As I recover from hip replacement surgery, the final thing I need to do is build up my strength and stamina, and my doctor recommended walking as the best way to do that. I used to walk 10,000 steps a day, but had given that up when medical issues arose. I wanted to get back into that habit, so I put the following strategies in place to ensure I was successful.
Find an easy tracking tool
I had been using a Fitbit, but I had kept having problems with the battery. A friend was using the Pedometer++ app on her iPhone, so I gave it a try, and it’s meeting my needs. Not all of my pants have pockets, which means I miss some steps because my phone isn’t with me. So I may go back to some sort of wearable, but for now the app is working okay for me.
Set a reasonable goal
I couldn’t go from very limited activity to 10,000 steps all at once. Looking at how much I had been walking just going grocery shopping and such, I set my first goal at 4,000 steps per day — more than what I had been doing, but not so much of a stretch that it felt intimidating.
Track progress against that goal
Once I had my tool and set my goal, and then hit that goal for a number of days, I didn’t want to break my run of successful days. I really wanted to see my step count showing as a green bar (rather than red or orange), showing I’d made my goal. And if I had one low day, I tried to compensate by walking more than normal the next day, so my week average was at least 100 percent of my goal.
This reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld’s method for getting himself to write every day, as recounted on the Lifehacker website:
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.
He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
Adjust the goal over time
Now that I’ve been hitting my 4,000-step mark pretty consistently for a week, I’m going to go up to 4,500 steps. I’ll keep increasing my goal, probably in 500-step increments, until I get to the activity level where I ultimately want to be.
Have a partner working toward a similar goal
I have a neighbor who is also trying to build up her daily walking habit, so many evenings we go walking together. If one of us is feeling lazy, the phone call from the other is just enough to get us both out the door. And we can push each other to walk just another block or two.
I haven’t given myself any sort of treat, but I am definitely noticing how much better I’m feeling now that I’m out walking again. And that’s all the reward I need right now!
I also share my success on social media, periodically, because the encouragement from friends feels good and keeps me inspired.
Whatever habits you want to build — health-related habits, uncluttering habits, etc. — similar strategies might work for you, helping to ensure you make time in your day for these new habits to take hold.