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January 6, 2012

One foot in front of the other

This first week of the year is known in my neighborhood for the appearance of two things:

1) Mysteriously growing piles of poor, dried-out Christmas trees on the curb.

2) A flood of new exercisers on the sidewalks each morning who are hell-bent on fulfilling New Year's Resolutions but haven't yet figured out you must push the button for the crosswalk to give you a walk sign. PUSH THE BUTTON.

Yes, it is true, if you arrive at the crosswalk first it is your duty to push the button. If you do not push the button in Los Angeles, you do not get the crosswalk man. Without the crosswalk man, people in cars think it is OK to drive into you. New exercisers, take heed.

A few days ago I got this message from Karen on Twitter who nudged me to say,

@crazyauntpurl, I could sure use another inspiring post about walking.

I'm not sure if this will inspire you or entice you to send me heavy medication, but below is a little graph, courtesy of Nike.com, that shows how much pavement-pounding I did in 2011:

(click to enlarge)

(Oh, so many things I wish we could merely click to enlarge.)

According to my Nike+ chip, in 2011 I completed 246 workouts, walked for 331 hours and 47 minutes and burned 187,681 calories. The calorie count is not accurate at all but is still amusing.

What's crazypants is that I walked an astonishing 1, 172.93 miles, which is just about the distance from my home here in Los Angeles to Oklahoma City. That tally doesn't count all the shlepping I did in Washington, D.C. (I forgot my sportsband that weekend) and it is all the more impressive since apparently I didn't move from my sofa for the entire month of January. Take that, New Year's Resolutions!

This is the time of year when every magazine and TV news program and website and weight-loss business cashes in on our perennial self-loathing and peppermint bark regrets and showers us with information on diet and exercise. Every cover story mentions cutting calories, working out, celebrity diet secrets and "Half their size!" (I bought it, by the way. I always buy that issue of People magazine. I am not immune.)

Inevitably each success story includes gems about "portion control" and "strength training twice a week" and "I allow myself a small piece of chocolate, but don't overindulge." I am waiting for the article that talks about accidentally ordering a large pepperoni lover's pizza to celebrate the day so-and-so made it through her first spinning class. Oh wait! That was me!

I feel proud of my imbalanced and simultaneously impressive graph of footsteps. It reminds me that one does not have to be perfect or even completely consistent to be successful at something. (No matter how you stack it, walking over 1100 miles in one year is a success.) But look at January -- nothing. Nada. And there were some slow dips mid-year when it was eleventy-nine hundred degrees outside and I was less than motivated to move. Still, by year's end I was a little walking machine. Lacing up my shoes and getting on the road is my favorite part of the day.

Now it's 2012 and I have so many goals for this year, so many hopes and keep-my-fingers-crossed dreams and to-do lists and tasks and work, work, work. At the beginning of every year I feel optimistic and hopeful. Secretly I also feel scared and worried about momentum. What does the year ahead hold?

When a slump comes or a month brings a whole lot of nothing, I want to look back at my little 2011 walking chart and remind myself that as long as I don't give up I can actually walk all the way from Hollywood to Oklahoma City one step at a time. It is perhaps one of my cheesier metaphors, and I don't care, I am the one after all who celebrated spinning class with a pizza.

It is important to note that two years ago I could barely walk around the block without needing a sherpa. For a whole year I would get up on the first day of each month and challenge myself: this month, take a small walk each day. I consistently failed. I would miss a day here, a day there, I don't think I ever made it the full 30 days for a whole year! But I never gave up. I just kept going, and one day I stopped counting days because all days were walking days.

Like most people I used to mix up exercise and weight loss. I thought that I had to exercise so I could lose weight, and that just made me irritated and guilty. I'm not sure when exercise and weight loss started to become separate ideas, but that split has certainly changed my outlook on movement. I like being outside and seeing all the people with their dogs and looking at the yards and storefronts and flowering trees. I like going to yoga (even though I have the worst Downward Dog in the whole class) (who sucks at Downward Dog??) I like my weird dance classes and I like hula-hooping.

On New Year's Day, instead of getting up and resolving once again to start a desperately determined exercise program I just laced up my shoes and went for a walk.

No one has time to exercise, you make time. I made time. I moved my whole life around to make time. No one likes getting started and realizing they're out of shape. No one enjoys the first trip around the block. And no one ever becomes perfect. Some people still order pizza as a reward for pedaling a bike to nowhere.

The chart reminds me that perfection isn't the goal and that perfection will never happen. I finally get that you don't have to be perfect to accomplish something. I look at the chart and I realize I was flawed, I was erratic some days, I was not even on the pavement for a whole month -- and still I walked 1, 172.93 miles.

I just didn't give up. That's all I have to remember for 2012. Keep walking. Don't give up.

And push the button!

Posted by laurie at January 6, 2012 10:54 AM