Saturday, May 22, 2010

Getting past the "same old, same old"

So I've been "training" (yes, I think it counts, even if it's sporadic!) for a couple of months now, with the first few weeks just getting used to the habit and the last few weeks trying to following the 3-day training recommendations. I've not been entirely successful in sticking to the training plan - I've missed quite a few days, and some days I just haven't been able to do the recommended mileage either because of time limitations, or more often, energy limitations. But I've been kinda, sorta on track.

About this time in the training plan, the recommended mileage starts to really pick up. Starting soon, I'll be expected to do 5 miles every Thursday, with more than that on Saturday and Sunday.

Unfortunately, my neighborhood around my home is somewhat isolated, separated from other neighborhoods by two-lane roads with no sidewalks. So if I walk within my neighborhood only, I can only really cover about 2.8 miles without repeat. And THAT means that if I want to get some decent mileage with my home as home base (start and stop), then I MUST repeat. You know, laps.

And THAT gets boring. Really fast. I mean, REALLY fast!

So I've been experimenting with ways to make the same neighborhood streets seem different from walk to walk. To get past the "same old walk" feeling (which for me is very demotivational) and into an eager, motivated frame of mind.

Trick #1: Vary the time of day.
The neighborhood has a completely different vibe when I walk in the early morning before work. And again a different vibe at sunset/dusk. In the morning, the birds are singing, the sun is coming up, the grass is dew-covered and glistening. Sometimes you can hear through people's open windows that they are showering and drying their hair, getting ready for the day. Sometimes you can even smell coffee brewing. In the evening, you can feel that people are settling in, mothers call their kids in from the back yard, charcoal grills are finishing up and burning low. The neighborhood turns grey as dusk settles, and the crickets come out. Mid-day on a Saturday, the streets are very busy with the weekend chores - lawn mowers, hoses, cars, skateboards, swimming pools, bicycles - these all add motion and sound, and give me something to look at and people to talk to.

Trick #2: Add or delete legs of the route
In my development, we have one main street that is 1/2 mile long with a dead end. The other streets come off this main street like branches on a tree - all dead ends too. So my walking route consists of going up the main street, down the branches one at a time, back out to the main street, down the next branch, etc. There are five branches of varying lengths. So sometimes I it them all, sometimes I only do the longest ones, sometimes I do them all going out and all coming back, hitting htem twice, etc. I use different combinatinos of them to get different lengths of walks. The shortest feasible walk is about one mile. The longest, if I hit each branch once, is 2.8 miles. If i hit each branch twice, I can get about 4.6 miles. And so on. Ok, so now that I think about it, this doesn't really make the walks less boring, but it does give me options in my isolate neighborhood.

Trick #3: Vary the music on my iPod
First, for safety I walk with only one ear-bud so that I can hear the traffic and people around me, and i keep the volume low. Safety first!

Some days, I walk with just any music that strikes my mood, and some days I walk with a playlist that I selected specifically for walking. Some days I walk with no music at all.

For my walking playlist, I did some online research to see what tempo (steps per minute) I should be walking for optimum fitness conditioning. I learned that you should warm up slow, then pick up the pace to about 128 beats per minute. You can then do "sprints" at about 140 beats per minute, and then slow down for recovery at 120, etc. Once I knew this, I went through my iTunes collection of music, and I found songs that match the various tempos that I wanted in my walk. I selected songs that have upbeat, positive, even motivational lyrics.

I find that when I use this walking playlist, I get a better workout due to the commitment to the tempo. But when I don't use the playlist, I'm often more relaxed. So there are pros and cons.

Trick #4: Walk with a friend
Whether my husband, kids, quartet mates, or neighborhood friends, I find that the boring route doesn't matter at all if I have someone to walk with. This is a no-brainer!

Trick #5: Spy on my neighbors
OK, I'm kind of only kidding. I don't actually spy on them. But I do enjoy looking at everyone's lawns and gardens, and I do like to see what I can see inside at night when their curtains are open - sometimes you can get good ideas for decorating. That's not spying, is it????

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