I'm a walking addict. We all know walking is good exercise. In addition to the weight bearing of your own body, and the increased heart rate and calorie burning, walking takes you outside. Outside in the fresh air, and, often, outside your head, too. Oh, it's a great time to think over worries, evaluate problems, tease out a new or better solution to same, but often, I seem to literally leave myself behind as I concentrate on breathing, or pumping my arms, or watching the clouds roll across the sky. I'm so addicted to my five-days-a-week walk schedule that if I don't walk, my back starts to ache, I feel run down, I just don't feel like myself. I miss it. It's me time, when I do something that is just for me. I am an endorphin junkie after all.
And this week's confession: I'm enough of an anal-compulsive-obsessive walker that I've kept a walk log for something like 15 years. It's just a sheet of paper on my refrigerator, with two columns subdivided into date, location, and length, so I can record when, where, and how far I walked. Two years ago I bought myself a pedometer (which I dropped last fall and am trying to figure out if it is still accurate; apparently I'm a klutzy walker), so my distances are more accurate than they were. I drove my apartment complex parking lot and used that mileage to calculate distances when I lived in my apartment for eight years. After I bought my house, it was even easier--the major streets that define my neighborhood are 0.5 miles apart (thank goodness for city fathers and a planning commission that decided a grid system was the way to go with urban planning). I don't mind if my distances aren't completely accurate. If I'm a tenth of a mile short this time and write down a figure a tenth of a mile too great, I'll more than likely make it up another time when I record too short a distance compared to what I really walked. In the end, it'll even out.
I'm on page 24 of my walking log. The total number of miles walked is over 3,300 miles. 3,300 miles!! At anywhere between 1 and 6 miles a walk, that's a lot of sneakers and a lot of early mornings. Rain showers or early morning sun, I'm out there. Sniffles or bursting with energy, I'm out there. Dawn or dark, I'm out there. Even those few days when I don't feel like walking and want to snuggle deeper into my cosy warm bed, I'm out there.
Tracking the seasonal changes has become part of my morning walk. I know where the Cooper's hawks live, so I look for them come spring. I know which neighbor always plants a gorgeous wildflower extravaganza on the front lawn, so eagerly await March and alter my route so I can glory in them. I know which houses leave Christmas lights on all night so in December and January, it doesn't seem so lonely out in the dark, before dawn.
Most of the time, for these past nine years, I've been accompanied by first one, then two fluffy dogs. If one dog is on bed rest, neighbors I've never talked to will stop me to ask where the other one is. So even though I didn't know I was part of someone else's early morning routine, I must be. 'Oh, yes, there she goes, with her two beautiful dogs. Must be 6:30 a.m. and I'm going to be late for work.' 'Hmm, wonder what happened to the other dog?' It's reassuring to know that even when I think I'm at my most solo moment, pounding the streets, thinking about what to make for breakfast and completely lost to the outside world, there is someone in the outside world anticipating me, even if only to mark where they are in their morning routine. We singles don't usually expect that.
So lace up those sneakers, and join me for a walk. Your blood pressure will thank you. You'll see things in your neighborhood you never noticed. You'll meet people you never speak to, but exchange a smile with. It'll connect you to Mother Nature and society in ways that enrich each day.