Real Stair Stepping

Exercise for butt sitters.

Before you read this, you must promise you won’t laugh.

Promise? I mean it now. Stop reading if you can’t promise.

Okay, so here’s the deal.

One of the occupational hazards of being a freelance writer is the results of spending long hours sitting on your butt in front of a computer. Like now: I’m spending about 10 hours a day, at least 6 days a week sitting on a padded, armless, wheeled swivel chair in front of my computer, working against time to finish my Leopard book.

(Okay, so right now, I’m not doing that. I’m goofing off by writing this. But you get the idea. And I’m still sitting in the same chair.)

As anyone in their middle years will tell you, lots of inactivity makes it really tough to keep pounds off. And I’ll tell you that for the past year or so, I’ve been adding pounds at the rate of two or three a month. Do the math. The answer is not pretty, especially on my waist, hips, and butt.

So I decided to add some exercise to my day in an effort to get my metabolism up and burn off some of the extra fat. But rather than drop everything and head out to the local gym where I can sweat among strangers and shower in a locker room on the rare instance I’m motivated to get in my car and drive there (which is not often), I decided to do some exercise at home.

I developed an exercise program to integrate into my work day. It includes a number of aerobic activities:

  • Weight lifting. Okay, so I don’t have a universal gym thing or even some weights. But what I do have is approximately 40 pounds of horse poop that has to be lifted off the ground and into a wheeled cart each day. The tool for doing that is a rake that resembles a snow shovel with tines instead of a blade. The motion is repetitive and takes about 10 minutes to complete. The cool down activity consists of rolling the two-wheeled cart down the paved driveway (which has a 25° slope) and 50 feet down a sandy steam bed to the compost pile. The cart must be overturned to be dumped. The wheeled cart (now empty) must come back up that steep driveway to conclude the exercise.
  • Power walking. Okay, so I don’t live anywhere near a track or mall or even a paved road. So I rough it. I walk down my paved driveway and around the edge of my property line, then up the steep (30°) dirt road to its intersection with the closest named road. That’s where my mailbox is. I fetch the previous day’s mail, turn around, and walk back. The challenge on the return trip is not to slip on the loose gravel. Total distance only about 1/4 mile, taking me about 15 minutes to complete the round trip. I do this only once a day. (No reason to walk all the way the hell up there in 100+° heat if there’s no mail to collect, is there?)
  • My StairsStair stepping. Okay, so I don’t have a stair-stepper machine. But I do have stairs. Yes, the real thing. There are 17 of them climbing up to our second floor. I walk up the stairs, make a loop around the coffee table in the room at the top of the stairs, go back downstairs, and make a loop around the living room. Then I do the whole thing again, without pause. Five to 15 times. Every two hours. Yes, it’s aerobic. I’m both out of breath and sweating (in my air conditioned house, mind you) when I’m finished. And I really believe that it’s making a difference, because each time I make a round, I can do one or two more laps. But it has convinced me that if I don’t lose weight soon, I’ll need new knees.

Other things I’m doing: eating smaller portions, eating less junk and more fruits and veggies, drinking a ton of water — in fact, I force myself to drink 12 ounces an hour. (Can I count the trips to the bathroom as part of my exercise routine?)

What else? When I get motivated, I go out walking with my friends Ray and Robbie. They’re in their 70s and walk the same 1.7-miile loop around their neighborhood every evening around sunset (unless there’s “electrical activity,” as Ray puts it). Their neighborhood is nearly deserted this time of year, so I can bring Jack the dog and I don’t have to keep him on a leash. The drawback is the bugs — little biting flies — and the humidity, which must be at least 25% this time of year.

My goal is to lose 30 pounds by March. It’s doable — but only if I keep moving.

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