Soooooo… I signed up for a walking study being done by a graduate student at my school. Her hypothesis is that walking a minimal amount a week can actually impact your health. She is comparing four groups: smokers with walking poles, smokers without walking poles, non-smokers with walking poles, and non-smokers without walking poles. I am in the non-smoking without walking poles group.
True confessions, I peeked in my file during the first session and I was labeled sedentary! Sedentary! Me… who swam competitively all the way through college and used to run ten mile races… sheesh… Yes, I really have fallen that far. A big part of it is this mysterious crappy thing I've been dealing with. It leaves me exhausted for the most part. I can go to work and do my thing full tilt, but when I get home I have barely enough energy to do basic house stuff. It has killed my exercise routine. Well, that and living literally on a mountain. Running and biking used to be my activities of choice, but danged if I can do either one on a friggin mountain.
So, enter said walking study. My attempt to get at least a little exercise back in my routine. It will take a total of 16 weeks. The first eight weeks we are to walk 90 minutes per week. That's 90 minutes per WEEK. That's nothing! I used to run 90 minutes per day 4-5 days a week. The second eight weeks she wants us to kick the walking up to 150 minutes per week. Ok, fair enough.
I gotta tell you. That first eight weeks was a killer. Truly, I could barely get 90 minutes per week in successfully. I had to walk on Saturday for at least 45 minutes because I was lucky to get 45 minutes in the other six days combined.
She is running a series of tests on us too – at day one, week eight, and week 16. She took three blood samples for cholesterol, some kind of protein, and something she won't tell me about… ooo…. a secret! She put us in a bod pod to measure body mass index. She did a series of breathing tube exercises to test our lung capacity and oxygen levels. And we walk fast on a treadmill uphill until we are going to die. Seriously. She wants us to go until we are about to keel over and cannot walk another step. She hooks us up to a heart monitor and we wear this breathing mask that measures how effectively our bodies utilize oxygen.
On day one my cholesterol was 229. Yowza! It is pretty much always between 205 and 209. It doesn't really matter what I eat or how much I exercise, it always seems to be in that range. Apparently not anymore. Fortunately at week eight it had gone down to 225, so that's progress. I had gained four pounds (which I actually thought might be more) which she was not happy about (stress eating from the PhD process and an incredibly stressful opening of school). But my lung capacity, blood work, and oxygen measurements had all improved. During both treadmill tests I was able to get my heart rate to 102%. She wanted at least 100% so I exceeded expectations. All those years of hard core cardio did pay off.
Today I took a 90 minute walk up a gigantic steep road to the scenic overlook where I live. This is a road that people drive up and go "oh, wow, this is steep" and I walked up the whole dang thing. I am so proud of myself! I was bopping along on my way back down, skipping, whistling, and patting myself on the back when what did I pass? A biker on his way up the hill. jeez louise. That is crazy hard core.
Just to give you an idea of how big of a deal this is to me, here is a photo from my house to the scenic overlook…
And this is a view from the overlook to my house…
And I'm going to do it again tomorrow, Go, me!