Tuesday, January 20, 2009

walking as a realistic form of exercise, or not--

I mentioned in passing, as one of my quick takes, losing some weight during a semester overseas.  It didn't stay off.  The circumstances that went into my losing it were completely unsustainable . . . something I've thought about over the years.  What is sustainable?  What are our expectations with regards to food, exercise, etc.?  A few reflections on that semester:

1.  Forced dieting: Cut intake, will you or nil you.  The cafeteria plan was 13 meals a week.  Breakfast and dinner, Monday through Saturday, and lunch on Sunday.  Mostly, I tried to force feed myself enough breakfast to get me through to dinner, with occasional snacks and fast food for lunch if I got too desperately hungry during the day.  Not a sustainable eating schedule.  In addition, the cafeteria cooking was terrible--even though I was horribly hungry by dinner time, there were times that I really couldn't face eating very much of what they were serving.  I've never been a breakfast person, and four months of making myself eat breakfast when I didn't want to didn't help that.  It wasn't exactly the polar opposite of how I would feed myself, but . .  Conclusion:  Real changes in eating habits have to take into account what and how you could/will feed yourself, left to your own devices.  (xkcd 418).

2.  Exercise I, Time available:   All that walking took a lot of time.  I had the time to spend then . . . I had a light class load that semester, and I had just me to worry about.  My schedule now is busier and more constricted with three little kids.  Conclusion:  I run late.  Shouldn't be, but it is.  Real change has to take into account not just what things ought to be, but what they are.  I have a car available to me, and I'm going to take it.  I can't afford the extra hours out of my day it would take walk everywhere, even it . . .

3.  Exercise II, Cargo:  Three kids, fully loaded diaper bag.  A load of groceries and the dozen hard cover picture books you picked up at story hour.  Couldn't pack it in a backpack.  Don't want to.

4.  Exercise III, Heartrate and Effective workout:  As noted, I was too broke to take the bus.  It was a mile one way from the dorms to where my classes were and I was always running late.  With a fully loaded backpack.  So a lot of the time, I wasn't just walking those miles I put in during the week, I was jog-trotting them, trying to get to class on time.  This provided actual exercise.  Elevated heart rate.  All that.  It's basically impossible to walk at a rate that can provide actual exercise with two or more children in tow.  They simply can't keep up a pace that makes it worth it for an adult.  Conclusion:  The "If I just walked places instead of driving I would get my exercise" line doesn't work for mothers of small children, except for a few hyper-organized ones with double and triple strollers and baby backpacks and grade-schoolers biking while the moms speed-walk.  

4.  Exercise IV, Convenience:  It was a five mile roundtrip trek downtown to church, Sunday mornings.  This being Scotland, a lot of those were in the rain.  On an empty stomach--remember, only lunch on Sundays.  I highly dislike being out in inclement weather.  Under the circumstances, I'm surprised that I actually made it to services most Sundays.  

All in all it was a set of lifestyle changes which were exterior, not interior.  Not worthless for all that though.  They showed that though these were not changes that I would have chosen for myself I was perfectly capable of handling them.  That wasn't something I'd known.  I also had a great time on a lot of those long walks by myself (when it was sunny).  They were time to think, pray and reflect.  Time to dream and notice.  I loved exploring on foot, poking my nose into forgotten corners, dawdling my way through whatever it occured to me to look into.

1 comment:

Happy said...

not half-baked... tho you did spell "if" "it" at one point... :)

no, not a realistic form of exercise at all. but relaxing, in the summer, even with the entourage...as long as they're not throwing themselves on the sidewalk in fits. then it's up with visiting the Y in subzero temperatures at night... ;)