Walking Back to Happiness: Fitness for Mind, Body and Soul

It’s official. I am an over achiever.

Hard to believe if you were to look at my modest collection of qualifications and my even more modest income, but it’s true.

At least, according to my Fitbit.  But frankly, I’ll take validation wherever it comes from.

Yesterday I managed 21,092 steps, exceeding my 10,000 steps-per-day goal by more than 11,000. In total, just over fourteen kilometres.

It was the fourth time this week that my phone had lit up with that little message full of perky exclamation marks.

I know that the regularity with which I exceed my steps goal would suggest that I should set a higher daily target, but the truth is, I can’t get enough of the feeling I get when my phone lights up with the message: ‘Over achiever!’

I bloody love it. I feel smug. And healthy.

Because let’s not forget, this is activity based.

This week, I interviewed a woman whose PhD research had revealed that men aged 45 – 54 are more sedentary than pensioners aged over 75, whilst women in the same age range beat the pensioners by a mere six minutes.

The message is: Sitting Kills!

I have long been a fan of walking, but it wasn’t until I bought my first Fitbit that I became more committed to the activity.

Activity trackers quickly become addictive and, when you have an addictive personality like mine (it’s the reason I daren’t venture into the world of online pornography) it takes just a matter of days before you’re obsessing about your step count.

When I lost my Fitbit, I was all at sea. Ok so I might still have been getting the steps in, but without some form of acknowledgement from an external agency, I felt I might just as well not have bothered. They didn’t count.

It took me a while to get over that and in the meantime, I bought a dog.

Walking my dog has become a hugely important part of my day. It has become totally ritualised.

It starts with my outfit: a pair of lycra running tights (redundant since 2011 when I vowed never to go running again), a waterproof tweed shooting jacket bought it in a sale for £30 and a pair of Wellibobs (who the bloody hell came up with that name?) which had been garaged since I bought them in 2008.

If you remember Max Wall, I look a bit like that.

I fill my pockets with Ludo’s kibble, alert to the fact that all dog treats are just the most almighty rip off, and I chop up a frankfurter from Lidl’s, pop the pieces into a teeny tiny Tupperware and pocket that too.

And off we go for the hour.

It’s an hour during which I sort out my head.

Fashionable types of my acquaintance have been going mad for Mindfulness over the past couple of years. They’ve signed up for expensive courses and bought books, the cost (in both time and money) of which seem only to have added to the stress they’re trying to combat.

I first heard about Mindfulness when I was on holiday in Italy. A couple from North London had clearly begun a course and were reading the associated literature around the resort swimming pool.

Out loud. And at volume.

There didn’t seem to be anything mindful, at least not of the other guests, about that.

I was minded to punch him and run, but that appeared to be the only immediate effect of the instructions he was ploughing through.

I don’t think Mindfulness is my bag.

But my walking my dog definitely is.

Walking my dog gives me time to plan my day, prioritising the to-do list.

It gives me the opportunity to rehearse difficult conversations, like the one I had with my boss this week where I asked for a pay rise and gently pointed out the glaring inadequacies of the senior management.

It gives me the chance to reflect on my relationships and to talk myself down from escalating domestic issues arising from the European Mountains of Laundry, Paperwork and General Crap which seem to define our living space.

Some mornings, I talk myself through what I’m going to write about that day.

My husband bought me a new Fitbit for Christmas, but it’s no longer the motivator it once was.

Now, it’s a satisfying reminder that I’m keeping insanity at bay.

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