Calories, Cramps & My Sedentary Life

I recently went camping alone with my five year old son. This was the first time I camped without another adult and I had a big movement lesson reveal itself to me:

My day-to-day life requires so little movement and that I am by default so predictably sedentary that upping the movement just a bit made noticeable differences in my body, which I'll share below.

Now this was car camping, mind you. Load everything into the trunk and park right near your tent. None of that crazy backcountry, lug-everything-around-on-your-body business.

These are the basic movements the five days entailed:

  • Prep a lot of food at home (including making your own grain-free graham crackers - amazing, btw)
  • Load the car with (most of) the things you'll want
  • Drive a few hours, tightly gripping the steering wheel around mountainous curves
  • Unload the car of tent, sleeping bags, camping box
  • Search for and carry firewood back to site
  • Saw up the long logs while breaking a sweat
  • Gather kindling and squat to build a fire
  • Set up the camp stove and prep breakfast/lunch/dinner/second dinner
  • Walk back and forth to the cooler in the car 265 times
  • Grab water from the pump and wash the dishes in a squat after every meal
  • Dump out the dish water 20 feet away
  • Walk 50 yards to the bathroom as needed
  • Take a mile and a half walk by the river
  • Dig a hole for and then squat with your son while he poops outside
  • Walk the 1/4 mile to the camp store to buy more propane and a cup of coffee (which you thought you wouldn't mind NOT having) and firewood that's actually dry enough to burn
  • Carry those two cords of firewood back
  • Lie in the tent each afternoon awhile to read your novel while your son gets agitated that you're not reading to him
  • Drive up into the mountains to hike but after 15 minutes decide you're too freaked about the prospect of being alone with bears and mountain lions and instead drive the long way back down to a playground
  • Repeatedly add more sweatshirts because the promise of sun while camping near the desert doesn't pan out
  • Stop at the hot springs on your drive home and swim around awhile
  • Unload the car after driving home

So yes, as I type that out, it reads like a lot. But I could type of the general movements of my everyday and it might also read like a lot. (I actually did a version of that awhile ago here.)

Mostly, I carried more stuff. I walked tiny bits much more frequently. I was active in more positions than usual. It wasn't extreme. It was CAR CAMPING.

And it felt good.

But not just that.

It made me hungry. After two days, I could feel the caloric need immediately rise. My son and I both started needing to eat more. Two days after being home, my appetite (and his) had slowed down again.

The day after returning home, I also got my period. I don't usually get menstrual cramps in the usual sense (I wrote about that here), but I do sometimes get achy, especially if I've been on the road a lot. And I almost always have pelvic floor tension emerge, such that I feel somewhat chronically uncomfortable throughout my period.

This time? Nothing. Nada. Other than the obvious, I had no noticeable physical symptoms of a period.

I attribute all of this to the increase in quantity and variability of movement. I didn't get in any long walks. I didn't do any workouts. I just did the labor of camping. The labor of getting it done.  Importantly, I did it alone. If my husband had been with me, we would have easily split the labor 50/50. I wouldn't have needed to work so hard.

All of this effort brought me a few steps closer to the movements my body needs and my body immediately recognized it and responded.

In the coming weeks, I'm going to be thinking more about how my day-to-day life can be more like camping. Obviously, for my best health, my body needs me to.


P.S. If you're looking for more ideas, you might want to start here: