It’s January, so I decided to set myself a challenge: walk 15,000 steps a day (and keep to it, come rain or shine). This is a log of how it’s all going…
Week One – Burning Off That Xmas Bloat…
Every year, once January 1 rolls around, I’m left feeling bloated and rough. Normally, I just ride it out and hope for the best. But this year I had a plan: drink less on New Year’s Eve and wake up feeling relatively refreshed on January 1. It didn’t exactly go to plan, but I definitely felt better than normal – I’d rate my hangover at a solid 6/10.
By 11 am, I was up and out of the house with my dog. I run during the summer, so I know plenty of 5K and 10K routes around where I live. All I had to do was walk them, so I downloaded an audiobook, wrapped up warm, and headed out. The entire walk – I aimed for 12,000 steps, knowing I could make up the remaining 3000 with normal activity – took about 80 minutes (my dog likes to mess around in bushes).
Was it easy? Yeah. Did I have a nice time? Yeah, I did. The weather was good; cold, but bright and fresh. I also did the walk – and all proceeding walks – in a fasted state, meaning before breakfast. Why? It helps burn more fat by forcing your body to access fat stored in your body, as there is nothing in your system. Just make sure you don’t eat too late the night before in order to maximize this effect.
Things I Noticed During My First Week:
- Walking 15,000 steps a day (around 6.5/7 miles) makes my legs WAY sorer than running; after the first couple of days, my glutes were as sore as they are after a big squatting session in the gym!
- Going first thing in the morning, while it’s still dark, is a great way to start the day. The roads are empty, there’s no one about, and this makes for the perfect time to mull things over, meditate, or plan out things.
You don’t need activewear gear to do this. I wore it the first couple of times but was just too cold, so I switched to jeans, boots, a hoody, and a coat. Just normal, everyday clothes. It was fine and comfortable. Just make sure your boots are nice and worn in otherwise you’ll get blisters.
- Just a couple of days of walking lowered my resting heart rate by about 10/15 points – from 75/80 over the Xmas break to 55/60 by the second day.
I tracked all my steps and data on the Honor MagicWatch 2, the first wearable I’ve used in years. It’s a great fitness tracker that also doubles as a smart wristwatch. It also has a battery life of around 7 days! After two days it still had a 90% battery life. Pretty cool.
I’ll update this section of the post each week, so I can log my progress. I’m just about to start week 2, so the summary will land this time next week (January 14). The idea for this post is simple: to find out if walking is a good way to drop a lot of weight quickly after Christmas. On top of this, I’m keen to find out if it is something that I can easily stick to – I don’t like forcing myself to do stuff, so if I can do this anyone can!
If you want to join me doing this challenge, drop me a line on Twitter and use the hashtag #KYM15K – we can keep each other motivated!
Week 2 – Things Get Harder (Weather-Wise)
- Weight: 198lbs (I Lost 2 Pounds)
- Tech: Pixel 3a XL & Honor MagicWatch 2
- Location: UK, England (North-West)
The biggest thing I’ve realized during this challenge is that getting 15K steps in a day isn’t too hard. As long as you get up early enough, you can get the vast majority of your steps done before breakfast or, if you don’t have breakfast, before you go to work (say, 9-10 am).
My routine, since week-one, has remained the same – with a few exceptions. I get up around 5:30/6 am, have some coffee, and get outside for a good 60-90 minute walk. The only issues I’ve had this week are to do with the weather – it’s been cold and wet in the UK. I needed a good coat and a nice beanie.
Things I Noticed During My Second Week:
- My leg muscles have no adapted to my new walking routine. During the first week, my legs were killing me. And my glutes. Basically, everything hurt – more so than after doing squats at the gym. My body has now adjusted, however, and I no longer feel any muscle discomfort after my daily big walks.
- Going out early in the morning and getting in 12-13K steps before breakfast does wonders for my overall mood and productivity. I feel refreshed and full of energy all day. My head is clearer than it’s ever been and I feel a lot more supple and lean. Combined with my new nutrition regime, I don’t think I’ve felt this good since I was a young child; it’s crazy how much even the smallest amount of alcohol can affect everything from your mood to how your body feels.
- My rest heart-rate continues to drop. Prior to doing this challenge, so immediately after the Xmas break, it was around 70-75, which isn’t great. After just two weeks of walking 15,000 steps a day, it has gone down to around 55-45bpm, which is way better for someone of my age (35, FYI).
One day, I think it was Wednesday, was utterly horrible. It was cold and the rain was coming down in sheets. For this reason, I opted to simply go a stretch of track near my home that is basically a 1KM circle and just do loops. I couldn’t face the roads and the puddles, and the walk was not pleasant, but I got it done and was home before 8:30 am.
I also did some research on being exposed to cold temperatures for prolonged periods of time because I always felt great all afternoon after long walks in the freezing weather. Turns out prolonged exposure to cold temperatures is not only great for your body but it also aids in fat loss, as it activates brown fat metabolism.
The Journal of Clinical Investigation found that exposure to cold temperatures can activate brown fat metabolism in adult humans. This refers to a moderate cold that is not accompanied by shivering.
It’s uncomfortable, sure, but when you’re trying to shift some pounds, you’ll take whatever advantage you can get, right? And even if you can’t get out of the house, scheduling calls for certain times and pacing around your home for 30 minutes can easily net you a few thousand steps. Bottom line: it all adds up! Even the little ones.
On the days I struggled to meet my target, like when I lay in on the weekends, I made sure that if I was meeting friends or running errands, I walked. I also walked to my gym and back on Sunday, a 9.8-mile round-trip that took about 90 minutes each way. Obviously, I can’t really do this in the week, as it’d take up too much time. But on the weekends it is a sure-fire way to NAIL those 15,000 steps before noon. Chuck in a heavy-weights session and I should be on for some impressive losses by week three…
Why I Decided To Do The 15,000 Step Challenge
Three reasons, really: 1) to lose some stubborn body fat, 2) to ensure my dog, Bojack, gets plenty of exercise, and 3) to improve my cardio during the winter months (I hate treadmills and I don’t like running in the cold). The main thing, however, was weight loss; I need/want to lose about 30 pounds in weight. Ideally, I’d like to be around 170 pounds – 180 at a push.
Do I lift? Yes. I do regularly weight train, although, during this 30-day challenge, I’m not going to the gym. Instead, I’m not drinking any alcohol, following a low carb diet with a solid 500 calorie deficit, and focussing on things like getting up early (5:30 am) and getting plenty of good sleep (at least 8 hours a night, minimum).
Why no alcohol? Two reasons: first, I like drinking, I like having a good time. But I do not like hangovers; they waste my time, make me feel lethargic, and cause me to eat junk food, as I wallow on the sofa feeling sorry for myself. Second, I want to start 2020 with a clean break. I want to detox my body, shift some weight, and make some positive changes that I can stick to for the rest of my life. I’m a new dad too, so this changes things for me (dramatically). I don’t just have myself to think about anymore – I have a little boy and a family to consider too.
Another reason? Giving up alcohol for just one month has some pretty impressive health benefits. This is to be expected. But a study done on 3000 people that opted to abstain from booze for the entirety of January (Dry January) found a ton of cool stuff that might surprise you. Here are just a few of the conclusions from the study:
- 82 percent of participants reported an enhanced awareness of their relationship with alcohol
- 80 percent felt more in control of their drinking habits
- 76 percent understood when they felt more tempted to drink and why
- 71 percent of participants learned that they did not need alcohol to have fun
- 71 percent said that they enjoyed a better quality of sleep
- 70 percent reported better overall health
- 67 percent had higher energy levels
- 58 percent of participants lost weight
- 57 percent reported improved concentration
- 54 percent said that they noticed better skin health
Not bad, right? Add in 7 miles walking every day and a balanced diet and this is shaping up to be the cleanest January I’ve ever had. As I said earlier if you’re reading this and you want to join me (it doesn’t have to be January, you can do this whenever), just drop me a line on Twitter, using the hashtag #KYM15K and let me know how you’re getting along.
Things That Might Cause Issues…
Living in the UK, the #1 thing that could make this challenge truly miserable is the weather. Take today for instance: I got up at 5:30 am, drank some black tea, and headed out. It was dark but totally mild – I actually got too warm mid-way through my walk. However, around 9 am, it started to rain. Thankfully, I was home and showered by then. I don’t like the rain, so I was glad I got my steps in nice and early. But it did get me thinking…
What happens when it’s raining cats and dogs and is super cold? Will I still go out and brave the elements? Of course, I will! I’ll just wrap up and do the walk without my dog (he HATES the rain). Again, this is perhaps one of the biggest problems with doing this challenge during the height of winter – it’s cold and wet and dark. However, a bit of cold is actually good for you; it switches on your body’s survival genes (they’re called Sirtuins) and they’re really good for you, especially if you’re interested in staying younger for longer and longevity.
Other than the weather, and illness, I can’t really see any obstacles that might stand in my way. I do work from home, so that its definitely an advantage, as I don’t necessarily have to be at work for a set time. Still, I am getting up at 5:30 am for the express purpose of getting my 15K steps done before I start my working day, usually, around 8:30/9 am, so it’s still certainly doable even if you work in an office. Alternatively, you could just walk to and from work if it’s not too far (3-4 miles each way would do it nicely).
Do You Need An Activity Tracker To Do This?
No, not really. But it will help a lot, as you’ll get exact feedback on your steps throughout the day. Without one, you’ll just be eyeballing it. As noted earlier, I’m using the Honor MagicWatch 2 and so far it’s been very, very impressive. I love its design, the OLED display is stunning, and the battery lasts 7 days. It also does your heart rate and has built-in profiles for exercise – from running to swimming. I like it and it will be getting a great review once I write it up.
You don’t need an expensive activity tracker, however, especially if all you want it for is counting your steps. You can pick up a range of cheaper options via Amazon. The Fitbit ACE is available for just $80 via Amazon and will do everything you need. It’s also super-lightweight and svelte; it looks more like a bracelet than a smartwatch, making it ideal for those that already have a watch or just want something basic and simple.
The only other bit of kit I used, save for my phone, was a good pair of headphones. I use Bose QC35 II headphones. I think they’re just about the best over-ear, noise-canceling headphones you can get right now for under $350. As for apps, the mainstay during ALL my walks has been Audible, I listen to audiobooks all the time now and it’s great – I’m learning loads while I walk. Audible isn’t cheap, but if you want to listen to books it is just about the best option on the planet right now.
And that’s it! Like I said, if you fancy joining me on this little experiment, drop me a line on Twitter – use the hashtag #KYM15K