The air smells like grilled brats and sauerkraut. Odd for downtown Chicago in December. It’s a frigid 18° outside. Pigeons gather around what looks like a piece of Jimmy John’s bread, but they scurry out of my way as I approach. I stop for a moment and take a deep breath, in through my nose and out through my mouth. Nostalgia – or, more accurately, sadness – slips in. So much time has passed. I wonder in that moment whether life would be better as a Costco cashier.
A woman in a navy pea coat and short heeled leather boots looks sideways at me as she passes. The light is green, she says with annoyed eyes. Why are you just standing there?
I’m tired, I think. Quit throwing your shade. The walk has felt longer than normal this morning.
I pull out my phone and swipe to the Apple Health app.
Steps taken that day – 6,321.
Annual daily step average – 9,872.
My office looms two blocks to the north. I take the last 300 steps and start to work.
I’d been feeling aimless for a while. I didn’t have a ton of focus at work. I didn’t have a workout plan or workout partner. I didn’t have anything I wanted to write about, or things I wanted to spend my evenings doing or watching.
In mid-October, I realized that my Apple Health app had been counting my steps all year. Up to that point, my daily average was around 8,600 steps a day.
‘They’ say that you should take 10,000 steps a day. ‘They’ might be the CDC or some other health organization. If people take 10,000 steps a day, ‘They’ say, that means several miles’ worth of movement a day, which means at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, which means at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, which means health. ‘They’ might also be a hugely influential corporation hawking their newest overpriced and overly complicated pedometer.
Either way, I believe ‘They,’ or them. So, I decided to try to get my yearly average up to 10,000 steps before 2018 closes. I started walking.
There’s a little math involved here. Take the number of days in 2018 so far and multiply by the average daily step count. Subtract that number from 3,650,000 – the number of steps a person would take if they managed 10,000 steps for 365 days. Then, divide the difference by the number of days left in the year. And that’s how many steps I’d need to take a day between now through Dec. 31.
Back of the envelope, here. I started in mid-October:
- 8,600 (average steps / day) x 290 (days so far) = 2,494,000 steps (so far).
- 3,650,000 – 2,494,000 = 1,156,000 steps (left to take).
- 1,156,000 / 75 (days left in the year) = 15,413 steps / day (to take).
15,413 steps / day. 15-minute miles. 2,000 steps per mile. 7.7 miles. 115 minutes of walking. Let’s go.
Some people run marathons, and others don’t move very well. For me, walking worked. It took time and effort beyond what felt rote and routine, but it didn’t stress me out. I needed to feel like I was doing something good for myself.
One Saturday, I ambled slowly toward my office and bought a $6.13 cup of hot chocolate. One Sunday, I took over 26,000 steps. One Tuesday afternoon, I listened to ‘Colder Weather’ by the Zac Brown Band on repeat for 30 minutes. Last Sunday night, I walked to the church near my house for the Second Sunday of Advent.
When I sat down in the pew, I checked the app, by then nearly two months of walking. The average daily step count for 2018 was at 10,003. I was happy to be sitting still in that moment, right where I was.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, lost, or out of control. It’s easy to feel distant from the things and people we love the most. It’s easy to try and persist. Until it isn’t easy any more. Then, something needs to change. For me, for some reason, that something was the choice to take a few more steps than usual.