So the office had this “Summer Walking Competition”. Teams of six walkers tracked how many steps they took each day over the past 13 weeks (the first week for some reason had two extra days tacked onto it). I remember them doing this last year, but going along with my character I didn’t participate. For some reason I felt this year I should get in on it. My primary care physician would probably approve.

First thing I needed was a device to count steps. The iPhone has a health app that does this, but after looking at it after a few days before the competition started I was leary that it was taking an accurate count. For one reason, I know I don’t always have my phone with me every single step of the day. If I was going to do this, I wanted to be as accurate as possible. So I went to the store and threw down some cash for a FitBit Charge. Slick looking thing, black band, counts steps, calories burned, flights of stairs, etc. It claimed to help track how well you sleep. The one time I tried that I think I slept a total of four hours but in the morning it said I slept fine. Guess it really only measures how restless you are in your sleep, how often you turn or roll over. But if you’re wide awake motionless and staring at the ceiling all night it thinks you’re still sleeping. So I didn’t really try that feature again after that.

So steps were to be recorded on Wednesdays for the previous seven days. The first week started on a Monday though, so it actually recorded nine days. Weird, but whatever. At first I really didn’t change much in the routine. Most of my steps came while walking the dog in the evening. The normal trip with Orrie from the house and around the park for his evening business trips usually lasted 20-30 minutes, just about 1.2 miles on average and that usually came in to 2,000-2,500 steps. The rest of the steps were just normal every day walking. To and from the car. To the store. At work.

Having a job where I sit in a cubicle at a computer desk all day doesn’t really help the step count. I wondered what others I know would get on a normal day, John the store manager, Rick the land surveyor. People who make their living on their feet most of the day. I’m not the world’s most healthy eater, but I don’t think I over-eat. I’ve cut down the sugary soda pop consumption a ton from what it was say ten years ago. But still, getting older, being a web designer/producer, my active lifestyle has been getting less and less each year. And early step totals reflected that.

Out of the box, the FitBit had a 10,000 step a day goal set and I didn’t change it. I really had no idea what a good goal was, so that seemed as good as any number to start with. That first week, even with the two extra days we had to record, I only hit the goal three times. Of my six person team, I came in third at 81,122 steps, barely missing fourth place by 1,500. Of the thirteen teams in the competition, our team came in 10th place with 412,692 steps (with one of our teammates didn’t report steps). The top team almost doubled us and had 788,424. Holy smokes.

My step total went down the next two weeks, and I started thinking that what I normally do each day wasn’t going to be enough. I only hit the 10,000 goal 11 days in the first three weeks. It wasn’t my sense of needing to be healthier that started to kick in, it was my sense of competition. My team was getting pummeled. I figured I had to start doing more to get my step totals up every day. I became obsessed with tracking my own numbers to see where I could improve.

I started consistently going for longer walks at lunch. Some days in July were starting to get quite hot, so I’d walk over to Yorktown Mall and do two laps around the mall, get a sandwich or something in the food court, and walk back. That was usually a good 3,000-4,000 steps there. On cooler days, I’d walk through the mall to the other side across Highland and hit up Potbelly for lunch which was a little bit more of a walk.

I began to park on higher levels of the parking garage at work and walking down the winding platforms, avoiding the quicker stairway route. I’d avoid the elevator and walk up and down the stairs inside the building to my cube on the 3rd floor. I’d take a lap around the floor once in the morning and once in the afternoon. This was something I usually did anyway to help unfocus the eyes from the iMac monitor for a while. But now I took longer routes to pick up a few hundred steps here and there.

I was consistently hitting the 10k step a day mark, but I thought it still wasn’t enough. I knew after the first month that my team wasn’t going to be winning any prizes, but I was starting to set goals for myself. The 10k/day was the first (even though I guess this really isn’t something to jump up and down about according to some). My step totals for the first five weeks was 81,122 (2 extra days), 68,223, 65,990, 76,298 and 83,974. The 10k a day goal was nice, but I wanted something else to shoot for. The 100k/week mark was something I wanted to do before this was over. And maybe hitting a million steps by the end of the 13 weeks wouldn’t be a bad one to shoot for either. But I was going to need to do a lot more to hit both of those. A 100,000 step week would mean an average of 14,285. Quite a bit more than 10,000 I found out.

I talked to a person on another team and she said she used a treadmill at lunch. I hadn’t thought of that. I liked getting outside when it wasn’t too hot, but in the middle of summer being outside that much just wasn’t going to happen every single day. I don’t have a treadmill at home, I thought, but I do have a stationary bicycle. Thing about the stationary bike was though, gripping bicycle handlebars wasn’t conducive to this particular FitBit to counting any motion as steps. She suggested putting the Fitbit on my ankle and that motion should help, but my ankles are much thicker than my wrists so that wouldn’t work. So what I had to do was take the FitBit hand and rest it on my leg, and the motion of the leg pedaling in the circle counted a step. Sure, there is a big question as to the accuracy of one pedal rotation = one step. The only reason I justified it was the sweat I’d worked up in a half hour of pedaling seemed much greater than sweat from a half hour walk. And it’s not like a stationary bike inflated distance covered. If anything, I don’t think the FitBit counted as many steps as it should have on the bike.

July was a gradual climb, 68k, 65k, 76k, 83k, 79k. August saw consistent 80k weeks with 80k, 81k, 81k and a 90k week. Although I didn’t change official settings, 10k a day was no longer a goal. I was shooting for 11k, 12k a day. Hitting 90 thousand that last week made me think I could actually do that hundred thousand week. I thought it only took one really outstanding day to push me.

September 2nd opened the week that included Labor Day weekend. It was a hot week, but it was going to be a busy one too with a four day weekend and hosting a family/neighbor/friends barbeque on Sunday. The days leading up to Sunday were going to be filled with getting projects done around the house in preparation to have 50+ people over. I even scheduled a golf outing for Sunday morning, the 2nd time I’d be golfing while doing this step competition. Thing is, we take carts on 18 holes. I always wondered what walking 18 would do for the step total.

Wednesday Thursday and Friday were slightly above average 12k days. If 10k/day was still the goal that would be great, but I was running out of time to get that 100k/week and 12 was still not enough. That Saturday, Jen and I woke up and pretty much non-stop all day working around the house. By the end of the day, for the first time all summer I hit 20k in one day, blowing my previous high of 15k out of the water. If I wasn’t going to get it this week, it wasn’t happening.

Sunday and Monday of that holiday weekend I had 13 and 12, leaving me roughly 16k short the final day of the week. I did the usual lunchtime walk, couple extra spins around the office during the day, then got home and did the dog walk after work and by then I was over the 11k mark. Still a ways to go. The only difference on this day: it was a bowling night.

Bowling isn’t that physical of an activity, but there is a bit of walking back and forth during the three games when it’s your turn. In between frames early in the night I sat myself far back behind everyone else, just to get those extra steps in. Toward the end of the third game I looked down, and I was in the 14/k range. Just a couple thousand steps to go. I was gonna do this. I started pacing back and forth the length of the bowling alley building in between frames. I couldn’t stand still. By the time I got home that night, I was over 17k steps. 101,053 for the week. Achievement accomplished.

Maybe 100,000 steps isn’t that great. From the looks of it other people in this competition were doing it consistently. But it took me a lot to get there, and it felt good. I was at 890k steps with two weeks to go. One million didn’t seem that far away and it wasn’t. I passed that mark by the weekend of the final week without having to resort to pacing back and forth around a bowling alley on the final night and ended up the 93 day competition with 1,055,617 steps.

It translated into a loss of five pounds. Probably would have been more if I didn’t resort to mall food court lunches on those hot days I’d do mall walking to get my steps in during the day. I won’t miss the mall now that this is over. I’ll still ride the bike in the basement, but as much as I know that I should keep this up I’m sure with shorter days and colder weather I won’t be outside walking as much. Winter is coming.

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