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Count what matters and make what matters count (Guest post)

I love reading Sam & Tracy’s posts about quantifying and qualifying fitness. It makes the number crunching, nerdy part of my brain very happy. I’ve tried calorie counting, graphing my weight, logging distances swam, biked or ran but nothing makes my fit, feminist and nearly forty face smile like counting steps.

Last fall I tried logging food intake and exercise output but a part of me had a nagging suspicion that the data was out of whack. The numbers generated from apps based merely on my weight , 256 lbs, would assume any movement required a Herculean amount of energy, far more than my efficient frame required. I kept eyeballing each apple wondering, was it really 80 calories? Was it smaller? If I underestimated by only 10% I could be eating more than I intended. I started obsessing about food. I started weighing myself daily. My anxiety skyrocketed. I spouted calorie estimates on everything. That diner breakfast 1,200 calories, this beer 68. It was awful. I stopped loving food and I felt pretty crappy when my exercies and food intake didn’t hit targets. Dang.

You may have guessed by now that I have a fairly intense A type personality. I like deliverables, measures of success, quantifiable, all paired with a great story. When I was twenty and in the military I never quite measured up. I was a slow runner, always taking just a little more time than the 12 minutes alloted to complete 1.5 miles. I have asthma that is triggered at max effort so I often have to scale to 60-80% to stay below that threshold. Frustrating. And, at twenty, when I worked out for 3 hours a day, 6 days a week I was 5’4″, wore a size 12 and weighed 180 lbs. I was the embodiement of not hitting the mark on what the military said I should look like and what others thought I should weigh even though I was able to run, bike and swim like a champ.

In January 2013 I read Tracy’s post about doing less, like her I needed smaller, bite sized goals. I also wanted success. My partner, a thin, fast responder type was convinced that counting steps would be my thing.”Every step counts!” he chimed cheerfully and so began my favourite math exercise ever. I tried an app for my phone but it was inaccurate. I was gifted a pedometer, a fitbit, and I fell in love.

The first two weeks I set the goal of wearing my pedometer to get a baseline. While I was convinced I was above average for activity the data told another story. Turns out I walked  on average 8,000 steps a day, just short of the Canadian average. 

I decided I needed to increase my daily activity to the recommended 10,000 steps a day, which I could easily do if I committed to walking the 2km to work everyday and a short 3km walk with the dogs in the evening. I liked that my pedometer uploads to my computer when I walk by and gives me daily and weekly reports. I giggled the day I got a badge saying I climbed enough flights of stairs to the minimum altitude of a helicopter. My partner and I compare steps, turns out being shorter of leg I take 10% more steps over the same distance (insert evil laugh here).

Today I usually meet my daily goal of 15,000 and my best day recently was just over 21,000. I still weigh the same, I still wear the same size pants and I feel pretty rock star about walking as much as possible. I’ve decided I’m measuring success by my resting heart rate (a chill 58 bpm), how well I feel (pretty rocking!) and each step I take towards my well being. If you haven’t found out what to count for your fitness goals think about what matters to you and go for it!


Natalie is a self described  fat, fit, feminist 38 year old mother of two teenage minions who also lives with her high energy life partner of 19 years. She loves moving her body and sometimes does yoga, short distance triathlons and dances like a fool. Her next measure of success will be being happier and fitter by the end of 2013 than she was in 2012.

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