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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Exercising in the ‘Hood

I decided that I had been off the exercise wagon long enough.
The excuse I was using of my husband’s surgery and my surgery had worn out, so I was left with no choice but to get back into exercising. Plus, seeing that number on the scale creep back up is enough to make me lose my appetite. The really frustrating part is no matter how much I scream at the scale, it is never intimidated.
Since my husband is off work from his surgery, I decided I would just walk around our neighborhood while he watched our son. That way if one got on the other’s nerves too much, it wouldn’t be hard to find me. You may want to re-think that strategy if your goal is to get away from your family. There is something very therapeutic from walking alone.
I also don’t recommend wearing headphones as it can be very soothing hearing the birds chirp and the squirrels play. That may not be your scenario though if you have kids following you saying, “Mom, Mom, Momma, Mommy! Where you going?” You may also need to be able to hear your neighbor’s mean dog barking at you as he is learning to find his way up and over the fence.
Our neighborhood has enough hills and steady inclines to give us a varied landscape in which to walk. Couple that with weight lifting 2-3 times a week and maybe I’ll start losing the weight gained from stress and even get some of that energy back. Though I doubt if I have enough self esteem to wear walking shorts and pump iron with an I-Pod strapped to my arm while I walk. It may be good for you, but it does make people look and laugh at you as you walk by. I hope to be fit enough someday to be able to do that and not care what my neighbors think. Till then I’ll stick with my longer jean shorts to cover my cellulite and t-shirts with sleeves long enough to cover my jiggly arms.
I’m sure some of the residents around the neighborhood thought my husband and I were stalking children or casing houses as we were driving slow down cul-de-sacs and turning around. Really, we were just marking the mileage off on our van’s odometer, so we knew how far we had to walk. If you don’t want to appear as a stalker, you can go to a paved walking course at a park that has mile markers and time yourself. That way you know how far you walk in say 30 minutes. Then just walk that long at home to get the comparable distance.
While walking this morning I wondered if a stroll around the neighborhood was enough of a challenge to get me back in shape. We don’t have any exercise equipment at home except for a couple of hand weights. Would a neighborhood walk be comparable to the many different machines you find at the gym?
I think you can achieve the same results walking around most typical neighborhoods and here’s what I discovered:
Experts suggest walking on uneven terrain to help build leg and core muscles. Walking on most city sidewalks fulfills this requirement. Except for the well to do couple that have lived in the same house since it was built, and who just put in a new concrete driveway and sidewalk, most sidewalks are anything but flat. They are busted up from tree roots and years of salt thrown on them every winter. You get added core stabilizing moves when you find yourself skidding and sliding on the ones that have turned to pure gravel.
You get quite a workout stepping up and down and over broken sidewalks, rocks, large sticks, dog poop, gum and toys left out. Plus there’s a hidden strength benefit for your arms. You gain upper body strength when you have to catch yourself after tripping over something and sailing face first into the pavement. Having all your weight suddenly thrust upon your hands and arms and then jumping up quickly hoping no one saw you are some extra ways to build strength and stamina.
Exercise gurus also say to lose weight while walking you should add short, fast sprints in order to raise your heart rate. I can manage to get in a few longer sprints trying to avoid the mean dog that always ends up chasing me. I have found that the run in addition to the fear of being eaten alive does wonders at raising your heart rate.
If you want to avoid this then try and time your walks with meter readers, mail carriers and other delivery people to help distract the loose dogs. Having some tag team friends to share your “run for your life” with can help break up the boredom and you won’t feel so alone. Remember when being chased, you don’t have to outrun the dog, you just have to be faster than the other guy. Predators always go for the weaker, slowest prey.
You can also walk just inside the yard of a dog who is held captive by an invisible fence. But I must warn you, most property owners frown at such practice and many dogs learn to push past the fence shock and will charge through the invisible fence after you. Everyone I have ever known that had an invisible fence had a dog that managed to learn to push through it. They also say the shocked look on the face of the person the dog was chasing after was absolutely priceless.
Another way to add short sprints and faster heart rates is to walk in really bad parts of town after dark. Though I cannot recommend this for safety reasons, hearing gunshots, having creepy people follow you and being generally scared out of your wits will raise anyone’s heart rate to at least their target rate if not past it. Again, it’s not the safest way and I would caution against it, but it is an option. Maybe your neighbor will allow you to take their mean dog with you for protection and wearing bullet proof vests is another way to build stamina- I hear they are very heavy.
If you happen to be fortunate enough live out in the country you can use the uniqueness of the land, it’s wildlife and all the varied opportunities that come with it as an even better place to walk and get fit. Being surprised by a skunk, being chased by a swarm of bees, stepping in groundhog holes and yes, even being chased by a neighbor’s mean dog (I can’t get away from that scenario) are all great ways to build your strength and cardio fitness.
And if you happen to see me trying to outrun the neighbor’s mean dog, come join me! I always could use another decoy friend.

**If you are a stay-at-home mom who has ever struggled to make ends meet, or a working mother who would like to transition to a business that allows you to spend more time with your family, then Project MAHMA is for you!

Project MAHMA(Moms at Home Making A Difference…and a Lot of Money!) is a global coalition of moms (and dads) who are earning an income from home and giving themselves the gift of freedom— including more time with their families—while at the same time offering others the gift of better health and a better life.

Visit us on the Web at: Project MAHMA
So no matter where you live, you have wonderful opportunities to use your neighborhood as your own personal fitness course. Who needs an expensive gym when you got every possible scenario right outside your door!

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