Walking; Exercise for your Head

Scenario: You get to work and there’s ????????????????an empty donut box in the break room. The coffee pot is empty. In your email, there are already four fires and an invitation to a three-hour meeting. By lunch time, it’s hard to hear what your coworkers are saying over the sound of steam coming out of your ears.

When the pressure is on, how do you keep your head from exploding? One of the best remedies out there is going for a walk. I’m not saying that a walk will magically refill the donut box, but it may offer a timely escape so you can reset your brain. In fact, walking every day is good preventive medicine. I usually walk five days a week. (Coincidentally, I also work five days a week.)

If you’re ready to take the cure, here are my top five tried and true tips:

  1. Pick a convenient time. I hear morning walks are nice, but there is no chance in H that I am going to get up extra early. Plus midday or right after work is usually when I need the chill time, not the morning. So I use half of my lunch hour to walk.
  2. Schedule your walking time on your calendar. Since I work at a computer, I schedule a recurring appointment using my email software. A reminder pops up five minutes before it’s time to head out the door. (By the way, I schedule my lunch, too.) Another option would be to set a similar alert on your cell phone.
  3. Wear comfortable shoes and have them at the ready. This is the point in the article where I get on my soapbox. I sold shoes back in olden times, so please believe me when I tell you wingtips, work boots, pumps, or flip-flops won’t cut it for walking. Running, walking, or cross-training shoes all work well. Make sure they fit well and have plenty of room for your toes. The insole should be thick and cushy to absorb some of the impact of your heel hitting the ground and save your knees. And the shoes should have a nonskid tread so you will be less likely to slip if you walk on a smooth or wet surface.

    In addition to the shoes I have at home, I keep a pair of walking shoes at my desk. That way, I always have the right footwear when it’s time to walk, and I don’t have the schlep them back and forth between work and home.If you want to buy new, snazzy shoes for walking, you certainly can, but you don’t have to.

    Once my good sports shoes start wearing out, I turn them into new designated walking shoes and take them into work. Then, the old walking shoes become beach or garden shoes (or go into the trash).

  4. Hook up with walking buddies. You might be surprised how many other people need to escape. Pick friends/coworkers who don’t mind listening to a vent from time to time, and be a good walking buddy yourself by being willing to listen. I meet my walking buddies at the same place and time every day. Since we’re all at computers, I usually send an instant message reminder to the group about 30 minutes in advance. It helps to know who to wait for and who’s not going to show.
  5. Be safe. Walking with friends also increases your personal safety. Be aware of your surroundings—traffic, people, things on the ground. Let other people know about your walk. Keep safety in mind when choosing routes. Bring your cell phone with you.

Like any prescription, this comes with a warning: Side effects may include weight loss, more energy, and feelings of wellbeing. If you experience any of these symptoms, keep up the good work!

Walking and Running Their Way to a Healthy Lifestyle – The Ponderosa Pacers

IMG_9406Jennifer Stoor, a Physical Education teacher, created a culture of healthy and active living at Ponderosa Elementary School in the West Ada School District. She started a program in 2002 designed to teach kids at an early age that running, walking, and living an active lifestyle feels good. It’s called the Ponderosa Pacers!

Students line up at recess to run and walk around their track – some kids run or walk 1-2 miles during recess. For each completed lap students get a marker which they then take back to the classroom where teachers use them in other daily lessons like math.  This year the Pacers have already gone more than 40,000 miles!

Students that participate in the Pacer program significantly improve their one-mile run time by the end of the school year.  Nearly half of the students qualify as “advanced” in the President’s Fitness Challenge.

Healthy and active living has spread far beyond the outside track at Ponderosa Elementary. Jennifer has helped to improve the lunch room environment as well, adorning it with posters of famous athletes and making healthy food options are easily found.  When the healthy choice is the easy choice and the cool choice, everyone wins!  Students have also taken their healthy lifestyle tips home to parents who are now making healthier food choices for their families and becoming more active as a family.  So, parents are losing weight and reaping the benefits as well!

The Pacer program is about improving the overall well- being of our youth. Students who were once overweight are now losing weight and gaining self-confidence. The kids that don’t have a lot of friends are able to join in on the cool thing to do during recess.  Students are able to set goals of how many miles they want to walk and feel the pride of achieving that victory.

In the end students will find that physical activity isn’t something to be dreaded but something to look forward to.  At an early age they have made healthy life choices that will sustain them as they age.

Ponderosa Elementary is currently raising money to build a new quarter-mile track.  The track they currently have is narrow and not conveniently located on the school grounds.  For more information or to find out how you can help, please contact Jennifer Stoor at 208.283.8337

Dan’s Tips on Walking to Work

Have you ever considered a relaxing walk to work? Many years ago, our guest blogger Dan did and has been walking ever since. Here are his reasons why, and a few tips on making the trek.

Heidi-Walks-Springfield1

Heidi taking Dan’s advice

Many of us have friends or co-workers who bike to work regularly, but for those of us who are lucky and live close enough, there is another great option. I’ve been walking to work for nearly 7 years (spanning 2 jobs) and absolutely love it. Like cycling, it saves on gas and provides a great way to add physical activity to your day. But, I also find it much more relaxing than having to deal with traffic on your commute. Waiting at intersections and those sudden Oregon downpours are typically as troublesome as commuting gets for a walker, but in my years of walking I’ve learned a few other things about hoofing it to work:

  • Your co-workers may think you walk out of necessity. I once had a teammate who, after 6 months, was shocked to learn that I actually did own a car.
  • Be aware of the shoes you buy. In the past I made the mistake of buying my work shoes based on the combination of looks, comfort and price. What I didn’t take into account was the tread. It only took a couple times of wearing completely through the sole of a pair of shoes in 3 months to cure me of that. I carefully inspected the undersides of shoes the next time I went shopping and found a pair for just a little bit more that lasted over 4 times as long.
  • Good raingear is a must for a walking commuter of course, but as we move towards spring and summer, the days will sneak up on you where it’s too cold in the morning to not wear a jacket, and entirely too warm at the end of the day to wear one. Plan ahead so you don’t end up with every jacket you own hanging in your cubicle.
  • Random cars may pull over and the driver will offer you a ride. On closer inspection, it will turn out to be one of your co-workers. It’s up to you whether to take them up on the offer or decline and leave them feeling awkward for having pulled over for no reason.
  • If the winter deigns to drop snowstorms on us; you will casually walk to work just like normal (if wearing a few extra layers). Do watch out for ice – falling on your butt isn’t fun (not that I would know, or anything…) and remember that in icy conditions cars that are intending to stop may not always succeed.

If you live within a mile or two of your workplace, I definitely recommend giving walking a try, especially with the nice weather and long daylight hours during the spring and summer. If walking both ways sounds like a bit much, you could walk one direction and find someone to carpool with for the other. Whatever method you choose, happy commuting!