If you had told me this time last year that half my laundry each week would be in the form of workout clothes, I would have laughed hysterically. For me, exercise is something that often goes along with avoidance behavior. Don’t want to write an article? Jump on the elliptical (it’s work/productivity)! It is also something that I tend to say I’m going to do starting around January, and by February, I’m sleeping in again.
The last two years have been a time of transition for me. 2014 was definitely the year to Get Happy. And 2015 has turned out to be the year to Get Healthy. Since last January, I have been keeping an eye on food and exercise in a way I never have. And it shows. I feel stronger and more flexible than I have since college, which is really my goal. I haven’t been “dieting” or “cutting carbs” or anything–just eating slightly less, cooking at home, and making sure I move around more. And yes, I’ve lost weight, but in healthy, consistent ways.I’ve had an Apple Watch (38mm Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band) since June and have come to appreciate many of its functions. Without question, my favorite feature is getting navigation steps on my wrist rather than having to look down at my phone while driving. But the apps I use most by far are the Activity and Workout apps. For the first several months, I kept myself aware of the parameters it was monitoring–Move, Exercise, and Stand–but I really didn’t care too much about them. But with the increasingly shorter autumn days and the lack of sunlight making me crabby (and knowing that exercise really helps), I made the decision to shoot for a perfect month in November: 290 calories of movement, 30 minutes of exercise, and 12 hours of standing/moving each hour for 30 days. Looming holiday weight gain was also another motivating factor (last year’s for me was about 4 pounds).
First, some statistics: I’m 30, 5’0″, and my basal metabolic rate is roughly 1352 calories per day (I’m currently shooting for 1200 calories of food a day if I don’t exercise). I set a goal of 290 calories of additional movement per day–a goal that was totally doable on days I went to the gym (a “normal” gym day plus my normal movement gets me in at closer to 385 calories) but slightly difficult on days off. These parameters allowed this 30 day challenge to myself to actually be a challenge. Luckily, I had friends along for the ride to keep me on track (thanks, B, B, S, and T!).
And now, Some Things I Learned About Myself and the Watch in November:
- I don’t move enough when I’m working – the Watch, if you enable the feature, reminds you to stand up at the :50s of every hour if you haven’t moved around. Standing is not enough–you’ve got to move around a little (or, as I learned, do 30 squats). If I’m really focused on writing or grading, I apparently can sit in place for 3-4 hours straight. Everything I’ve ever been told about working at computers (or working in general) states that you should take small breaks every hour to move around and focus. Having a reminder to do that (and a daily goal of 12 hours of standing) really helped me to realize how sedentary graduate school can make me sometimes. And I’ve found that at the end of a day of writing where I move around appropriately, I’m far less stiff at night.
- Lazy Sundays really are lazy – by far, the most difficult day each week for me was Sunday. My gym access is at work, which I’m at MWF. On TTh, I generally walk downtown to work. On Saturdays, my brother and I usually run errands and I do stuff around my apartment. Sundays are total slug days, meant for catching up on TV, grading, and general lack of changing out of pajamas. There were days that I had to exercise for nearly an hour at night just to make up for how little I had done during the day (and getting motivated to do that at 7:30 p.m. wasn’t always easy). Luckily, I had friends keeping me motivated when I couldn’t find the motivation myself.
- It’s possible to psych out the Watch – The first three weeks of this challenge were hard but doable; I would exercise before bed if I had not met my goals by the end of the day. But by week four, holiday travel got in the way, and there were times that I simply could not stand up each hour (being stuck in the car for 7.5 hours on the Sunday after Thanksgiving will do that). Fist-pumping raises your blood pressure and moves your arm around enough to make the watch think you’re moving (in some cases, it also gives you exercise minutes). Bumpy car rides also psych it out–according to my Sunday statistics, I was moving around a little bit all day on Sunday. So you might be asking, how accurate are the metrics? When used normally, the metrics seem to be very accurate. But as with all new tech, it’s not perfect yet. So technically, did I have a Perfect Month? No… But I did stay mindful daily of taking care of myself, so in that way, yes, it was perfect.
- Aristotle was right about habits – Several things kept me motivated this month: not letting my friends also doing this 30 day challenge win/beat me (this was a huge motivator), wanting to continue this year of positive life-changes, wanting to stay ahead of the winter blues. By the end of this month, though, I found myself feeling ooky on days I wasn’t moving around enough. And consistent exercise every day made gym goals (including increasing weight at my BodyPump class) come easier. I find myself breathing easier during cardio and feeling less fatigued after 30-45 minutes of hard exercise. Many people say it takes 21 days to make something a habit (though others argue that depending on the difficulty of the habit, it could take longer), and on some level, I think that was part of what made that last week so hard–getting over that hurdle. While this month (and all of my life changes this year) weren’t about losing weight, I did find that this consistent movement helped me break through a weight plateau I’ve been waffling around since May. But I’m less concerned about weight and more about strength, and I’m definitely stronger now.
So what does that say about the coming month? I’ve already been challenged by my peers to keep going (and, conversely, to keep supporting them of course), but with all of the upcoming travel I have for Christmukkah, I worry that this will cause more stress than good (plus, not gonna lie, it’s gray and gross outside, and I just want to stay on the couch). But the voice in the back of my head, augmented by writing all this up, is reminding me just how much better I’ve felt this month. So yeah, I’ll probably try. Plus, the app is already peer pressuring me in continuing…