Rewarding Exercise Plan

Using some fitness equipment, an atlas and her imagination, this reader "inched" her way across Oregon.

By Tina Blanscet, Parma, Idaho

Rewarding Exercise Plan

A trip to my father's house usually means a 10-hour drive from my home in Parma, Idaho to the coastal town of Wren, Oregon. One day, however, I decided to try walking and biking the distance instead. After a 4-month journey, I arrived at Dad's front stoop—sort of.

You see, even though I had walked and biked the entire 421 miles, I never left home. I went all that way in my rec room!

I used to be an outdoor walker. But earlier this year, we moved to a new home. After I "met" a skunk in the path going one way…and fended off a flock of chickens going the other way, my husband, Ken, and I decided it was time to buy some indoor exercise equipment.

It didn't take me long to realize that walking on a treadmill or pedaling on a stationary bike was dull and boring…and not at all motivating. I needed to come up with a plan to make exercising effective, rewarding and fun. Then I had an idea: What if I applied those miles to a trip I could take in my mind?

Mapping the Trip

I grabbed an atlas. Following the same route I take when driving to my dad's house, I calculated the mileage from our front door to his. I decided to record the miles I walked or biked each time I used my fitness equipment.

After every workout, I highlighted the miles I'd "traveled" on a map as if I were, indeed, walking and biking toward my childhood home.

I set a 4-month goal for myself, "leaving" on August 29 and "arriving" on New Year's Day.

I can't tell you what an incentive it was to pull out the map and see the progress I made after just 1 day on my "trip". As the months passed, I continued to feel rewarded because I could see how much closer I was to my goal—and how much farther I needed to go.

Our four young children, Deborah, Paul, Rebecca and Steven, followed my journey every step of the way. At ages 4, 5, 6 and 7, they were always asking me, "Where are you now, Mama?" And I would point out each day's progress.

On New Year's Day, I called my dad and said, "Watch for me! I'm almost at your place." I got on my treadmill and achieved my goal that day. It was one of the greatest feelings in the world.

I recommend this approach to anyone looking to add some fun to their fitness routine. Here are a few tips:

  • Pick a destination and set a time frame. Decide where you'd like to "walk" or "bike." It can be a faraway place, like your favorite vacation spot, or somewhere nearby, such as the home of a friend in a neighboring town.

    Next, set a reasonable time frame to complete your trip. It should be tight enough to keep you motivated but flexible enough to fit into your lifestyle.

  • Establish short-term goals. Set weekly or monthly goals based on your time frame and total mileage. This makes the overall number of miles seem less overwhelming. For example, I knew I needed to cover an average of 106 miles each month to complete my trip by New Year's Day. That worked out to be 3 to 3-1/2 miles most days.

  • Reward yourself. Whenever you reach a goal, give yourself a pat on the back. When achieving monthly goals, for instance, I treated myself to things like a new pair of sneakers or a favorite CD.

  • Vary your workouts. I didn't stick to the same routine every time I exercised. Sometimes I walked 4 miles at once. Other days I biked 1 mile, then walked a few more later in the day.

  • Share the fun. You'll be amazed at how supportive family and friends are when you tell them what you're doing. Ken became so interested in this idea that he has since started his own "trip."

I am now "walking" back to Parma with a new 480-mile route mapped out. I know I'm going to make it…and that I'll enjoy the new "sights" along the way. But the best part will be arriving back home—just like it is with any trip!