Every Step Counts... And How!Featured

Written by Mimmy Jain
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My days as a couch potato seem to be over: it's time to pound the pavements now

SO HOW many steps have you done today?” It was the son on his now daily phone call. No, this is not a back-to-the-womb regression phase, it’s filial love demonstrating itself in terms of mild — dare I say it? — bullying. Not that I can complain, for the son learns from example. And if I’d wanted him to not do as I did, I shouldn’t have bullied Appa for so many years to go for a daily walk.

For that was what this was all about. Going for a walk. Moving my butt. Getting from Place A to Place B, preferably as far away from each other as possible.Every single day. And the motivation was powerful. I had just had a painful visit to the GP and come back with a fatty liver and gall stones. The prognosis was, get rid of the fat, or else! Since the “else” seemed to hold a compulsory diet of boiled vegetables for the rest of my life, even I had to get off my chair and stand to attention. The GP had been kind, the son was not.

“I’m sending you my Fitbit,” he said once he had digested the news. “And you can start using it. Ten thousand steps every day.”

“Of course!” I breezed. “I can do ten thousand steps easy.”

Two months later, I can only say that at the time, I was still in shock that it was my liver that was misbehaving or I would never have said that. In my book of knowledge, livers were things that got cheeky if you replaced the blood stream in your system with alcohol. And if you studied the family’s drinking habits, my intake of half a pint of cider or beer once a month or so hardly qualified me as the obvious target for a recalcitrant liver.

For ten thousand steps were a lot of walking — four kilometres or more, as I found out when I set out on Day 1. “OMG!” I huffed into the mobile that evening. “I managed five thousand. That’s good, don’t you think?”

“Ma, that’s just half of what you were supposed to do!”

“But I tried, beta. And it’s only the first day!’ I could have reasoned further, but the only thing I could hear at the other end of the line was a disapproving silence. Hell, I’ve tried that one myself; I had no idea what it felt like at the receiving end. Poor Appa!

Let me stress here that I am not an exercise-minded person. Not even a movement-minded one. When the husband famously forgot me behind at a traffic light (I had stepped off the scooter to adjust my dupatta!), I took an autorickshaw home and called in sick at work. As a child, I have been known to study my legs, says Amma, and wonder what purpose they served till I discovered they could carry me to a cinema hall. And here I was, expected to move my legs along for five kilometres every day.

“I’m sure that creature is biased. I walked for so long today and it refuses to go above six thousand!”

“Ma, it’s a gadget. Gadgets don’t come with built-in biases.”

The husband was a tad more sympathetic. He took me shopping for walking gear. He knew that would ensure at least a week’s worth of walks. At the sports shop, we discovered that athletic clothes manufacturers don’t really cater to the, well, larger woman. “If they’re all that skinny thin, why do they need to walk?” I asked bitterly.

“You don’t get this, do you?” asked the husband wearily. “They are that skinny thin because they walk, actually run.” I forgave him. We’d just spent three hours rummaging around in the shop and come up with exactly two uppers and two lowers that would not creak at the seams when I put them on.

Luckily, I already had sneakers — a lucky buy from Noida. For the love of God, I could not see any sneakers that had Velcro fasteners in the Swansea sports shop. And there was no way I was going to be able to bend down and tie shoelaces on a daily basis. That was way more exercise than my back (or belly) could take!

But there were other things. “I need new, well, stuff,” I said to the husband, huffing and puffing into the room one day. “These, they chafe. I can’t walk in them.” My usual garb at home is a loose, freeflowing day gown. Oh all right, call it a nightie! I am a Malayali, what do you expect? So it was not surprising that I would find that most of my wardrobe chafed me in all the wrong places. But we were now up to a steady seven thousand steps every day, so the husband bore up manfully under the strain and we went shopping for new unmentionables.

There were really no excuses left, so I tried eight thousand steps. Oh the difference a thousand steps can make! My calves felt as if they’d been wrung dry. And God, it seems, took pity. The Fitbit stopped working.

“It just needs a new battery,” said the son sharply. The battery was changed and the Fitbit, taking umbrage at this slight, stopped working altogether. The son ordered a new one.

“I can rest meanwhile?” I asked hopefully.

“Of course not!” he said. “Just use S Health on your phone.”

So there I was out on my walks again, now with my phone. Unlike the Fitbit, the phone did not sit in my pocket all day, so my walks became longer just to measure up to the son’s step count.

“I’m so bored with same old walk,” I grumbled one day. “It’s all so same old, same old. I go to the beach every day, walk around it and then come back.” This was really me being ornery because the beach in question is Swansea Bay and one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. “So go to the city centre,” said the husband in a weak moment. “And if you’ve done your steps, you can treat yourself to a cup of coffee.”

Then, at the beginning of June, Swansea decided to turn up the heat. “It’s so hot!” I gasped. The husband and I were out together on a walk and we were both dripping. “You need a hat,” he said. So my next walk was in search of a hat. By now, I was up to nine thousand steps a day and, though I was loath to admit it, I was finding my stride, even enjoying the achievement some days.

Then, one day, I did manage the full ten thousand. I was full of my achievement as I headed up the stairs. As I let myself into our flat. I could hear the husband on the phone. It could only be with the son. “Yesss!” I said to myself. Then I heard the husband saying, “At this rate, it might have been cheaper to get her a new liver!”

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