I Like To Move It Move It…

This post is the third in a four part series I’m doing based around the ideas from Dr Chatterjee’s The 4 Pillar Plan (How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life). If you’ve missed the first two posts then please see And Relax… and Food Glorious Food!. I spent last month (November) trying to implement the suggestions outlined within the Move section of the book.

If I’m honest, the first time I read the book, this pillar- Move– appealed to me the least. I’m not a big fan of organised sport or attending exercise classes, and struggle to know how I’d fit that in anyway! This section of the book is filled with diagrams of exercises to try out and it looked like an awful lot of effort when I wasn’t convinced I’d see the rewards! However, as I focused on the five suggestions that Dr Chatterjee lays out to help us move both more, and more effectively, I did find some really valuable nuggets in there:

 

1) Walk at least 10,000 steps per day

‘When you start seeing the whole world as your gym, you start seeing all the opportunities you have to make moving a simple and achievable part of your daily life.’ – Dr Rangan Chatterjee

I am not a gym goer. I never have been. The gym is the room I walk through to get to the sauna and the steam room! The only time I can remember using a running machine was when I went to a specialist shop to get fitted for some shoes to wear when running… OUTSIDE! Running inside, surrounded by lean, oh-so-fit gym goers with MTV blaring on the huge television screens does not appeal to me! (Although, as I write this, it occurs to me that running indoors might solve my issue with not liking to run in the winter. I am, I admit, a fair weather jogger. I am also a fair weather hiker and fair weather body boarder. I lack the commitment to participating in outdoor-pursuits-whatever-the-weather that I think my husband wishes I had!)

Thus, I found that quote by Dr Chatterjee very motivating and I enjoyed trying to reach this suggested goal of walking 10,000 steps per day! Although, as he notes himself, 10,000 steps is a completely arbitrary target, the author maintains it is simple, achievable, and sets us in the right direction for being more active. I would also add that it has the benefits of being free, and maintainable too! As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, we have been trying to walk more as a family, for environmental reasons initially but now I’d say for health reasons as well. Our town is pretty small and we live quite centrally so I don’t feel we have an excuse not to!

The only thing I found challenging about this suggestion was measuring my steps. Years ago I was given a pedometer in my stocking, but never used it, so must have given it away as I can now no longer locate it! My phone does have a pedometer feature on the health app, and in my more inquisitive moments I find the stats fascinating, but I’m not used to carrying my phone on my body (it is usually in my bag on the pushchair), so the data is not very accurate! (It also feels a bit strange to measure a distance in steps, but from google, I’ve deduced that 1km is around 1550 steps, if that helps. That said, according to my phone, it takes me more steps than that to complete a kilometre!).

Practically speaking, the children’s school is around 1.3 km away and if I manage to walk that route three times in a day (we often grab a lift form my husband on the way to school in the morning!), then that seems to be around 6000 steps. I’ll often wander into town with the my son when he’s not in nursery, so that’s another couple of thousand steps. When I was going through my stats for this I realised that yesterday I clocked 3000 steps just walking around Aldi and Tesco doing my big shop- that seems bonkers to me! Whilst in November, for the purpose of analysis, I tried to keep my phone in my pocket for the longer walks, I didn’t the rest of the time, so there will be a lot of steps- around the house etc- that are not accounted for on my app! 

On the whole, as long it wasn’t a ‘lazy’ day, then I reckon I clocked up my 10,000 steps. It also gave me an incentive to walk when otherwise I might have driven- like on a wet day when I needed to go to someone’s house in the evening, as I wanted to reach my goal!

 

2) Become stronger

Within this section, Dr Chatterjee encourages us to do some form of strength training twice a week and stop neglecting our muscles! He lists the benefits of strength training:

  • Better body composition
  • Reversed ageing
  • Better insulin sensitivity
  • Reduced risk of muscle loss
  • Improved hormonal profile
  • Increased self esteem
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes
  • Improved brain health
  • Reduced risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduction in stress and anxiety

I was surprised by some of them and it definitely encouraged me to take his advice seriously!

The author proposes a five-minute kitchen workout, and though initially I was sceptical, I didn’t find the exercises too tricky to do. The only problem was that I kept on forgetting to do them! I think going forward that I would find this easier if I got into some some sort of routine, perhaps doing the work out with my husband before we sit down to watch TV, or before going to bed.

This autumn I actually started attending a pilates class once a week, and this has felt like a much better form of strength training for me. I like the direction and advice of the teacher, and feel spurred on to hold onto squats etc for longer when there are other people around (there’s nothing like a bit of peer pressure, as long as you know your limitations, of course!).

 

3) Begin regular high-intensity interval training 

Whilst I don’t doubt there are benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), I have not fully embraced this guideline. Scrap that, I don’t want to mislead you. So, for the purposes of transparency, when I say not fully, I actually mean I have not embraced it at all! Maybe it’s just the name intimidating me, but ‘high-intensity’ just sounds like flippin’ hard work (though I suppose that’s the point!). I have flirted with aerobics, x-biking, and zumba over the years, but I just don’t find getting totally out of breath very fun! (Plus, and this is probably as a result of having two babies and a weak pelvic floor, I’m always worried I’ll wee myself!)

The closest I’ve got to embracing this suggestion is by trying to climb the hill on my walk to school at a decent pace; if the world is my gym, as Dr Chatterjee maintains, then the hill outside my house is the Travelator from Gladiators! I wish I could say I travel up it with the ease and skill of Eunice Huthart, but I can’t. However, I just about push the stroller up it, puffing and panting, so it must be doing me some good!

I’ve been a bit slack and haven’t been for a run since we moved here. However, once spring comes, I will jog again, and maybe I’ll finish each jog with a short sprint. A mum friend from school told me that that’s her HIIT training, and that she gets so out of breath and red faced from it that no-one recognises her when she passes them in Lidl. Surely that is a sign of an effective form of HIIT!

 

4) Movement snacking

The advice here is to make a habit of doing three of four ‘movement snacks’ five days a week. My take home from it was that we live lives which are too sedentary, so need to keep active, and this provides us with an intentional way to do that. I almost wish I could relate to that, but I can’t! I feel like I’m moving from the moment I wake up until the time I go to bed, so I’m not sure how relevant this is to me!

However, Dr Chatterjee does recommend ‘playing together’ to keep active, so with that in mind, how did I do? Well, a friend and I took our little ones to a drop in gymnastics session, and because we were the only ones there we didn’t feel too embarrassed having a go on things ourselves. Whilst I sucked at jumping over the horse (no surprise there, I’ve never been known for my  agility!), I did manage to do a forwards roll, which I haven’t done since I was a child, so I felt pleased with that! I often have to race my son to try and keep him moving if he gives up walking or on his bike, so that’s something. We bought a trampoline this term which we’ve all enjoyed (when it’s not raining). And our kitchen discos, when we turn all the lights out apart from the fairy lights, blast music and dance around, are always fun! (Current songs of choice are ‘Gaston’, ‘You’re Welcome’ and Sk8er Boi’!)

 

5) Wake up your sleepy glutes

Dr Chatterjee argues that our glutes have ‘gone to sleep’ because of our lifestyles- too much time sitting in cars driving, in offices working or on the sofa watching TV. He maintains that they are a keystone muscle and that if they are not strengthened correctly then it affects other muscles, like your back.

In this chapter the author gives lots of ideas for exercises to develop your glutes and enhance your extensor chain muscles. Interestingly he says that we often over-focus instead on flexor chain muscles- such as when you curl your biceps or do crunches- as they are our ‘mirror muscles’ and so we live to work on them. However, these can lead to problems such as a rounded upper back and sleepy glutes.

Whilst this makes sense, I just didn’t feel motivated to do the exercises he describes in the book, so I didn’t do it. You see, Dr Chatterjee explains that a lot of his advice is taken from what he’s learnt during his struggles with back pain; he said he has spent thousands of pounds- and hours- on trying to find a successful treatment for his pain over the years, but he’s only sharing the most effective treatments within the book. As someone fortunate enough not to have struggled with back pain thus far, a lot of it therefore felt a bit irrelevant. However, rationally speaking, I do know that prevention is better than cure, so it would be prudent to develop healthy habits now, in order to keep my back pain-free going forward!

Luckily my pilates teacher spends a fair amount of time helping us work our glutes, so that’s how I will achieve this goal.

 

So, does it work? Do I feel healthier?

I’d say that on the whole, this is the healthiest I’ve felt since we moved house three months ago. It is most likely as a result of everything that I’ve been implementing from the other chapters too, but I don’t doubt that ensuring I walk 10,000 steps per day and starting pilates have strongly contributed to it. (Though as a caveat, the walking has only helped my health since I gave in and started pushing my son to school in the stroller. Battling with him to walk or scoot definitely had detrimental effects on my mental health!) I definitely feel fitter for it, I like the aching feeling that I have after pilates (although a friend of mine who is a pilates instructor elsewhere reminded me recently that it doesn’t have to hurt to mean that it is doing me good!) and someone the other day even asked if I’d lost weight! I don’t have scales, so I have no idea, but maybe so; I definitely feel better for being more active, and that is surely the main thing.

 

What about you? Did any of this ring true for you? Have you prioritised movement in your life, and if so, how? I’d love to hear about enjoyable forms of HIIT you may have found! What kind of movement snacks do you build into your life?

2 Comments

  1. It’s enjoyable doing 10,000 steps around Sophia’s house! In fact did over 16,000 yesterday. Can recommend it if you have the right clothing to keep warm and relatively dry!

    Like

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