I just spent a week eating my way across southern Spain. Paella, tapas, decadent pastries and rich cheeses .... I indulged in them all, and washed them down with lots of sangria and rioja.
Yet I arrived home two pounds lighter than the day I left. How? I walked. And walked. For hours every day, savoring the sights, sounds and scents of Seville, where my collegiate daughter is studying this semester.
I ate twice as much as I typically do at home but felt fitter and healthier and slept better every single night -- even on unfamiliar hotel beds. Yes, I was on vacation, so I had the luxury of time. Yes, Seville is warm in March, so it's a lot more pleasant to be outdoors than it is in Minnesota.
And, yes, there are plenty of places to work out in Minnesota, including the employee fitness center on the floor right below the butt on which I'm now sitting as I type this.
But it's not the same as having physical activity naturally incorporated into daily life the way it seemed to be in Seville -- even for Spaniards who weren't on vacation. (Overweight folks were a rare sight on its streets, sidewalks and urban bike paths.)
When I lived in Minneapolis, I also found it much easier to weave activity into an average day because I lived only a short walk from a grocery store, a video store, a drug store and a coffee shop. I could easily combine a walk with an errand, and there were many appealing places to stroll.
But since moving to suburbia 14 years ago, my life has gotten a lot more butt-centric, and my neighborhood is at least partly to blame. I still sit on my butt most of the time I'm at work. That's unavoidable. But now I also sit on my butt during my longer commute and every time I have to run an errand. My cul-de-sac has no sidewalks. And there's absolutely nothing within walking distance except for other cul-de-sacs. Sure, I can take a "walk." But I can't walk TO anything. And that makes walking a lot less enticing and a lot less frequent than it was for me in Seville -- or Minneapolis, for that matter.
That walker-friendliness is the thing I miss most about living in the city.
I'm heartened to know that developers are now incorporating walkability into more suburban subdivisions. And I find it interesting that you can now check a neighborhood's "walk score" (www.walkscore.com) before buying into it, as my fellow Homegirl Lynn Underwood blogged about a few weeks back. (My 'hood rates a dismal 22 out of 100.)
What about you? Do you think I'm just making excuses? And if you live in car-dependent suburbia, how do you work activity into your regular routine?