12K Steps to Early Retirement Fitness


Healthy living and corporate life don’t always go together.  Some people do a great job of balancing the two, but others (like me) find the many hours spent at the office are terrific excuse to not work out.  And I am absolutely GREAT at finding excuses to avoid exercise. 🙂

Combine this with the appealing social opportunity of escaping work to go out to eat at lunch (or an after work drink), and pretty soon you have a twenty pound trophy around your waist.  You could say it is corporate largesse at its most personal.  

So now that I am leaving MegaCorp for early retirement, this should be a golden opportunity to address these long-waxing bad habits, shouldn’t it?   I recall my Dad telling my wife’s Dad that “in retirement your new job is taking care of your health.”   That’s certainly good advice.  You can simply trade WORK for WORK OUTS!  

That IS my plan, and with an extra 50 hours a week it should be a pretty easy trade. Right?

OK, maybe not easy.  Like almost everyone, I’ve done the healthy lifestyle change before.  I’ve tried a number of approaches, had some success for 6 months, a year, or more — but I always slip back into old habits.  I understand it is basic math of calories in and calories out, but I seem to lack a sustainable way of holding myself accountable to a long term goal. Making lasting change is partly a function of seeing exactly what you are doing right or wrong 24/7.  I’ve tried journals, apps, and fitness bands, but I am proud to say I have  cleverly figured out how to defeat them all to my own dismay.  

As I approach early retirement, I’ve developed what I think is a new, hard to defeat scheme to address my fitness behavior, using my smartphone and backing into a fitness goal.  

In 2014, it was reported estimated that about 2.3% of Americans ran in a timed 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or full marathon.  I like to set goals for myself that put me in the “top 5%” of people, so I like the goal of getting in 5K shape (~3 miles) in the next six months.  While I have  run up to the 10K distance in the past, it has been quite a while ago.  Getting in 5K shape will be a real accomplishment at this point (and I’ll get a free t-shirt).  

Starting anew, I need to convert activity to 5K condition.  Walking, I notice that I finish walking 3 miles on my treadmill in about 1 hour.  It also equals 7,500 steps on my iPhone/Apple Watch health tracker.  It’s about the same number of steps when I run that distance.  That’s key.  My phone & watch track steps perfectly well and I always have one of them with me to keep me honest.  

My goal is set by converting my planned 5 weekly workouts times 3 miles each (~5K) into 37,500 incremental steps.  Since that equals a full 5 extra hours of walking, I also have the motivation to RUN and SHORTEN the time it takes to get to 37,500.  The saved TIME will make me more fit and allow me to spend my time on other activities.  Since I already average about 45K steps a week in the normal course of my life, my new goal will be ~85K.  That’s 12K a day.  Since I always have my phone or watch with me, I will get credit for steps wherever I am – on the treadmill, out and about, and on vacation.  That makes it simple, and the harder I run, the faster I rack up my 12K per day and 85K per week.  If I take more steps one day, I reach my weekly 85K faster.  

This might seem basic to some people, but I’ve never done the math on what’s needed on a basic “step level” or used steps as a basic unit of health.  I know some people work to get 10K steps a day, but that doesn’t seem like enough to get to the fitness level I would like to.  Additionally, the average 5K time is 33 minutes, so I need to get my run time down to 10 minute miles.

How do you keep accountable on fitness? Do you count steps or track fitness in another way?  Or, do you just love keeping fit and don’t see it as WORK?

Related:  Fitter or Fatter in Early Retirement

Image Credit: Pixabay

16 thoughts on “12K Steps to Early Retirement Fitness

  1. That’s fantastic – I think the advice “in retirement your new job is taking care of your health” might be the best words I’ve heard in a long time. That’s one of the big reasons I want to be able FIRE in the next handful of years. I know that I’m too sedentary with the 9-5 office job and I do get some exercise playing with my 5-year old daughter, but it’s still not enough. I want to be able to walk every day, possibly take up martial arts, and try to get back to racquetball.

    Congrats again to you – that’s so awesome! And good luck on your 5K!!!

    — Jim


    1. For me workouts are WORK. I don’t find a lot of fun in running or going to the gym. Acknowledging it’s my job now will help me (I hope) get it done!


  2. I usually go for walks and track my steps with my phone. I like to couple the walks with listening to podcast to kill two birds…Tough to get many in during the winters in the Northeast. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like using my phone as a step tracker. We live in MN so I know what you mean by hard to do so in the winter. Treadmill not as enjoyable – but at least it’s in front of a big screen.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi
    I’m similar to you – I’ve done 10kms ok and have comitted to a half marathon (21kms) in May and the furthest I’ve run in one session so far is 17kms.
    I don’t have as much free time as you will do, but I run most mornings.
    I love MapMyRun, use it every workout, and you can do challenges too (eg I’m doing a 1000km challenge at the moment).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I realized I really don’t like working out. Work was an excuse for many years. After that I just had to admit I don’t like it. It’s odd for an introvert to say this, but I hate the solitary nature of working out. So I’ve found a couple of activities that are active and have someone else holding me accountable to be there. Zumba once a week & if I miss, they worry something is wrong. And weekly walks with 2 different friends…3-5 mile walks in the local parks. It’s still not to the recommended level of exercize, but it’s better than zero, where I started. Key: others are holding me accountable! And I did get MapMyWalk this January to try and start looking at numbers…so maybe I’ll get a personal best mindset started?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree with the solitary nature of working out, but I really don’t like classes too much either. Not sure what I will do – probably explore new things and find something I like. Have to do it now. It is my job.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was in a retirement session the other day and they talked about just replacing one job with another in retirement. The concept was actually with someone and golf! Golf became his “job” and he then put the same emotional components he got from work to his golf game – identity/status, competitive achievement, time management… and golf was no longer any fun, not leisure, not a diversion. I guess my retirement is too much about learning to play, so my exercise can’t be about work. I’m not sure what my current “job” is!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Be sure to post updates on here for the world to see; there’s something very powerful about not wanting to feel like you’re “letting down” billions of potential readers! Just like all of us posting about our progress towards debt freedom, early retirement, and the like, forcing yourself to write about your progress with weight loss (which I am doing, as well) will help keep you accountable and on track with your goals.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s great to have a fitness goal. I think my workout routines fall apart the quickest when I’m not training for something in particular. Sometimes it’s a 10k or a mud run, but it can be something simple like losing 5 pounds before going on a cruise (knowing that I’ll probably gain a pound each day I’m on that boat).

    My current routine is to go to the gym, do some pullups and dips, run a treadmill 5k, then stretch and do situps. I’m looking forward to running outside soon.

    Keeping in good health is a great way to add extra “good years” of an active early retirement lifestyle. Best of luck to you. I see you’ve got about 5 weeks to go. Thank you for sharing your story and insights with us!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow – it sounds like you are in great shape to do all of that! I had a pretty good weekend – with 3 miles on both Saturday and Sunday. Now, I am headed out of town for a two day business trip – will be sitting in meetings/dinners the whole time. Oh well – these days are almost over.


  7. My bet is you’ll be up to 10K distance in no time. Unless you are a competitive runner aiming for speed, or you’re coming straight from the couch, 5K feels like too short a distance pretty quickly. But it is a terrific place to start, and I love your approach to it. The argument of running to make the steps add up faster is pretty genius.

    Liked by 1 person

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