The same way we know we tend to – and maybe should, maybe shouldn’t – separate work and life, we tend to put our everyday activities and our training time into different boxes. We separate when we should integrate.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go out and run, do yoga, go climbing, if you want to relax, stay fit, run a marathon. I rather like extraordinary endeavors myself, and they need training time.
Neither should (house)work be the only physical activity you do, even if it consumes calories.
Still, fitness comes at least as much from the lifestyle as it does from the training sessions. Thus, a big part of how a decent level of fitness is gained is through the everyday level of activity.
The problem is not just the wider, ecological, wackiness of driving to a gym by car to exert oneself on the stationary bike, it is even more fundamental. After all, a few hours of training time (if it even amounts to that) are nothing compared to days spent sitting in the office.
This is, of course, where admonishments to take the stairs and not the elevator, to walk instead of taking the car, come from. Here, as in so much of (supposedly) modern life, the aim of comfort and convenience sounds nice, but actually has dire consequences. And, even knowing that, it is also here that it is really hard to do better – maybe exactly because it is easy.
Heroic efforts get all too much attention; even overweight apparently has to follow the classical dramatic arch: without a crisis coming to a head, a cathartic moment of tragic awareness, and a Herculean effort (or, when it comes to weight, typically more of a Sisyphus-like labor), there seems to be just not enough pressure to overcome the inertia that gets one mired in everyday conveniences.
Some awareness of budding problems may be around, like a low-level hum of anxiousness – but it often proves only enough to build uncomfortable feelings that are drowned out by shopping, or parties, or food, or alleviated by buying a gym membership. Maybe a few classes are even taken before the busyness and inconvenience kick in again, and the feeling of doing too little ends up adding to the anxiousness.
The little bits of an everyday-active lifestyle just fade in comparison – unless you don’t let them.
For one, the “too little, too easy” they may feel to be can be used to your advantage. After all, if taking a few extra steps seems worthless for fitness goals, doesn’t that also mean that it is so easy, you can just as well do it? When a few steps are easy, why not also take a few flights of stairs? Isn’t it silly to wait for the elevator when you could just as well walk?
Secondly, with ways of making that “too little, too easy” activity get into awareness, it quickly becomes apparent just how little we may be doing every day – and how quickly a little more activity adds up. Again, it is with the rise of the “quantified self”-movement that more (and nicer) technologies for doing just that have become widely available.
The FitBit tracker, for example, builds on the idea of using a pedometer to measure how many steps you take in a day. However, in using an accelerometer, it has become more sensitive, so that it can not only be measured how many steps were taken in a day (and by now, how many stairs were climbed), but also how the day is divided into periods of sedentary, light, or heavy activity (and a little insight into sleep patterns can also be provided).
Moreover, with the online dashboard to which the data is uploaded and where it is nicely presented, it is easy to see not only activity in a day, but also compare over time. Of course, there are also elements of gamification – you get badges for a certain number of steps/stairs/distances, etc., and friends can be informed, even competitions held with or against each other.
(The dashboard/website also offers room to enter other health-/fitness-related data such as blood pressure measurements or food logging; it can also receive and visualize the weight and body fat data recorded with the Withings body scale mentioned in the last post.)
Finally, attitude or self-perception also hold great sway.
Once you think about your life, what do you think about it? When it comes to fitness-related perception, many (if not most) thoughts just seem to revolve around undesired points. Too much fat here, too few muscles, too little shaping, there; a bit too much weight; not enough fitness, and not enough willpower to do anything much about it. That may not be what really matters, though.
What matters more is how you define yourself, in terms of who you are.
As a human being, you are a learner (not like school, but in and about life). A mover and shaker. An explorer, perhaps. A “live-r,” maybe. Certainly made to move, to run, to rest – but not to sit all the time. So… Act like it.
Start by telling me what you think, or what other suggestions you’d have. I’d love to hear them.