Well, I finished it — my 30-day challenge to change the way I felt in my body has come to a close, and though I did not reach my explicit goal of 500k steps, I finished up at just over 400k, and feel better about my overall level of fitness than I have in a long time. I’m still by no means a fit person and, as I mentioned in the somewhat grabby headline, I actually gained about two pounds, but considering that during this challenge I went on a vacation with Marc (laden with wonderful Cuban food), and spent five days at my parents’ place in Philadelphia, where the delicious home cooking flows freely, I am honestly shocked I didn’t gain more. The challenge was never, for me, about weight loss, but it’s still interesting to observe the more “formal” stats, nonetheless.
So, before I jump into my thoughts on the challenge, first I want to share just the overarching details of what happened. Again, this challenge was always more for me about how I felt, but I still wanted to track the details. I’ve been trying to become more aware of my body every day (I weigh myself in the morning, I take my vitamins, I spend more time doing things like exfoliating and moisturizing), and I find that — even if it may be problematic for some — keeping track of all this is helpful to me being more present and thoughtful in my body.
So, as you can see, the changes were not incredible, but were nonetheless interesting. To that end, here are three thoughts on the challenge and their results, in no particular order:
1. By far my favorite outcome of this whole challenge is how much easier and more natural walking long periods feels to me now. I obviously didn’t hit my initial goal of 20k steps a day, but averaging well over 10k means that I now feel a little odd if I don’t end up over that 10k mark at the end of the day. One day while in Philadelphia, Marc and I went for a few long walks to different destinations, ending the day at just around 17k steps total. By the end of it, Marc was exhausted and his legs felt achey, and I felt totally normal, if not invigorated. I could have easily kept going if we didn’t need to be home. And as I’ve said from the beginning, that general feeling of a) control over my body and b) raised endurance was my biggest goal. I definitely now feel much more “fit” generally, because my resting amount of activity is much higher. And while I was burning an average of 800-1,200 calories a day, depending on my total steps and how I walked them, I never felt any substantially increased hunger. That’s honestly one of my favorite things about walking for fitness: it doesn’t disrupt your life or your other resting stats, it can just become a fluid and seamless part of how you live your life. I’ve found that has been true, even when ending days around 20k steps.
2. As I’ve already mentioned, I actually gained two pounds (particularly due to my food-filled travel), but yet I lost a little bit around my waist, which indicates to me (very un-scientifically, but still) that I gained a bit of muscle mass. At 5’6, I’ve always been a fairly noodly gal, and I can confirm now that I feel distinctly less noodly, for whatever that is worth. I am still a bit heavier than when I feel my best (light, fit, and comfortable in all my clothes for me means about 128), but I no longer feel like my body is running away from me, as it often can when I’m not paying attention to what I eat or the kind of activity I’m getting.
I actually struggled a lot as to whether or not I should post my weight tracking, because even the fact that I weigh myself each morning as part of my routine feels like something that could be attacked. But I feel firmly that, if it is not something that causes you mental distress, tracking your body’s physical stats (including weight) is a huge tool to feeling like we are the captains of our body-ships, and not just passengers. During this challenge, I actually posted a photo of myself in a new bikini, which is something I don’t usually do. And I was not looking my “fittest” by any standard, but it felt good to do it during my challenge, when I was feeling most aware of and at home in my physical form. For some, tracking one’s stats can be maddening or fuel insecurity. But I have found it to be empowering — I know myself in a more detailed way, and that makes me feel more free to accept what I have, and change what I want.
3. Overall, I’m incredibly glad that I undertook this challenge, because I’m the kind of person who is very good at deluding herself if not kept to some kind of accountability. Reaching towards such a tangible goal — 30 days, 500k steps — felt incredibly good, even if I didn’t ultimately reach it. I now feel confident in saying that my average day-to-day activity has been substantially raised, even if I am not keeping such close track of it. I now feel at my most normal when I’m walking between five and 10 miles, and I don’t feel that I had to do anything radical or even that truly challenging to make that change. One thing I’ve learned in running TFD, and therefore in having to rise to all the unexpected challenges of being a small business owner, is that you cannot expect perfection from yourself, but you can know your weaknesses (in my case, a profound tendency towards laziness), and how to best combat them (in my case, holding myself accountable with numbers and by sharing what I’m doing). In the past few years, I’ve managed to accomplish an incredible amount of things I never thought possible because I’ve gotten (relatively) good at being my own coach, and knowing what is reasonable to expect of myself. In this case, I’ll probably never be a “sporty” person, but I’m a person who can change her habits to become more fit than she was yesterday. And that, to me, is a huge victory already.
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