Back when it still felt pretty novel to walk around all day with something that keeps track of how many steps you take, a friend and I had an ongoing competition.
My tracker chalked up 10,000 steps as a good day. His tracker might have been giving him the same goal, but really that was just the ante in our game.
It took a much bigger number to brag. And even though bragging rights were the only prize, it got competitive.
My friend’s wife texted me one night to grumble that he’d gotten up to walk the dog at 11 o’clock when he found out he was just a couple of hundred steps behind me.
But bragging rights weren’t all that pushed me to get the count higher and higher. The bigger the number, it seemed, the better the day.
That, I discovered recently, is not at all true.
The faulty theory felt like incontrovertible fact for a long time, though.
I’ll never forget the summer day that I hit 30,976 steps. My wife and I had one day in Seattle with no kids and no plans, so we thought it would be relaxing to wander up and down as many of the local trails as we could fit in between breakfast and dinner.
Really playing up that “no plans” aspect of the day, we ended up following our last trail all the way up a mountain that we were in no way prepared to climb.
One fun fact we learned: Trudging four miles up a mountain on increasingly rubbery legs is the easy part. The real challenge is fighting through aching muscles to make it the four miles back down before the dark or dehydration gets you.
But the view from the top and satisfaction of getting back to the hotel before someone sent out a search party were worth every one of those steps.
Then there was the day last spring when I topped out at 34,310 steps. I’d been keeping up with my youngest son over a 14-mile stretch of the American Discovery Trail that runs through town.
Kansas City being more level than Seattle, this excursion was considerably easier. But anything the hike might have lacked in the rewards of conquering a physical challenge it more than made up for with a rare all-day father-son conversation as the boy and I discovered parts of our town that we didn’t know we’d been missing.
Those five digits on my step tracker sure seemed to correlate to a great day.
So you can imagine my surprise when I got into bed after one of my best days of recent years and checked my tracker. I’m sure it was my record low: 793 steps.
I’d gone with a few other Scout parents to a friend’s lake house where our sons and daughters had a day of leadership training scheduled. When we got there, the moms announced that since it’s mostly the dads who put up with the mud and snow and mosquitoes and rain so our kids can camp year-round, they were going to run everything for that event and let the guys just relax.
Did I ever take advantage of it.
The most work I put myself through was occasionally rising from my camp chair so I could set it down in a different room when the kids got close enough to disturb my reading.
It can take me a long time to finish a book around all the usual tasks my wife and I split in our so-called leisure time. But thanks to the generosity of the hard-working women at that lake house, I had time to finish one book and get clear through another one before they called everyone to dinner.
There were fish in the lake to be caught and kayaks on the docks to be paddled. A beautiful path circled the lake and bikes were available to anyone who wanted to take in the whole thing without staying out too long.
But if you’re an adult with kids and a job who can pass up the temptation of just sitting for an entire day, well, you’re a lot stronger than I am.
Me, I’ll take those 793 steps, chalk it up as a fine day and maybe see it as a challenge to improve. With firm resolve and another generous host, I bet I could get it down to 500.
Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at email@example.com.