After I published last week’s post–“Fit as a Fiddle: the Inefficient Way”–I brushed up against a fear that stopped me dead in my steps! What if my readers thought that I actually believed in my principle of fitness inefficiency? Or, worse. What if they thought that I actually applied all of those inefficiencies to my fitness routine, day after day?
I won’t lie: I have used those inefficiencies from time to time to reach or exceed my steps-per-day goal. How else could I have come up with such outlandish strategies for getting in more and more steps. Obviously, too, my inefficient method actually does increase daily steps. As I mentioned last week, since the start of this year I have walked 782,356 steps. Yes. That’s right. 782,356 steps. Based on my gender and my stride length, that’s equivalent to 370.4 miles.
And, obviously, too, other folks do similarly outlandish things. Thank you, Chris, for owning up to the fact that you have even stopped “the car on the side of the road [to] jump up and down and walk around for ten minutes to make up for the lost steps.” I will remember that strategy!
Little wonder, then, that I felt compelled to post a “Take Two” so that I could seize the opportunity to make perfectly clear what everyone hopefully knows already. Fitness takes work. Hard work. Consistent work. Intentional work.
Trust me. I know firsthand. I’m a straight shooter when it comes to my overall fitness game, and I play it with intentionality.
Ironically, down through the years I thought that I was enjoying overall success. But a decade or so ago, my dentist discovered—during a normal checkup—some surprising and not-so-normal numbers. My blood pressure was elevated. One week later, my doctor confirmed that I had joined the ranks of one in three Americans who have high blood pressure and do not even know it.
She minced no words: I had to play my numbers better, smarter, and with greater intentionality. I suddenly realized: this is no lottery, where the odds are far too high against my winning. This is my life, where the odds are good that I can control some numbers and turn this game around.
Some numbers, I can’t control. Like my age: 74. Like my height: 5’ 8”.
But I can control other numbers. Generally, I want them low.
Like my weight. My current 181 isn’t bad, but the low 170s is my best wager. I’d like to get my body fat below 23 percent. I want to hit a range of 18 to 22. I’m getting there, slowly but surely, by eating fewer calories. By cutting 500 calories daily, I can lose one pound weekly. What a payoff!
Generally, I like my cholesterol numbers low. I want my total well below 200 mg/DL and my LDL—the bad stuff—below 100. That’s optimal. I want my triglycerides—the fat—lower than 150. But I want one number high: my HDL. Hot tip: aim for higher than 60.
I want some other numbers high, too. Like fiber. Most Americans consume 14-15 grams daily. I’m getting 30 grams plus, by eating at the bottom of the food pyramid: 6-11 daily servings of bread, rice, and grains; 3-5 of vegetables; and 2-4 of fruit. Dividends? Less body fat, reduced colon cancer risk, and lower blood sugar. Keeping my blood sugar below 120 mg/DL but no lower than 70 is keeping me from developing diabetes.
Since that initial diagnosis, I’ve been playing my exercise numbers with greater intentionality, too. 60 minutes—every day. Every other day, I go for 90. No bluffing.
With my new approach to exercise and diet—and with one pill a day—my blood pressure numbers have plummeted. I stay in a normal range of 120/80. Most days, lower. My resting heart rate is low, too. 60-100 is normal. Mine runs 60. Jackpot!
My doctor remains astounded: my blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar numbers continue to be spot-on, back-to-back wins. In fact, my numbers are so incredible that she’s always asking me for insider information! Go figure!
I’m going to keep on playing my numbers not only by the book but also with intentionality. I believe in life, and I want mine to be long, healthy, and productive. I want to hit those higher double digits: 80s and 90s. Who knows—triple digits might be grand.
It may be a long shot, but the way I look at it: if I don’t live longer, I’ll live better. Intentionally.
I have had a Fitbit since 2013 when my late partner gifted me with a Flex, the first Fitbit tracker worn on the wrist. Allen wasn’t certain that I would like this new gadget. To his great surprise and equally to his great delight, I became a Fitbit junkie, upgrading my device with every opportunity. I moved smoothly from the Flex to the Charge to the Versa and, most recently, to the Sense. All the upgrades made perfect sense to me!
My Fitbit is the first thing that I check when I awaken. I want to make certain that I made it through the night. Sometimes I pinch myself when I realize that I have made it, and, then I pinch myself again when I realize all the things that it tracks! Sleep score–duration, deep sleep and REM sleep, and restoration. Exercise readiness score. Skin temperature. Resting heart rate. Breaths per minute. Heart rate variability. Blood oxygenation. My God! I have my own 24/7 doc in a watch.
I especially like the way that my Fitbit tracks my daily steps. It nags me every hour at exactly ten minutes before the hour if I have not gotten in 250 steps. And, when I meet my hourly quota, it rewards me with titillating vibrations, followed by the sweetest message: “Goal Complete! 250/250.” That’s just the encouragement that I need to get in at least 10,000 steps a day.
On my teaching days, achieving that goal is easy. I walk all around the classroom while I talk. Of lesser importance–but important, nonetheless–I try to schedule my classrooms as far away from my office as possible. That’s a sure-fire way to rack up steps, going forth and coming back again. And to the extent that I decide not to have back-to-back classes, I can double or even triple the benefits of applying my fiddle-fit inefficiency principle.
Similarly, on my non-teaching days when I am at home, it’s never a challenge if I’m outdoors. My gardens cover a healthy acre or two, so just walking around to see what needs to be done places me well above 10,000 steps. If I’m actually working in the gardens–let’s say mulching–that usually takes me over 20,000 steps. But, sadly, I can’t mulch and garden every day.
Many days, I am indoors, neither gardening nor teaching. I have found that the best way for me to reach and exceed 10,000 steps on those days is to be inefficient! I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but it actually works.
The principle is basic and elementary. Forget–absolutely forget–multi-tasking. Instead take any task, break it into as many sub-tasks as possible–the more, the better–and perform everything at the sub-task level.
Performing everything at the inefficient, sub-task level works so well that since the start of this year I have walked 782,356 steps. Yes. That’s right. 782,356 steps. Based on my gender and my stride length, that’s equivalent to 370.4 miles.
I made this remarkable discovery about the power of inefficiency quite by accident, just like so many other great scientific advances. Coca-Cola. Cornflakes. Velcro. Viagra.
I remember the exact circumstance when I had my breakthrough moment.
I had gone grocery shopping, but I was nowhere near getting in my 10,000 fitness steps. When I drove into my driveway, I started thinking. The distance from my Jeep to my kitchen door is about 75 steps. I could easily carry my four or five bags of groceries inside at the same time. But what the heck. I need steps. This is where inefficiency steps in. Let’s see. If I leave the groceries in the Jeep and walk to the kitchen door, unlock it, and walk back to the Jeep, I add 150 steps. Then if I take one bag at a time, I will walk 150 steps every trip. Multiply that by four trips–one trip for each bag plus the initial trip to unlock the door–and suddenly my inefficiency has boosted my customary 75 steps to 750 steps.
My fit-as-fiddle inefficiency principle is equally efficient when performing routine household chores. Vacuuming is a good example. My vacuum cord easily reaches from the kitchen through the dining room and into the living room. If I didn’t need steps, I could just vacuum all three rooms before unplugging and moving on. But I get more steps by using the kitchen electrical outlet while vacuuming the kitchen. Then I take the vacuum and plug it in to the farthermost electrical outlet in the dining room and continue vacuuming. Then I do the same as I move to the living room. That simple action earns me slightly more than an additional 100 steps above the 3,186 steps required to vacuum those three rooms. Imagine how many steps my inefficiency will help me achieve as I vacuum the entire house.
One of my favorite applications of getting fit through inefficiency involves dusting furniture. I never ever start the task with furniture polish in one hand and dust cloth in the other. No way. That’s too efficient. I put both down somewhere as far away as possible from the furniture to be dusted. Then I step forth with just the polish. I apply it. Next I return the polish to the original staging area, pick up the cloth, and return. I wipe. I shine. Then I return the cloth to the original staging spot. I continue that process while dusting my entire home. When I finish, I am fit or fit to be tied. Sometimes, both.
And I simply must share with you how remarkably efficient I am with kitchen inefficiencies. For example, if I’m standing at the sink and I need something out of the cabinet immediately to my left, I could walk a step or two in that direction and get it. Far better, though, is to walk to my right and go all the way around my kitchen island in order to get to the cabinet that was within arm’s reach to my left. That gives me 45 steps. Imagine all the stepping opportunities that I can take advantage of, just by preparing breakfast alone. Add to that lunch and dinner. Gracious me! I just had a brilliant idea! What if I apply that same principle to drying and putting away dishes! Inefficiency can step up any meal, any time of day.
Here’s another thing that I do. Phone calls–whether incoming or outgoing–provide a perfect time to get fit through inefficiency. Instead of sitting down and sipping a cup of coffee while talking, I get up out of my chair and walk. I have tried walking around one room and that’s good. Better still, though, is walking back and forth between two rooms. Best of all is walking all around the house. That’s especially good for me since I have a two-story home. That boosts my steps and my heart rate at the same time. I admit that when I apply my fit-as-a-fiddle inefficiency principle to phone calls, I have to watch my steps as well as my phone manners.
If I really need more steps in a day, I never–absolutely never–return anything to its rightful home. I put them all in one place, ideally as far away from where they belong as possible. Then, when I have time–but always before the end of the day–I step my items back to their homes, item by item by item. Those steps accumulate quickly, and I enjoy the double joy of seeing my home as uncluttered as it should be.
Another one that I like is walking from my office to take my coffee cup back upstairs to the kitchen for a refill. En route, I saunter past my aquarium and realize that I need to turn on the light. Rather than do it right then and there, I continue to take my coffee cup upstairs and set it down. Then I walk back downstairs and turn on the aquarium light. Afterwards, I go back upstairs to refill my coffee cup, and walk back downstairs to my office, thereby gaining a total of 312 inefficient steps.
Or if I want to get downright physical about it, when I’m lifting weights at home, I don’t just stand there between sets looking in the mirror at the muscles that I hope to see. Instead, I find something to do. Sometimes I just step over to another mirror on the far side of the room to look at the muscles that I hope to see. Then I run my comb through the hair that I don’t have as much of as I used to have. Here’s a sweet trick: if I swing my Fitbit arm sufficiently while combing what I wish I had more of, I add a few more steps to my day.
I have so many more examples to share that I could step this post out to the length of an entire book. But why tell all at once? Maybe I could find a co-author–another inefficient Fitbit stepper–and make it twice as long. And, frankly, on days when I am desperate for steps, group authorship has even crossed my mind.
So what if it takes me longer to get to wherever it is that I am going? So what if it takes me longer to do whatever it is that I am doing? Whenever I arrive wherever–for whatever– I’ll step out as fit as a fiddle.