Clinic, they've come up with a model to combat this problem -- rather than fight technology, let's make it work for us. The theory is Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT), and it postulates that daily trips to the gym and running marathons aren't necessary to keep us thin, but that those who are NATURALLY a slim, healthy bodyweight are those whose bodies are constantly in motion -- when Alan Greenspan replaced his desk with a podium, he was a prime example of this. Standing vs. sitting. Biking vs. driving. Safe your body, safe the earth.
MUVE outfitted a downtown Minneapolis office with treadmill desks -- literally, a treadmill set up so that you can work and walk at the same time. A place for your laptop, a place for your phone. You only walk around 1.5 MPH while conducting your business, and IT WORKS. The woman I met who had been participating in the study had lost about 10 lbs in 2 months... and made no other changes than spending about 2 hrs per day on that treadmill, walking at less than 2 MPH. Time she would have spent on her butt, she was on her feet.
I had a similar experience 2 years ago when I had the treadmill in my living room and would walk for hours at a time while watching TV. I mean, I was going to watch the shows regardless, it was more a question of whether I'd sit on my butt and get fatter, or walk on the treadmill and get slimmer. And you know, that first two months that I did that, I probably DID lose about 10 pounds pretty quickly.
It's really got me thinking -- I have a treadmill in my basement, wireless internet, and I work at home. There's NO REASON I can't try to outfit a piece of plywood across the handlebars so that I can work while I walk. Perhaps that is a project for this weekend.
When my dog is active, she's happy. She is sweeter, calmer, and less anxious. She sleeps better at night, and naps throughout the day. While she probably can't intellectualize the benefits of exercise, she knows she loves it, and she knows she craves it. Technology and exterior forces have not defined her quality of life: she eats healthy (because I feed her, and I control her portions), she moves happily -- "muve" well, eat well, sleep well, live well.
I'm not sure why any of us think that humans are any different.
Next up: a kitchen clean-out that will leave me with only healthy & whole fueling options. And then? A really good night's sleep.
Off and running,