A little about myself: over the past two years, I’ve lost about a hundred pounds, going from an obviously unfit 330+ pounder to an obviously fit 230+ pounder. Obviously (seems like a good word), I’ve had to make a few changes to accomplish that.
I joined a gym and have worked out hard. But even before I joined the gym, I was working toward losing weight – and it was that previous exercise routine that enabled me to have the courage to join a gym. What was that “previous exercise”? Walking.
I live in the California desert, and started heading out with my dog every day for a walk. At first it was hard to psych myself up for it. But it became easier and easier as I made it a habit. And those walks are now the highlight of my day.
One of the things I discovered that really helped me transform my walking is a pedometer. By keeping track of how far you’ve walked, you 1) know how many calories you’ve burned and 2) know how far you went yesterday so you can challenge yourself to go further today and further yet tomorrow.
I wear mine everywhere I think I’m going to do a fair amount of walking. I wear it shopping, for instance. And there’s something about seeing those step numbers go up and then click over to the distance and see that I’ve gone x.xx miles that makes me want to go just a little bit further. If I’ve gone nearly a mile, something in me makes me want to keep walking until I’ve gone that full mile. If you think that’s crazy, all I can say is that it’s really nice to finally use my crazy to my benefit for a change.
But then there’s the question: which pedometer should I buy?
Well, I’ve bought four of them. And the first three weren’t very good. The last one has been so good I’m singing its praises.
I bought it at Wal-Mart for about $15. It is a “Sportline Digital Distance Tracker” (UPC 095121107035).
The units I bought prior had the advantage of being cheaper. But they had the disadvantages of being far more fragile, far less accurate, far less easy to attach to yourself, and frankly far less easy to use.
Let me take those in order:
The Sportline Digital Distance Tracker has been durable. I’ve actually screwed up and let the thing go through the washing machine. I was sure it was destroyed. But believe it or not, I removed the battery, kept the compartment open, actually took the thing on a walk just to wave it around so it would have a chance to air out, and when I put the battery back in the thing came on and worked perfectly. Since that mishap, I check all my pants and shorts pockets for pedometers before they go into the washing machine. I’ve also dropped it a couple of times, which was more than enough to kill one of my cheaper units. I mean, don’t do that stuff, but this unit has proven to be a pretty durable gadget for me.
The Sportline Digital Distance Tracker has been more accurate. It has what they call “3 axis digital accuracy.” And since I walk out in the desert, up and down hills and over uneven terrain, I discovered that cheaper units simply don’t record all of your steps if you don’t walk in such an even-stride manner that makes them happy. As an example, I walked up a steep hill with another unit and was depressed to note that it hadn’t recorded a single step after all that work. This unit has been by far the best at keeping count of my steps no matter where those steps have been. Whatever unit you buy, I strongly suggest you get one that has that 3 axis deal.
The Sportline Digital Distance Tracker has been easier to attach to myself. It’s part of the “3 axis” thing. Most units will clip to your belt or tie to your shoelace. And this one will do that, too. But you can also just stick it in your pocket. Which is what I do. Warning: if you’re absent-minded, you run the risk of accidentally throwing it in the washing machine. Please don’t do that – although my unit did come back to life.
The Sportline Digital Distance Tracker has been easy to use. I remember one unit that was so awkward to use I practically needed to have the manual with me for the first month. And by the time I figured out how it worked, it wasn’t working any more. This unit is REAL easy to use. Once you have programmed your stride length, you only need to click ONE button to go from your total step count to your distance walked to your calories burned to your time spent walking and back to your total step count.
Now, let me say something about the stride length. My advice: don’t worry about it being hyper-accurate with your stride length. The first time I started using pedometers, I was as hung-up with precisely measuring my stride length as a sprinter coach is about his stop watch. But what I’ve learned is that the key to using these things is to keep pushing yourself to go a little further and then a little further. And as long as you don’t keep monkeying around with the stride length, it will be the same from walk to walk to walk and you’ll know how far you’ve gone relative to your previous walk. That bit of wisdom came to me as I pondered my walks: when I walk uphill, my stride length is one thing, when I walk downhill it is another, and when I walk on soft sand or over an uneven trail it is another thing yet. But while my pace is uneven, I still have a much better idea of how far I’ve gone than I would have without the darn thing and I definitely have a good idea of how far I’ve gone today relative to yesterday as I hike different trails.
If you want to lose weight or just get your heart and lungs in better condition, I urge you to get off your butt and start walking. And I advise you to start out with a small, manageable walk – don’t tell yourself you’re going to start walking ten miles a day because it will be too much for you and you won’t be able to keep it up – and then build your body and your schedule and your desire to keep going up so that you go further and further.
Oh, a dog helps, too. It is nice to have a buddy to walk with. And nobody loves going for a walk more than a dog!