Walking (imperfectly) in her shoes – 2016

It’s almost March, and that means it’s time to dust off the walking shoes and start training for the Care Australia Walk In Her Shoes Challenge. This will be the third year I’ve participated in the challenge,  which will take place between 8-14 March.

In 2014, my first year, I set an official target of 20,000 steps a day, which in my mind was really 25,000 steps, and I finished with a total of 183,214 steps.

Competitive Me was very keen to top that last year, so I set myself a goal of 26,000 steps per day, but I intended to top my total, as well as beating my longest walk of 2014 (12.45 km). I did all this, which was great – 199,609 steps over the week and 16.58 km in 2 hours and 53 minutes on the sixth day. I also raised almost twice my fundraising goal, which was helped, I’m sure, by some publicity in the local papers organised by CARE.

I don’t feel as prepared this year, and my current step goal is only 12,000 steps a day, which I’ve been getting nowhere near some days. I think I’d better start walking on the weekends because I’ve set myself a daily step goal of 20,000 steps.

At the end of last year’s challenge I thought that Competitive Me would be back this time, determined to crack the 200,000 step mark for the week, since I got so close last year. But I’m not going to do that.

In the past, I would have felt disappointed with myself for not wanting to try and do better this year. My tendency to set myself high standards would have come through, and Competitive Me would have set out to break last year’s total. Competitive Me would have felt like I was letting myself down for not even trying.

But I’ve been trying to be a bit easier on myself recently, and I feel comfortable with lowering my expectations, which feels really unusual. I feel like I’ve shifted into a new headspace.

It goes a bit like this:

I always thought that being hard on myself and aiming to do things perfectly (or not at all, because if I can’t do it perfectly I’m not going to do it) was something that was wrong with me and was something that I needed to fix. I spent years telling myself that I had it all wrong, and that I should lower my standards and accept “done” rather than “perfect”. But I never could. This never rang true for me. “Done” wasn’t good enough, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself otherwise and how hard I tried to stamp out the nagging perfectionist voice.

A few unrelated comments from unconnected people and equally unconnected passages from unrelated books over a period of several years were brewing away in my mind as I continued to believe that there was something wrong with me and that for me to change and overcome this perfection paralysis, I’d have to fix myself.

And one day it dawned on me that this was completely not true.

Some connections were finally made in my mind, and it slowly dawned on me that setting high standards for myself was part of what makes me me. In acknowledging this, I realised that by trying to “fix” it I was denying a part of my essential nature. Just like trying to “fix” my introversion, my height or my foot size, it cannot be done. And ultimately, I was stressing myself out and not being true to myself by trying to change it.

So I slowly began to realise that I can accept that I am what I am.

The traits in me that I perceive as being overwhelmingly negative are neither good nor bad. They just are. They are traits. Nothing more. There are times they serve me well and there are times they don’t. They can be used positively or they can be used negatively.

I think my mistake has been to focus on the times that a particular trait hasn’t been helpful or has held me back – and perhaps there have been many more times it’s been unhelpful than helpful – and make a projection onto the trait that it’s bad full stop, so I have to get rid of it so that I can be a better person.

I now believe that any trait can be expressed in a positive way or a negative way. Any trait can be a strength or a weakness, depending on how you use it. For example, setting high standards for yourself can lead you to achieve great things while you remain relatively stress-free and committed to what you’re doing. If you don’t achieve everything perfectly you’re okay with that and you don’t see it as a failure. You’ve still achieved what you’ve achieved and that’s pretty amazing. Setting high standards can be a positive thing.

But there’s a point where it can tip over into the negative, and that’s the time you start to get obsessed with getting things done perfectly, you beat yourself up if you don’t, and you set yourself higher and higher standards that become impossible to meet. You put all this stress on yourself to live up to your expectations, even when they’re impossible to meet. And then you feel terrible because not only did you (a) not do whatever it was to the standard you set, but because (b) you set the (probably not achievable) expectation in the first place, and if you weren’t such a perfectionist you wouldn’t have expected so much of yourself, so you should stop demanding so much of yourself and not be like this any more because setting high expectations is something you shouldn’t do . . . It’s a vicious circle.

I suspect that Competitive Me is like this, and wants me to walk 30,000 steps a day this year. And Competitive Me would drive me to do it, even if I was asleep on my feet. And Competitive Me would be devastated if I didn’t get there.

And that’s fine. I set high bars for myself. It’s what I do. I won’t lie. I’m tempted. I want to. I have no doubt that I could push myself very hard and walk 200,000 steps or even 210,000 in a week. But my life and my circumstances are different this year, and 20,000 steps a day will be challenging enough on most days. I’m struggling reaching my current 12,000 steps some days, and some days, well let’s not look at them . . .


So instead of signing up to walk 30,000 steps right away and moving into training overdrive to make sure I didn’t fail (Because failure is not an option), I asked myself a couple of questions.

  • “Do you think this is reasonable given where you are right now?”
  • “Would you be taking good care of yourself if you set such a high expectation and pushed yourself to exhaustion?”
  • “Does it help you get to where you want to be by demanding this of yourself, when you can participate in the challenge with any step count you like? The point is to participate, not to break yourself.”

The answer was no in every case.

I am what I am. There’s nothing wrong with me setting high standards for myself and there’s nothing wrong with pushing myself to live up to them. It’s what I do.

But where Competitive Me would have been anxious, stressed and mad at myself for not trying to outdo last year’s steps (and/or for setting the high goal and not making it), I’m recognising that yes, I  want to do this, but instead of letting Competitive Me put me down about it, I’m  giving myself permission to not do it because it isn’t something I can do right now. I’m giving myself permission to feel okay about it.

It’s a huge mindset change.

So Competitive Me will not be walking 200,000 steps in a week, and I don’t feel guilty or like I’ve let myself down for not trying to do it. I’m aiming to do the best I can from where I am right now. That feels really good.

Now where did I put those shoes?



Walk in her shoes wrapup

Walk In Her Shoes is over for 2015. I’ve had a great time taking part, despite the blisters or callouses or whatever they are causing me some problems over the week. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but maybe if I walk a bit less in some different shoes they might settle down.

I hadn’t really been keeping track of my cumulative steps over the week. I knew that if I averaged a bit over 26,000 steps a day I’d beat my 2014 total of 183,214 steps.

In the end I did more than 27,000 steps each day.

  • Monday: 29,299
  • Tuesday: 29,226
  • Wednesday: 27,474
  • Thursday: 27,050
  • Friday: 27,315
  • Saturday: 31,640
  • Sunday: 27,605

Grand total: 

With a stride length of 65 cm, I calculate this to be a bit under 130 km for the week.

I didn’t know my running total until I started writing this post and added all the days up. If I’d known yesterday, you can imagine what Competitive Me would have been saying.

But . . . All the times I didn’t keep going just that little bit further means that there are things Competitive Me can aim to do next year. Wasn’t that thoughtful of me.

My fundraising total so far is $910, well above my $500 target. Thank you everyone who has sponsored me and sent me messages of support over the week. I’ve appreciated knowing you’ve been behind me, especially on those days it was difficult to get myself out the door. Thank you!

Walk In Her Shoes is a fantastic challenge.

I love the idea of walking so other women and girls don’t have to. I’ve said it before, but the thought that there are girls and women who miss out on getting an education because they have to walk to get water and other basics for their families has been my main motivation. Having sore feet is a pretty minor complaint in comparison.

CARE’s website has several stories of women in some of the communities they work with, and if you’re interests in finding out more you can find them here.

The fundraising pages are open until 30 April, so I’m sure CARE would welcome more donations if you’d like to contribute. My page is here.

Now I know you’ll be wondering what happened to my walking buddy Zoe. She was pretty good coming with me during the week, but she disappeared over the weekend. Well she’s very small, so an almost 3 hour walk on Saturday was asking a bit much. Imagine if I’d lost her! Plus she was needed to be one of the ghost children in Coraline.

On Sunday she somehow found my Barbie’s box of clothes and wanted to go dancing.

20150322 WIHS Day 7 24 Zoe edit

So she’s fine, and all is well. I survived and am looking for the next challenge.

CARE Australia’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge Day 6

Today was the day I’d decided to bust my 12.45 km walking record and aim for 15 km. I expected it would take less than 3 hours and be about 20,00 steps.

I left the house just after 5.30 – a full half hour after I go out on weekdays. What a luxurious sleep in I had.

I started off on my normal route – the 3.5 km one that takes about 35 minutes if I’m on a 6 km/hour pace. I didn’t expect to maintain the pace for the entire 15 km, but I at least wanted to get the first 3 or 4 km in at that pace.

I was a little bit under – at 15 minutes I’d done 1.48 km and at 30 minutes 2.96 km. 5 km took me 50 minutes 42 seconds, and at the half way point (7.5 km) I’d been walking for 1 hour 17 minutes and done 10,000 steps or thereabouts.

It was cold. It started out cold and got colder. My hands were like ice and I really wished I’d worn gloves. They hurt more than my feet, which started out hurting, but I moved them around in my shoes a bit and that seemed to relieve whatever was causing the problem. The band aids helped too.

It took me 1 hour 43 minutes to get to 10 km (14,000 steps) and I’d arrived at the Hill of Pain. This is a road called Saddle Road that goes up from the Magra Fire Station over the hill and back into the Avenues section of Fairview. I went up the easier side and down the steeper side (although I have been known to walk up this way in the past).

If it’s a nice morning you get a good view of the town. This wasn’t that day.

20150321 WIHS Day 6 1 Saddle Rd

Two hours in and I’d done about 11.6 km, and I cracked my previous 12.45 km record in 2 hours and 9 minutes. At 2 hours 24 minutes (13.85 km) I hit 20,000 steps – my original Walk In Her Shoes daily goal.

I was on my way home when I hit the magic 15 km mark (2 hours 35 minutes, 21,000 steps), at which point I had to make it to 16 km or I wouldn’t have got home.

Competitive me made me walk just a little longer, and I ended up at 16.58 km in 2 hours and 53 minutes, with an average pace of 5.76 km/hour. It was almost 24,000 steps.

20150321 WIHS Day 6 14 combo 2

I could have continued for a few minutes more and hit the 3 hour mark and reached my step goal all in the one walk (and competitive me wanted me to do it), but I didn’t – so there’s a challenge for another day.

Then competitive me said, ‘So how are we going to top this tomorrow?’

I said, ‘We aren’t.’

I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve outside the step goals this week: a 6 km walk in under an hour, and a 15 km walk. Even though there is a little niggling disappointment that I didn’t keep walking this morning, I did what I set out to do. And part of me deliberately didn’t go for that extra gold star because it wanted me to be satisfied that I did what I set out to do. I can imagine competitive me saying something like, ‘Hey, you’ve got this far, why not go for 20 km?’

No. I reached my goal. That’ll do. (Apologies to the writers of Babe.)

And tomorrow I have 25,000 steps more to go and one more pair of leggings to wear, so it’s not quite over yet.

This is a plain orange pair of leggings overlaid with a purple lacy pair.

This is a plain orange pair of leggings overlaid with a purple lacy pair.

CARE Australia’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge Day 5

This was a fairly uneventful day. As I dragged myself out of bed at stupid o’clock this morning, all I could think of was that this was the last day I’d have to get up quite this early.

5.5 km walk this morning, the morning school run, a walk at lunch time (the first time this week I’ve actually gone for a walk in my lunch break), the afternoon school run and then as much walking (and jogging on the spot) as I could manage after work.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be getting up at a slightly less unmentionable hour to attempt my major Walk In Her Shoes goal of walking 15 km. I posted on Facebook that I was accepting entries in the ‘how long will it take and how many steps will it be’ competition. First prize was a fabulous opportunity to see a wonderful children’s entertainer accompanied by my lovely son on Sunday.

Strangely enough I had no entries, other than Lil Sis, who needed further information on how many hills and other obstacles would be involved before she committed to an answer.

I’m hoping it will take me less than 3 hours, and I think it will be about 20,000 steps. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

Today’s leggings. I’ve now worn bright leggings to work every day for a week and no one has commented. Perhaps they were too polite.

20150320 WIHS Day 5 1 Leggings

Walking selfie. Who needs a selfie stick? Bonus points if you know where this picture was taken.

20150320 WIHS Day 5 2 Walking selfie

Today Juniordwarf’s school wore orange for Harmony Day, which is tomorrow. I decided to get into the spirit too. Orange and pink go together well, don’t you think? (Thanks Juniordwarf for the photo.)

20150320 WIHS Day 5 3 Me and Zoe

OK, two days to go. I can do this.

CARE Walk in her shoes challenge: Day 4

My feet hurt! The blisters I thought had settled down from a few weeks ago are rubbing again and I don’t like it.

I might try some different shoes for the next day or so.

I’m now more than half way through the challenge and have met my step target every day. Someone at work asked me today what I was doing to get to 25,000 steps a day.

Here are some of the things I’ve been doing:

  • Getting up at an obscenely early hour and going for a walk. This is my fast walk for the day where I try to maintain a 6 km/hour pace. (As I said yesterday I don’t know what a normal walking pace is, but this is a stretch for me – just out of my comfort zone.) Depending on the day, this is either an hour (6 km) or about 40 minutes (4 km). It’s about 6,000 to 8,000 steps.
  • Walking from Juniordwarf’s school to walk. I’m not sure how far this is, but it can take anywhere up to 30-40 minutes depending on which way I go and what I need to do on the way. Most days I walk back to school to pick him up as well.
  • Incidental walking during the day. This does add up. Try and go a slightly longer way somewhere – around the whole block instead of straight up the street. Leave the washing in the basket and take 3 or 4 trips to put it away instead of taking the basket to the wardrobe. Follow an 8-year-old around for a while. Just find opportunities to move when you otherwise wouldn’t.
  • The Exertime program on my computer at work reminds me to get up and do something every hour. Mostly I choose the ‘walk’ option. It’s about 150 steps round trip to the kitchen to get a glass of water and back to my desk. That adds up over the day.
  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift at work. Hahahahahaha. No.
  • Going out at lunch time. Even strolling around the shops for 30 to 40 minutes (which I said I wasn’t going to do) adds quite a few steps to my total. Going for a walk would be better, but I’ve had things I needed to do at lunch time.
  • On the day I work at home, I finish work at 1.00 so I’ve been going for walks for about an hour (or more this week) to make up for not having walked to work.
  • A quick 20-30 minute walk when I get home. You know, instead of collapsing on the couch and going on Twitter. Because I would never do that. Not much. Maybe sometimes. Maybe there’s time to do both . . . (Probably about 4,000 steps.)
  • Walking after dinner until my Fitbit buzzes to tell me I’ve reached my goal. Then walking a bit more as a buffer in case I don’t make it to the goal on another day. This is about 20-40 minutes, depending on how many more steps I need to do. This is about 1.5 to 4 km, depending on how fast I want to walk. (Not very at that time of night.)

I’ve been finding that there are lots of opportunities to increase the amount I move. Sometimes it’s as simple as just realising I have a few minutes when nothing much is happening and there’s nothing I actually have to do right then, and going outside for a walk around the block.

Finally . . .

Today’s leggings.

20150319 WIHS Day 4 2 LeggingsLeggings

20150319 WIHS Day 4 3 Walking

I forgot to take a picture of Zoe while we were walking, but she helped me write this post.

20150319 WIHS Day 4 4 Zoe blogging

Walk in her shoes challenge: Day 3

It’s Day 3 of CARE Australia’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge. I managed another 6 km walk in under an hour this morning. I have no idea of what a decent pace is, but it takes a fair bit of effort for me to maintain a pace of just over 6 km/hour for an hour, so I think I’m doing OK.

20150318 WIHS Day 3 1 6 km

So far this week my step counts have been:

  • Monday: 29,299
  • Tuesday: 29,226

Today’s final count will be less than that, but I’ve reached my 25,000 step target. So far so good.

Today’s leggings. These are one of my favourite pairs. You might remember them from my photo in the paper.

20150318 WIHS Day 3 2 Leggings

Zoe and I went out for a walk after dinner.

20150318 WIHS Day 3 5 Me & Zoe going walking

Now I’m tired and ready for bed – well before 11.30. Perhaps this is the secret to an earlier bedtime: Wear myself out. It just means I won’t get anything done tonight that I wanted to.

I guess it can wait.

See you in the morning.

Walk In Her Shoes Challenge: Day 2

Day 2 of the Walk In Her Shoes challenge and the weather forecast wasn’t looking promising for getting out and walking a lot.

20150317 Not a good outlook

It was still fine in the morning though, so I wanted to do as much as I could before the rain arrived. On this morning’s walk I achieved something I set myself to achieve this week, which was to walk 6 km in under an hour. I’ve been managing to do 3.5 km in under 35 minutes, but I didn’t know if I could keep the pace up for 6 km. It seems I can.

20150317 6 km 1

This was about 8,000 steps.

Today’s leggings.

20150317 Leggings

This is one of my favourite pairs. I love the pattern and the colours. They’re thicker than most of my other pairs and I was going to change them later in the day when the weather got a bit warmer. It didn’t, so I didn’t. (The sticker has been on there for months. Probably years. Courtesy of Juniordwarf.)

By lunch time I’d only reached about 11,000 steps, so I went for a long walk after lunch. It still hadn’t rained, though it was trying to. I checked out the new coffee van on The Esplanade (it’s good) and walked around to Tynwald Park up the steps.

This part of the walk always reminds me of Picnic at Hanging Rock.

20150317 Hanging rock-esque IG

After dinner it was time for another walk to get me up to my 25,000 step goal. It was raining by this time and my walking buddy Zoe doesn’t have a rain coat, so she had to share mine.

20150317 Zoe doesn't have a rain coat

Goal achieved. All going well.