How Simply Walking for Exercise Enabled Me to Keep up with People Half My Age on the Hardest Hike of My Life. It Can Do The Same For You, Too!

How Simply Walking for Exercise Enabled Me to Keep up with People Half My Age on the Hardest Hike of My Life. It Can Do The Same For You, Too!

Walking for Exercise

My heart is pumping so hard it feels like it’s about to explode and splatter all over the inside of my rib cage. Blood screams through my veins and when forced into my eardrums, it thumps like a bass drum on either side of my head. I am boiling hot with a cold frosting, as a cool breeze sucks the sweat off my face. My thighs feel like pistons slowly grinding up and down, glowing orange with the heat of pain and exhaustion. It’s been 33 years since I’ve experienced these sensations, running for my high school cross-country team.

My son Koby and I were on a college tour in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. My niece Rebecca lives out there and when she hospitably offered to take us on a hike, my hand shot up, “great!” Who doesn’t love a nice hike with a mountain vista? Unfortunately she wasn’t very specific or maybe, it’s the mountain culture out there (everyone seems fit and outdoorsy). I assumed that a hike in small town Squamish, less than an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver, was going to be of the horizontal variety, with a couple of inclines, just like back home.

In retrospect, I was suckered in with “It’s one of the most popular hikes…” The name of the trail, “The Chief”, should have set off alarm bells, but I wasn’t listening.

The Chief, Squamish B.C.

The Chief, Squamish B.C.

The twisty mountain road leading to Squamish from the city was totally enchanting. The endorphins must have clouded my judgment when “The Chief” was pointed out to me in the distance. I raised my hand to shield my eyes from the sun, “it’s only three fingers tall” I deluded myself. On the trail, even as it became clear that it was 99.9% vertical, I was still avoiding the truth and secretly hoping we would hit a long flat meadow around the next bend…

More stairs. Hiking The Chief, Squamish, B.C.

More stairs. Hiking the Chief, Squamish, B.C.

No meadows. No flat stretches. The vertical just didn’t stop! Steep wooden stairs, well worn rock faces and the odd ladder, here and there. Frankly, I wouldn’t have been surprised if at any moment I imploded and spontaneously combusted at the same time!

Alternatively, I had visions of having to give up, turn around with my tail between my legs and go sit in the rental car until the kids returned. They would wake me from a nap, slapping with excitement on the driver side window, telling me how amazing it was.

I looked upwards, yet another flight of these torturous stairs! Then I saw that Koby and Rebecca, both less than half my age, and in excellent athletic condition, were suffering too! Holy crap! What’s going on?! I’m supposed to be 50 years old, but I could still keep climbing even as my heart was puffing up like a Pelican’s throat pouch. I was still able to make my legs move, even through they were on fire. There were times when I was even able to over-take the kids or hover in-between them.

Scrambling up the summit of The Chief, Squamish, B.C.

Scrambling up to the summit, The Chief, Squamish, B.C.


Let’s Rewind.

14 months before this moment, I was 30+ pounds overweight. I sat on my fat butt everyday as I worked at the computer. I planned to go to the gym, but something always came up and I would postponed my exercise. This had been happening for years and it wasn’t until I gave up on the idea of going to the gym, and decided to look at everything in my daily life as a form of exercise, did things change for me. I bought my first digital pedometer (a Fitbit Zip) and started to look at life through an objective lens. I would measure how much I would walk in a week and what those activities were, then I would figure out how to hack them.

Grocery Shopping

I discovered that my weekly grocery shopping trip would include 1 to 1.5 miles of walking. So now I would look for ways to increase that. I’d park as far away from the grocery store as I could. After loading groceries in the car, I would walk the shopping cart back into the store and then return to the car. If coffee was the same price or on sale at another store in the mall complex,I would walk there too. Before I knew it, I was able to push my weekly grocery shopping distance to 2 to 2.5 miles. Over a year that is 130 miles of walking for exercise.

Commuting via Public Transport

When I take public transportation, rather than stand around and wait for my bus or train to arrive, I walk one, two or more stops on either end of my commute. That could add up to 3 miles a day, which would be approximately 780 miles a year!

Walking the Dogs

Not everyone has a dog, or two, I know, but the thought process is what is important here. I use to walk my two dogs together and get about 1.15 miles, 2 or 3 times a day which is 2.3-3.45 miles. We have issues when one of the dogs sees a squirrel, and from an observers’ point of view, it’s not a pretty sight. Then it dawned on me, walk them separately, and since I wouldn’t be wasting time dealing with the entangled leashes, it would only cost me about 50% more time. Now I have a lovely brisk walk with each dog and I get around 6.5 – 7 miles a day. That really adds up, like 2,555 miles a year.

Blast through those calories with a walking desk using the Ikea Fredrik Standing Desk. Learn more at



Walking while Working

Since I spend many hours a day at my computer writing, building websites, photo retouching, video editing and many more tasks, this seemed like it needed to be hacked, big time!
I started researching walking desks and my first test was adapting a old treadmill we have in our basement. It didn’t take long for me to realize, that even walking at 1-1.5 mph, I could not only do all he activities I needed to on the computer, but the standing and walking helped me concentrate. I then upgraded my walking desk to a better DIY setup with an old Ikea FREDRICK desk bought off of Craig’s List for $70 and an inexpensive small, Confidence Power Plus Motorized Electric Treadmill for $199 (detailed blog posts all about walking desks are coming soon!). I have not looked back and frankly can’t ever see myself sitting at a desk to work again.

On average my total daily walking for exercise, distance (all the activities I did that day and the walking desk) is somewhere between 7-10 miles a day. Currently I am in my 23rd month of the LHD lifestyle and walking about 12-14 miles a day, as I am attempting to hit 5,000 miles walked in 2 years! [Update: 2 years and 2 weeks. Traveling for Thanksgiving slowed me down…]

It doesn’t matter how much you walk, just move as much as you can, and you will see results!

My Results

What I discovered was, by looking at everything I did in my day from the mundane to the necessary, and finding ways to hack more walking for exercise out of each individual activity, I was able to lose 30lbs of weight and walk 1,000 miles in 6 months! Now, to be perfectly transparent, I was also hacking my food (read more about how to do that here.) Regardless of the food side of the equation, hiking The Chief was 14 months after I had started putting my daily life and walking into syncronicity. Without knowing it, I was able to create this quiet reservoir of energy, strength and stamina that paid off when I started my ascent The Chief, on that day.

I was so surprised that I was able to not only make it up to the summit and then down, but I was expecting to be paralyzed with muscle fatigue for the days following this accomplishment – I experienced no negative effects on the days that followed!

The Summit, The Chief, Squamish, B.C.

The Chief, Squamish, B.C.

To put this hike into perspective, The Chief is the “second largest granite monolith in the world” and stands at 2,297 feet or 700m tall. My Fitbit One digital pedometer, which records flights of stairs climbed, was smoking and at the summit as it displayed 166 flights of stairs! That day I even earned the Fitbit “150 stairs in a day” badge!

Fitbit 150 floors in a day badge

You Are What You Do!

Reveling in my accomplishment on the summit of The Chief, my sandwich tasted 100 times better than it deserved to. The view was absolutely spectacular and as I was taking it in, a gentleman walked into my field of view. I said hello and told him how I was amazed to have survived the hike up. He wasn’t particularly impressed, but congratulated me anyway. I asked him if this was his first time on The Chief and he responded by putting me in line! He pointed to his house in the town of Squamish below us, told me he was 67 years old and climbs The Chief every Saturday and Sunday for a little fresh air and a stroll!


I guess YOU are what YOU do! Get walking for exercise!

Thanks for Reading

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Climbing Back Down from Obesity: Listening to your 10 year old Self.

Climbing Back Down from Obesity: Listening to your 10 year old Self.

Climbing Back Down from Obesity: Listening to your 10 year old Self.

In the early 1970’s in the once sleepy metropolis of Toronto, Canada, I played out my childhood along the tree lined streets of Rosedale, a city neighborhood akin to a desirable American suburb. I would be out on my orange banana-seat bike from breakfast ’til dinner time, exploring my world and getting into just enough trouble, to not get caught. It was a happy time and I lived day to day, in the moment. One of my favorite things to do was climb trees! In fact, we lived opposite a park and looking out our front window, it looked like a display case, with about 12 mature Oak and Maple trees to choose from, each one whispering my name with their leaves.
I’d prop my bike up against the trunk of one of those trees, scramble to stand on the seat and then reach up for a low hanging branch. As I pulled myself up into the tree, my day’s adventures would begin. Each route to the topmost perch would have it’s challenges; often times I would start one way but then get stuck and have to backtrack to the starting point, then try a different route.

The climb down wasn’t without it’s risks either, the skin on my inner arms and thighs was marked with a familiar bark-burn pattern. I’d often yelped when impaled by a tiny broken twig stump. My favorite was the micro-second blackout and slow build to brain-numbing pain when I would thump my head against a thick, hard branch, which I neglected to notice. My reflex would be to hug the tree under my body and as the tears welled up in my eyes, all I wanted, was to get down, now!

Through the blinding pain, I’d have a self-pity fantasy about yelling out for help and my parents would be below with the full fire department. The firemen would be extending the truck ladder just for me, I’d be saved, a crowd would cheer. Then as the pain subsided, I’d shake off the fantasy and continue down the tree the best way I knew how; the way I got up, but backwards.

If the 48 year old me could travel back in time to one of those days, I’d walked up to that tree, take that gorgeous banana-seat bike in my hands, caress it’s curvy handle bars… “Hey! Mister, that’s my bike! Stop touching it like that!!!” Ooops, I guess I need to introduce myself to my 10 year old self… I stumble through an explanation of who I am and how I got there, that only a 10 year old boy would believe. “But you’re bald, gray and fat!” my 10 year old self, blurts out defensively.

I take a moment to separate the facts from the insults. I explain that he is correct, but the bald and gray things are genetic and I have no control over them. “And the fat?” he asks. I quickly lecture him, that 38 years in the future, we call it “overweight” not “fat”. “Fine then, how’d you get fat overweight?” My 10 year old self nails the landing from a low branch. My mouth opens and I stutter out an excuse, “it’s complicated, kid…” but that isn’t a truthful answer.

How can I brush off my 10 year old self by implying that I wasn’t in the driver seat when I collected the 35lbs of history, I carry around with me? I want to tell him it was unavoidable, but was it? Did I always have to stuff my face with chocolate brownie ice cream? Was I forced to eat all the left-overs on my kids’ plates? Did I really need to nibble on a whole bag of chips just to stay up until 2am finishing up work? How about skipping the gym 4 weeks in a row?

Looking back on those decisions I see that that they did have an effect on my future, and it was not a positive one. Could I have made better choices, clearly, yes. So I’m standing there trying to figure out how to justify to my 10 year old self why I, why WE, are going to be “overweight” in the future. The little punk comes over to me and grabs our bike from my hands. He looks me in the eyes, shakes his head in disgust, “loser!” he whispers under his breath, and starts to scuff away.

Humiliated. Tongue-tied. In desperation I blurt out, “Yeah, so “we” are fat. What are “we” going to do about it?” He slows down, and turns to face the largest tree in the park, he points to the uppermost perch, and then very matter-fact says, “That’s the hardest tree to climb, but I do it, no problem, ‘cause I always get down the way I got up, just backwards…”

38 years later and 35 pounds overweight, bordering on the medical definition of obese, I did have choices, lots of them. I chose to barrel through and make the poor ones. I have no one to blame but myself. So now I have to make my way back down through those poor decisions.

I could call the “fire department” and make someone else responsible for my recovery. Then if it fails, it’s the diet or doctors’ fault not mine. Dr. Oz on TV has proclaimed that he has found 16 weight loss miracles so far – so why is there still an obesity epidemic? Clearly the U.S. senate agrees with me, it’s his fault.

“The fastest route is the path sold to suckers with no patience for the actual process involved ….” – Corbett Barr

I was responsible for the process of becoming overweight and through the wisdom of my 10 year old self, the solution lies in me being personally responsible for climbing back down. So how do can you and I do that?

Burn More Calories than you Consume

It really is, that simple.

Become Mindful of What you Eat and how Much of It.

Grab a free food diary app for your smartphone and start logging your consumption. Now you will know how many calories are coming in and be able to extrapolate the number of calories you need to burn, to lose weight. Start eating your favorite foods a little differently; instead of eating out of the bag or box, put out a serving and then put the remainder away. Slowly over time, look at your favorite dishes and see how you can make a small change to lower it’s calorie impact but maintain your satisfaction. Do this everyday and your calorie intake will fall and over a year you could lose 5 to 10 pounds.

Look for Every Opportunity in your Day for Exercise

Everyday we make dozens of decisions that could either negatively or positively effect our health. Most of the time we do this mindlessly… So let’s engage. Take the once wasted chore of grocery shopping and turn it into a workout; park in the furthest spot from the entrance of the store. Keep moving as you shop. Bring reusable bags and load them so they are heavy, lift them up and down several times each time you move them.
On your daily commute, do you use public transport? Walk a stop or a couple instead of mindlessly waiting for your train or bus to come. Instead of taking an elevator, take the stairs. Need to go to the bathroom? Take the long way there and back. These small positive acts quickly add up day after day, week after week and by the end of a year you could lose 5 or 10 pounds!

Make Yourself Accountable with Truthful Data

Get yourself a inexpensive pedometer, or better yet, get one that wirelessly synchronizes with your smartphone and food diary app. Every step you take during your day will be recorded and you will get credit for them against what you eat. If your pedometer and food diary synchronize together, then that calculation is done automatically. You can easily see at any moment in time how you are moving towards your goals.
Exercise and eating decisions are now based on real data.

Do it Everyday so that you Reinvent your Lifestyle

Take these steps everyday, be mindful of what you eat and how you keep moving – you will see real change. You are not going to see huge results in a week or a month but you will see a downward slide in your weight. Keep doing this for three, six months, a year and you will reach your weight-loss goal. The added prize to reaching your goal this way, is that you have reinvented your lifestyle and your change can be permanent!

It’s now 40 years on from when I was climbing that tree and if I had another encounter with that little punk – he’d be proud. I have lost all the weight I had gained, in fact I weigh the same as my 19 year old self (who I really, don’t want to meet!). Between being on track to hit 4,700 miles walked in 2 years, with the help of my treadmill desk and a year plus of Yoga to build up my flexibility and core strength, I think I could take on my 10 year old self, in a race to the top of one of those trees.

If a 50 year old father of three teenagers can do this, so can you!

Thanks for Reading!