Monday, June 30, 2014

The Pros and Cons of a Fitbit or Other Step Counter

If you have been reading this blog (or follow me on Instagram) for a while, you know that I love my Fitbit Zip . It has motivated me to walk more, and I estimate that I now walk at least 3,000 to 5,000 steps more each day than before I got it (it’s really difficult for me to know exactly how much more I walk as I pretty much changed how much I walk the day I got it…). Before my Fitbit, I would have told you that there was no way for me to walk that much more. But tracking my steps and seeing how active (or inactive!) I am, really gets me moving. And walking more is not only good for my body but especially for my mind.

Here are some photos from recent hikes and walks:

Walk 01Walk 02Walk 03Walk 04Walk 05Walk 06

My Fitbit certainly makes me walk more. Since I check my Fitbit throughout the day, I get instant feedback on how much I’ve been walking. Over the past 1.5 years, I have found numerous ways to sneak in steps:
  • 10 minutes walking equals approximately 1,000 steps; to reach the daily recommended 10,000 steps, all you have to do is go for ten 10-minute walks. It’s a doable way to get those steps! I try to go for a short walk after each class I teach, and I also take a walking break every hour when I prep and correct papers.
  • Every minute counts! I used to think it wasn’t worth it to go for a walk unless I had at least half an hour. Now I get out of the house for frequent short walks: 20, 10, or even 5 minute mini walks.
  • Looking at my Fitbit reminds me to get up and walk around at least once per hour.
  • I now often walk when I am on the phone, an easy way to get steps…
While there are many pros of using a step counter, there are also some cons. The default daily step goal for the Fitbit is 10,000 steps. For most people that’s close to 5 miles (how many miles you walk when you take 10,000 steps depends on your stride length; usually, the taller your are and the longer your legs are, the longer your stride length).

10,000 steps is a lot, especially for someone who isn’t used to walking a lot. If you have an office job and don’t go for a long walk, it’s likely you are not anywhere near 10,000 steps on most days. It can be overwhelming to try to reach that goal. I think a better goal would be to increase your daily steps by maybe 1,000 or 2,000 steps and make that your goal for a week or two. Then you can increase your goal again, if you like.

The Fitbit lets you be friends with other Fitbit users. This can be very motivating, but it can also make you too competitive. I know I can’t compete with my long distance running friends, but it can still be frustrating when they log over 20,000 steps day after day after day… It’s important to know when to stop being competitive! 

The Fitbit only keeps track of the steps you take and not other activities. I often take barre classes and challenging yoga classes. However, since I take hardly any steps during these classes, it can look like I was just sitting on my behind all day… The same is true for weight lifting, swimming, etc. It’s very frustrating when I come home from a challenging barre class and my legs feel like jello, go for a 30-minute walk, and have only 3,000 to 4,000 steps to show for.

Finally, while I think it’s a good idea to get at least 10,000 steps daily on average, I think it’s okay (and even necessary) to have a low step day once in a while and rest. If you go for a 45 minute walk and don’t move much the rest of the day, you’ll like end up only getting between 5,000 to 6,000 steps. But I think that’s okay. Don’t let your Fitbit may make you feel “bad” about it! 

Overall, I would definitely recommend getting a step counter. We all have Fitbit Zips, and it has been a great tool to motivate us to walk more. Even the older kid, who was skeptical and told me he “didn’t have time to walk,” has come around and is walking now a lot more. But at the same time, it’s important to not take it too far and become obsessed with it. It’s supposed to be a tool to help us be more active, not more stressed!

Questions: Do you keep track of how much you walk? Why or why not?

Be well,

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Simple Summer Foods

Summer is my favorite season for several reasons. First, I usually teach and work less in the summer and love being able to spend more time with my boys. I have about a week to go before things will slow down a lot, and I can’t wait!

Second, there is nothing better than fresh summer produce. This year, we are growing cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers, and I love throwing together quick meals with homegrown produce and local ingredients from the farmers’ market.

One of  my favorite summer meals is a “summer salad.” I don’t measure anything and use what I have on hand, so the salad turns out a little different each time. Plus, it gets better with time, so I always make a huge bowl, and we have a fresh salad ready to go for several days. It’s just so much easier to eat really fresh and healthy foods in summer!

Summer Salad
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Corn (I use fresh, raw, organic corn whenever possible; otherwise I use canned organic corn)
  • Black beans (I frequently cook beans in the slow cooker; when I don’t have any, I use canned organic black beans)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Equal parts of olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Optional Add-Ons:
  • Edamame
  • Bell peppers
  • Jalapenos (for some heat)
  • ???? – be creative!

My favorite fruit this time of year are cherries (no pictures), and I’ll be very sad when the season is over.

My main form of exercise is still walking in addition to some body weight exercises, sprinting, barre classes and some yoga. I try to be as active as possible, but I am not as “obsessive” as I used to be at times in the past, something I like about getting older… Here are some photos from some recent family hikes:

June hikes

Questions: What’s your favorite in-season fruit and vegetable at the moment? Cherries and tomatoes for sure. What simple summer foods have you been cooking/preparing lately? What’s your favorite form of exercise at the moment? 

Be well,

Monday, June 2, 2014

Active Getaway to Avila Beach

We escaped to the beach over the weekend. Our getaway started on Thursday around noon, after I finished teaching my classes. After a 3-hour car ride, we arrived in Avila Beach. The weather was supposed to be rather cool over the weekend (luckily, the forecast was somewhat wrong), so we decided to head to the pool first as it was warm enough to swim and hang out at the pool.

After some swimming, we went on an evening walk to get some steps, and I reached my goal of 10,000 steps. The grand total for Thursday was 10,518, which I was happy with considering the car ride and work in the morning.

On Friday, we decided to walk along the coast to Harford Pier to buy some fresh, local fish. The round-trip walk (including some walking up and down the pier) is a little over 4 miles – a nice way to get some steps early in the day.

We then went to the pool again and ate a late lunch – broiled fish, veggies, and a salad. Andy also brought out the craft beer he bought on the way at Firestone Walker Brewery, but he decided not to drink it after all as we were going to do some wine tasting later that day. 

After relaxing in the hotel room for a bit, we headed to Alapay Cellars to pick up our wine club shipment during their pick up party. Besides the wine, there were appetizers, which Andy and the kid enjoyed a lot. It was a relaxing evening, and we were surprised that we stayed for almost two hours – partly because the kid had such a good time wall climbing… Plus, the wine was wonderful.

On Saturday, we walked to Harford Pier again. Since we still had fish and veggies left over from the day before, we didn’t buy any fish, but the kid and hubby had a great time watching the sea lions up close. While they were busy observing, I was busy walking up and down the pier, getting more steps. 

In the afternoon, we spent another hour swimming and relaxing by the pool, before walking some more.

Eating and Drinking to Feel Our Best

It was a very nice getaway, and we are very thankful. It felt great to walk a lot while we were away, and it made us feel our best.

Here are my step totals

Thursday: 10,518 – not bad considering I taught in the morning and then spent 3+ hours in the car
Friday: 16,417
Saturday: 19,174
Sunday: 18,133 – I’m proud of this number, especially considering that we again spent 3+ hours in the car, and I did several loads of laundry, grocery shopped, and prepped food for the week when we got home

I also felt my best because we brought all of our food with us and only ate out in Morro Bay on our way home. In Morro Bay we ate fresh seafood at Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant, which was delicious. Andy and I split a Mexican shrimp cocktail, and I had grilled fish with veggies and tomatoes for my entrée. Everything tasted very fresh and “clean,” and it was fun exploring Morro Bay a bit.

Questions: What was the highlight of your weekend? How do you make sure you stay active when you are on vacation or on a short weekend getaway? Or do you rather relax and not worry about being active? Or a combination of both?  What’s your “food philosophy” when you are on vacation? Do you splurge or eat what you normally eat? I usually eat what I normally eat as I bring all of our food with us whenever I can. When we are at the coast, I often eat better than at home as I eat lots of fresh seafood and veggies. But I also have a few treats - mainly some wine and a little ice cream.

Be well,