Some people say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, but I've also heard 28 days. Since I'm stubborn and a slow learner, I'm giving myself a month to establish a new habit. This blog will document each month's habits. Please join me!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Daily Exercise Habit -- Days 12-20 -- Consistency and Commitment

Much to my surprise, I've exercised EVERY SINGLE DAY in September so far.  There were a couple of times when I didn't want to, but was glad that I did.  It's definitely becoming a habit.  In fact, one day I was going to skip it, but by 7:30 pm, I just didn't feel right and had to take a walk.  So, here's what I've done.

Day 12 -- Core work and light upper body weights -- I hurt for 3 days after that. Must need to do more.

Day 13 -- Walked the dog for an hour at a moderately brisk pace.  We covered more than 3 miles.

Day 14 -- Walked the dog at "sniffing pace" for 25 minutes.

Day 15-- Walked almost 2 hours and almost 7 miles!  According to my half-marathon training plan, it was supposed to be 5-6 miles but we got a bit carried away.  For a brief moment I was worried about whether this was good for the dog.  Then I realized that if a 48 year old human can do it, a 3 1/2 year old dog can.  Silly me. 

Day 16 -- A brief 15 minute walk.  This was the one that I felt compelled to go on, in spite of myself. 

Day 17 -- 40 minute dog walk

Day 18 -- Walk dog for an hour doing interval work.  Fitbit said it was 7226 steps and about 3.5 miles. 

Day 19 --  Walked my dog and a friend's dog for 40ish minutes.  The other dog had been stuck at home for a couple weeks following his owner's surgery.  He was eager to sniff and explore. 

Day 20 --   Walk dog 4 miles in 70 minutes.  I tried a slow jog for about 100 yards to see if my knee thought it would be ok.  It felt tight later in the day, so it's not in the cards for now.

Today is day 21 and I haven't done anything yet.  Can't break the routine though. 

  • I want to do some additional core and weight work. Walking is great, but not enough.
  • Setting the goal of walking a half-marathon is a fantastic motivator. 
  • Still feeling good energy levels throughout the day if I've exercised in the morning. 
  • The biggest success has been my son telling me that he's impressed with my consistency and commitment.  Even if there were no other benefits to my daily exercise habit, that comment made it all worthwhile. 

I also decided to start counting my Weight Watchers food and activity points. Exercise alone just doesn't do it considering a 3 mile walk is about the equivalent of two chocolate chip cookies.   I'm only a couple days into it, but looking forward to my clothes fitting more comfortably.  Check back for more info about that.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Daily Exercise Habit -- Days 10 & 11 -- Exercise is Good for your Brain

We've all heard that exercise can help manage diabetes, decrease blood pressure, and decrease your cancer risk.  But, it's also good for your brain.  After cruising around the internet on the Google-mobile, I found some pretty interesting benefits:

Improves Memory  A recent Dartmouth study concluded that regular exercise can improve memory. One piece of this research that was particularly interesting was that the group who had been regular exercisers and then exercised right before the memory test out performed the group of regular exercisers who didn't exercise right before the test.  My personal conclusion is that if you're studying for a test or have something you are trying to memorize, take a few minutes and exercise first.

Strengthen Brain Cells  If you spent too much of your youth killing off brain cells, you might want to see if you can strengthen or even regenerate some of them. In this study they found that mice who had been exercising regularly had more active growth in their brain cells than the sedentary group.  Cool, huh?  An article in Smart Brains says, "Through increased blood flow to the brain, phys­i­cal exer­cise trig­gers bio­chem­i­cal changes that spur neu­ro­plas­tic­ity – the pro­duc­tion of new con­nec­tions between neu­rons and even of neu­rons them­selves. Brain exer­cise then pro­tects these fledg­ling neu­rons by bathing them in a nerve growth fac­tor and form­ing func­tional con­nec­tions with neigh­bor­ing neu­rons. Dr. Gage’s work of the Salk Insti­tute for Bio­log­i­cal Stud­ies, have shown that exer­cise helps gen­er­ate new brain cells, even in the aging brain."

Improves Mood  Exercise makes you feel better.  In fact, it's been found to be a reasonable substitute for antidepressants for some patients. One theory is that exercise increases the production of  neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and seretonin.   I tend to get seasonal depression during the Fall and Winter months.  It'll be a good test to see if my mood is better this year with regular exercise.  If I can avoid those days of just wanting to hibernate, it'll be fantastic!

There are a bazillion other benefits of exercise, but these are a pretty good reason in and of themselves.

Anyway, let's talk more about me and what I've been up to.

Day 10 -- Pilates workout on TV for 15 minutes.  Ehh, it was ok.  I definitely need to work on my core strength.

Day 11 -- Walk the dog for almost an hour.  Based on the half-marathon training plan that I downloaded, I used today as an interval training day.  Basically, I'd choose a landmark that was one to two blocks ahead and walk at a much quicker pace to that point.  I did this probably 10 times during the walk.  I've done this route a lot over the last 15 years and it was a bit quicker today. Yay for intervals.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Daily Exercise Habit -- Days 8-9 -- Goin' to the Dogs

OK, really I was just walking the dog. She's a 3 1/2 year-old hyper black lab.  Yesterday, which was Saturday, we walked 4.66 miles and according to my Fitbit, I burned 600 calories.  Today we walked 5.5 miles most of which was the same route as yesterday with a little extra thrown in.  The floor counter on my Fitbit wasn't working right today and it said I'd only done 10 floors, which was way wrong.  Yesterday it said I did 35.  Nevertheless, I walked and walked and it felt like a great accomplishment. 

The added bonus was that the dog slept in two, count 'em two! additional hours this morning.  That didn't seem to slow her down on today's walk, though.  Our vet says that labs can go forever and that's definitely the case with Java.

This got me wondering about whether there were any weight loss programs based on dog walking. Although I didn't find any specific programs, there was an interesting study where people who walked a dog lost an average of 14 lbs in a year.  "The dog-walkers in the study started by walking 10 minutes per day three times per week and eventually walked up to 20 minutes per day 5 days per week. One group walked for 50 weeks while another walked for only 26 weeks."  You'll be shocked to learn that ultimately, the group that walked for 50 weeks lost more than those in the 26 week program.  Oops, my sarcastic tone might have come through there. 

The endorphins started getting a little overactive by the end of today's walk and I started thinking about walking a half-marathon in a couple months.  I ran this same half-marathon 9 years ago.  Am I willing to put in the hours of training to walk it?  It takes a lot longer to walk 13.1 miles than it does to run it.  Oy!


Friday, September 7, 2012

Daily Exercise Habit -- Days 5 -7 -- Getting into the groove

Wa-hoo, I was down 1 lb on the scale.  I'm crossing my fingers that this isn't a fluke.  The thing about the exercise habit is that it has side effects like wanting to eat healthier and drinking more water.  Plus, my energy level has been a little higher, so I've been more active in general.  Maybe it's a coincidence, but I sure hope not!

Day 5 -- Did a workout through On Demand on Comcast.  I know these aren't really free because we're paying for cable, but it still feels like a free exercise video.  I love that you can choose from beginner to advanced, the length of the workout, and what type of activity you want.  I don't love that I notice how dirty my carpet is when I'm doing crunches on the carpet.  I swear I vacuum regularly.  Wow, four sentences beginning with "I" and multiple other uses of the word.   What a narcissist.

Day 6 -- Walked the dog after dinner.  We went 35 minutes which was about 4000 steps  and burned >200 calories.  Unfortunately, it got a little dark, so I need to walk her earlier.  It did cause me to pick up the pace through the heavily wooded area.

Day 7 -- Another TV workout.  It was 24 minutes, and they claim that it's the equivalent of a 2 mile walk.  Unlike a walk, it's got upper body moves  so it feels like a better workout.  The dog got nuthin' out of this though. 


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Daily Exercise Habit -- Days 2-4

Woo-hoo, I've been meeting my goal of exercising each day.  I know it's only the 4th day, but if I hadn't set the goal, I guarantee you I would have skipped a couple of days.  So, here's the scoop...

Day 2 -- This was garage sale day, so after setting everything up, I mostly sat on my tush.  Because of the daily exercise goal, I walked to pick up the signs that we posted in the neighborhood.  Without the goal, I'm sure I would have driven.  Pathetic, I know.

Day 3--  I dusted off the medicine ball and did about 20 minutes with it:  Russian twists, chops, lunges, etc.  It wasn't a ton, but I seriously feel it in my glutes today.  The good news is that my knee is fine.  It was giving me trouble a couple years ago and lunges would have killed it.  I'll still take it slowly, but am happy that it didn't object.

Day 4 -- Walked the dog for almost an hour.  According to the Fitbit, it was about 6,000 steps, 300 calories and 35 floors climbed.  As you can tell, I live in a hilly neighborhood. 

Wednesday, tomorrow, is weigh-in day and I'll report the news.  Keeping my fingers crossed.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Daily Exercise Habit -- Day 1

Today's the first day of my daily exercise habit.  With a busy weekend schedule, I wasn't sure how to work exercise into my day, but got creative.  We're having a yard sale tomorrow, so rather than driving, I walked around the neighborhood to put up signs.  According to my Fitbit, it ended up being about 8,000 steps which was 3.4 miles, and the hills equated to 38 flights of stairs. 

I like the Fitbit because it helps me track my activity level, calories burned, flights of stairs and number of steps.   No, I'm not being paid to say this.  One of the other cool things about it is that it tracks everything online for you.  You can even enter in your food consumption so you can track calories in vs. calories out. 

After my walk, I felt a bit more centered and calm.  I forget how exercise does that for me.  I'd been quite cranky earlier.  Note to self: when feeling cranky, if at all possible, get some exercise!