As an example of a small lifestyle change, I now ride my bike to the grocery store. Some days I wear a backpack, some days I tow a bike trailer, some days I take both if I expect to get a lot of groceries that day.
Now, your grocery store might seem to be a bit too far for you to ride your bike there, but you can ride your bike to other places, too (no, not for fast food! You’re trying to get fit, remember?). My grocery store is only 4 miles round-trip. I think if it were anything more than 8 miles round trip I might fire up the minivan. Although, if you ask me again in about four months, I may extend that distance. Also, if your activity level has not been, um, active for a while then you should probably start slow.
Daily walking is always a good place to start, and you can walk slowly when you first start out and increase your pace as the weeks progress. If you have a dog take them with you (they will love it!)
We started by walking my daughter to school, which is one and a quarter miles from our apartment (If you’re late getting to school, you really pick up your pace, believe me). Then we decided to get “lazy” and we bought bicycles and we now ride those to school. Our daughter rides there and back once during the day (two and a half miles total each day) and my husband and I end up getting at least five miles in each weekday.
There are a whole different set of muscles in play when you walk versus when you ride a bicycle. When you walk you can feel your calf muscles developing into something other than flab. When you ride a bicycle you can feel it in your “quadriceps” which are the muscles on the front and sides of your thighs. I will cover muscles, and the exercises that develop them, in a later post.
If you have a “smart phone” then you can download an app called “Runkeeper” (you can find it here http://runkeeper.com/) which keeps track of how far and how fast you walk, run, or ride your bicycle. It also keeps track of other activities such as hiking, Nordic walking, mountain biking, snowboarding, skiing, wheelchair, and swimming. Although I do wonder how the swimming part works with a smart phone, the rest of it works really well. It also keeps track of your altitude, which might seem dumb, but when we take our daughter to school we actually have a 97 foot increase in altitude, so it is very slightly uphill. When you’re riding your bicycle with a load of groceries in a tow, it can make a difference in the route you may want to take as well.
There are other apps out there as well, but I like Runkeeper because it works on the fly, I don’t have to pre-plan my path and then follow that planned route, I can adjust it as needed. No, I don’t get anything from Runkeeper for promoting their app.
If your start walking or riding a bicycle to get around and to increase your fitness, please take some water with you. Water will hydrate you without adding extra calories. Keep in mind that sports drinks were designed to hydrate and replace lost electrolytes in people who engage in intense physical exercise for at least an hour and a half at a time. Those people are known as athletes, and they usually drink lots of water in addition to their electrolyte drink. If you aren’t working out that intensely, you do not need to worry about electrolyte replacement.
Now if you drink too much water you might have to worry about electrolytes, but I’ll discuss that with you on another day.