Both feet in the exercise trap |

Both feet in the exercise trap

Until recently, I knew only two things about competitive walking:

1. It actually is an Olympic sport, the kind of Olympic sport that makes you think, “Well, I guess the biathlon’s not so bad after all.”

2. When “race walkers” finish a grueling stroll, they always seem to wander off to the side of the track and throw up. And vomiting, my friends, is God’s way of saying you did something for which he did not intend.

I guess I’ve just never thought of walking as a valid form of exercise. It’s a basic human function, right? Like chewing or waving. If those make it into the Olympics, even the curlers would wave their brooms in disgust.

Maybe I’m bitter because I’ve just never been good at walking.

When I was a kid, if I walked, I would trip on a wrinkle in the carpet. Actually, I would trip on a seam in the carpet. OK, I would trip just thinking the word “carpet.” My sister and I were famous for veering into the walls of even the most generously wide hallways.

Anyway, all this is just a backdrop for my mixed feelings when The Union recently decided to dole out pedometers to 50 employees, who will track the number of steps they walk each day. Our total steps are then tallied on a large chart in the lunchroom.

I wasn’t too hip with this plan until I heard that last part. Your individual progress is posted publicly, like one big ol’ competition. Suddenly I find myself looking around the room, rubbing my palms together and thinking, “Oh, I’m going to walk your butts off.”

The goal is to hit 10,000 steps (5 miles) in a day. No problem, right? It must be a few thousand steps just going back and forth to the vending machines here in the newsroom.

With my pedometer strapped stylishly to my waistband, I commenced the competition.

What have I learned in the week since? Well, I only rack up a few hundred steps in the office. Going across the street for a muffin doesn’t do the trick, either.

In fact, I gave a friend a walking tour of Nevada City the other morning, and that only put me at 4,000 steps. I considered walking her to Rough and Ready, but I had to get to work.

Facing a daily walking shortfall, I stepped it up. The dog seemed excited with my newfound interest in trotting him all over creation. But my pacing around the living room left him somewhat confused.

Now I look for just about any reason to walk somewhere. Parking at the far end of the grocery store lot isn’t an annoyance, it’s a competitive advantage.

Getting that 10,000 steps – much less stomping my colleagues on the leader board – apparently is going to take a lot of work. But I’ve been feeling more energized, the dog’s happier, and I even find myself breaking a sweat when I try to rack up a few thousand strides in an evening.

Hey, wait a minute. This is exercise. I’m probably even getting in better shape. I am such a sucker.

All right, enough talking. I’ve got to get on the hoof if I want to make up another 3,000 steps today.

Plus, time trials are probably starting soon for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

If you’d like to try a similar pedometer experiment with your office, give a call to Sharla Cartzdafner here at The Union, 477-4227.


David Griner is city editor of The Union. His column appears occasionally on the Opinion Page. He can be reached at

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