Stepping Out – Guest Columnist Jodi Nisly Hertzler

Editor’s Note: Jodi Nisly Hertzler writes occasionally for Another Way and is a college counselor, tutor, and freelance proofreader. Jodi and her husband have three children.

During our meeting, the spokesperson for the Put-Down-That-Bag-of-Chips-Right-Now Committee held up a fancy little doodad that counts his steps, his stairs, and even monitors his sleep.

Every fall, the Get-Off-Your-Butt Committee (name changed to reflect what they’re really thinking) at my school announces a new fitness challenge for all employees. If we meet the challenge, we are rewarded with money toward a fitness-related purchase. It’s a fabulous idea, but I have never managed to follow through. Last year, all I had to do was exercise for two and a half hours a week. I tried. I failed. I am motivationally challenged. Always have been.

(The year before that, one of the goals was to sleep for at least six hours a night every night for 30 days, which you’d think I’d be a shoe-in for. But I failed that one, too.)

Motivation did arrive a couple years ago in the form of a big, white dog my family adopted. It wasn’t long before my husband and I started taking turns walking him early in the morning (bored dog = chewed shoes). It’s more about damage control than anything, but I walked in 18-degree weather last winter, so it clearly worked. Lately, though, we’ve tended to slack off—shortening our walks and even skipping them sometimes.

Nevertheless, when the You’re-a-Slug-and-We-Shall-Expose-You Committee got up to announce this year’s challenge, I sat up straight, ready to be inspired. The challenge: log an average of 10,000 steps a day for 50 days.

During our meeting, the spokesperson for the Put-Down-That-Bag-of-Chips-Right-Now Committee held up a fancy little doodad that counts his steps, his stairs, and even monitors his sleep. Small enough to hide in any outfit, this diminutive device communicates with one’s smartphone and/or computer to log steps automatically—no manual entries necessary. One can also create a group of friends, and enjoy a friendly competition over who gets the most steps each week.

I went home from the meeting, feeling motivated but wary about the investment. But my gadget-friendly husband latched on to the idea with unforeseeable enthusiasm. He immediately decreed the doodads be purchased and our own little competition begun. And so it came to pass.

I think of the doodad as my Pocket Nag, even though it’s not really nagging—in fact, it’s overly encouraging. “Bonjour, Jodi,” I read when I pick it up in the morning. “Almost there! Only 2,124 feet to go!” it messaged my phone just minutes ago. “Nailed it!” I’ll read when I reach my goal. It’s an obnoxiously cheerful, text-happy fitness trainer.

And it’s working. I find myself compulsively checking throughout the day, monitoring my progress and fretting over the steps yet to be stepped. I spend more time on my feet now. I have a desk job, so I have to put extra effort into getting my steps in. I no longer cut my morning walks short (in fact, I often get up when it’s not my turn and march in place while watching the news). I walk to my colleagues’ offices and classrooms instead of sending emails, and then take the long way back. I pace while brushing my teeth and dance while I cook. I play badminton almost every day with the kids (they quickly learned how to twist my arm into joining them: “Don’t you need more steps, Mom?”).

My coworkers have been similarly affected, as evidenced by lunchroom conversations around the number of steps that can be had by walking the campus perimeter, or how biking compares to walking. It’s not uncommon to see someone sidestepping while standing at a copier and I once walked into a class where the teacher was jogging in place at the front of the room.

The going has been a bit rougher for my dear husband. He started strong, outstepping me from the very beginning, but then tore his hamstring racing my sons at the track (blatantly garnering large quantities of steps while I was at a meeting). He continued to reach his daily goal for a while, but the pain has worn him down. Heaping insult onto injury was the sleeping skunk that our dog decided to jump while they were walking. That exciting event cut their walk and my husband’s enthusiasm even shorter. Then there’s the day he forgot his Pocket Nag at home, which sucked any remaining motivation dry. My weekly total is a good 30,000 steps ahead of him at the moment, but I know he’s going to sneak up on me any time now. Competition aside, though, we honestly want each other to do well, and often take a late-night walk to help one or both of us get our steps in.

The Step Challenge (and my trusty Pocket Nag) has made me more active, and as a result I feel better about myself, eat better, and sleep better. I play more with my kids. I have more energy. Evening walks with my husband have been a true pleasure. Here’s hoping it lasts…

What gets you off the couch? What are your best motivators? Jodi or I would love to hear from you. Send to Another Way, 1251 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802 or. Or comment on the Facebook page for Another Way Newspaper Column.

Posted 10/23/2014 7:00:00 AM

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