Saturday, June 21, 2014

Step By Step

Slim fit. That's me. I've always maintained a slim frame (slim, not skinny, okay?), never putting on much fat and weight despite my ferocious appetite. I enjoy walking, running, cycling, playing sports, and generally sweating out in the outdoors.

That was then, though. When I was younger and freer. Each evening, as a kid, I would be either exploring some new forest trail leading up a hill, or racing down a green pitch to kick a ball through a makeshift goal post fashioned out of wooden poles or plastic skittles. 

But now, I have a job. Time is short, commitments are stifling. I'm still slim, but less fit. And that's why I decided to join a corporate wellness program called the 'Global Corporate Challenge' ("GCC"), with six other colleagues.

What is GCC?

All participants are each given a pair of pedometer, and an online account. For 100 days, we have to clasp the pedometer to our apparel, close to our body. The pedometer would track our movements, quantifying it as 'steps'. At the end of each day, we have to diligently record the total number of daily steps into our GCC account.

The rest of my teammates aren't quite fit either. Some are busy with family, aren't fond of breaking sweat, or just plain lazy. As captain, I have set some lofty, yet achievable, goals for my team, based on the data the GCC system publishes to track our progress (daily step average, global ranking, etc.).

To put things into perspective: 

  • For 2013, the global daily step average was 13,101
  • For 2014, there is a total of 284,963 participants and 40,709 teams worldwide.

Yes, the immediate objective is to rack up as many steps as we can. But the ultimate objective is to instill discipline in us to exercise regularly.

No, I'm not in Athens - it's just GCC's way of styling things up, using fictional locations to represent our milestones, as if we're on some Euro tour.

Ready, Get Set, False Start!

I didn't have the best of starts. I lost my pedometer on the first day itself, and nearly lost my second a few days later. True story, no kidding.

The first few days of the challenge coincided with an internal corporate conference. Colleagues from Asia, Europe and America flew into the city. The senior management - roughly aged between 45 and 65 - had formed a GCC team. True to their nature, they were very determined. My boss' boss' boss was also in the challenge. When I asked him casually about his progress, he pointed at his shoe. "You get more steps this way," he whispered with a cunning wink. I duly took his sagely advice, and re-positioned my pedometer from my belt loop to my shoe. Bad move. Few hours later, my pedometer went missing. I retraced my steps, searched the floor and under tables. I never did find it, and neither did my colleagues nor the hotel staff (someone, somewhere, must really be in the know on the fitness accessories black market).

Anyway, so I turned to my spare pedometer. For a few days, it worked out fine. I grew more self-conscious, kept gazing at my shoe every minute or so (really, the trick works). It's not always stuck on my shoe, though. The times I'm furiously running, I clip it to my shorts (accidentally crunching it under a heavy, quick-moving foot is a real risk). Upon coming home from my debut run with the pedometer, I immediately dumped my sweaty shorts into a pail of water. You can't go swimming with a pedometer. It's not water-proof, I discovered, after fishing out the drowning pedometer. All digits were gone. It stopped counting. Once again, I screwed up bad.

Thankfully, the fitness gods slapped me off with a kind warning, the second time. The morning after drowning, the pedometer resuscitated to life. 


The Journey So Far

Okay, that previous part wasn't exactly about my fitness performance. But it did set the tone for the rest of the challenge - stay alert, stay disciplined, but don't push it (plus I learnt a valuable life lesson - check your clothes and empty the pockets, before throwing them into the laundry).

In the past few weeks, I improved my step count significantly, by changing my daily habits, including:

  • I used to drive to the rail station to commute to work. But now, I take a 10-minute walk to the station itself, before commuting (whilst reducing carbon emission in the process).
  • Despite there being a small neighbourhood park almost right next to my new place, I rarely jogged there. But now, I make it a point to jog there at least twice a week, and progressively increase my rounds.
  • There's also a shop-lot nearby, barely a 5-minutes drive away, which I'm fond of dropping by for a quick meal. But now, I'll take a pleasant walk there, even if it takes me slightly longer.
  • At office, we're all prone to sitting hunched over our desk, staring at a flashing screen. But now, I'll try to pace around the work area, and even in meeting rooms (it's also good for ergonomics, lessening fatigue and increasing productivity).
  • Thanks to elevators and escalators, we can move from different heights, hardly lifting a foot. But now, I rather take the stairs (which, for short distances, saves more time than waiting and crowding around such mechanical displacement devices).

Simple and small things, of course. But they can each go a long way to make us more active and less lazy, each turn of the day.

Let's go, team... but first, let me take a selfie!

One Step At A Time

Why no weekend pre-dawn mountain hikes? Why not join a gym? Why not, as team captain, organise weekly team work-out sessions after work?

I could do all that, but I won't. The point of the challenge - at least for me - is to change our lifestyle, one step at a time, on things that we can follow up for the long haul. Yes, I did set team goals, and I'm fully driven to achieve them. However, fitness is not a destination; rather, it's a journey. How we reach the finish line is just as important as reaching there. There's no point over-exerting for 100 days, only to console yourself that you can return to your usual YOLO lifestyle once it's all over.

The journey of wellness ought to last a lifetime. Pick up a pace only if we can sustain it. Take it slow, stay on track. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Life only falls short into a sprint, when we burn out early. Life endures into a marathon, when we infuse pace and peace into our rhythm, and tread through life, step by step.

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