Sunday, August 18, 2013

Walk on the Mild Side

Today a friend posted to Facebook about reclaiming her neighborhood walk after having been intimidated a while ago by a bunch of ass-hats driving fast and yelling rude comments out of their car. A gentle soul, my friend confessed that she honored them with a double-digit salute -- once they'd gotten far enough out of range, that is.

Like her, I sometimes allow circumstances to get between me and my walking practice. I call it a practice, because walking is for me both a form of exercise and a kind of meditation. When I'm doing it regularly, both my body and mind reap the benefits. My weight is manageable. My blood sugar levels are steady and normal. I sleep well and soundly. I'm less cranky and less easily annoyed by minor inconveniences, bad drivers, and stupid questions. (Yes, I hate to break it to you, but your kindergarten teacher lied: there are stupid questions, and I'm always amazed by the number of times they're asked by really smart people.) I feel more limber and graceful when I'm walking regularly, and I feel just a little bit quicker of wit. Why, then, do I ever fall out the habit?

Well, for one thing, I'm just too susceptible to little demons like hot, humid summer weather (I am a far more devoted walker from October through July) or the hundred little errands and chores I feel I have to finish before I can take a walk. I'm limited, too, by my thinking. Because I like to use my walking time to get inside my own head, to clear out the cobwebs and fill my mind with fresh air and birdsong, I don't do well walking with friends or co-workers, though they are awfully good about asking me if I'd like to come along when they take walks at lunch time.

When I'm not walking outdoors at least 30 minutes a day, I do try to put in the time on the treadmill, but it's not the same. Without the genuine connection to the natural world, I find myself propping my Kindle on the treadmill's control panel and reading a novel or listening to an audiobook through headphones. I confess, the boredom of treadmill walking has actually driven me to watching well-loved episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a perfect companion for a 40-minute treadmill burn. Since treadmill walking requires distractions, I get the physical workout, but not the psychological boost.

Walking outdoors is always the better choice.

I'm fortunate at the moment to live in a lovely suburban area with plenty of greenery and well-maintained sidewalks. I'm lucky as well, that the routes I usually walk aren't too heavily trafficked by bothersome cars spewing exhaust fumes and bass boost in equal measure.

That said, I know I need to reclaim my neighborhood walking habit. I need to rise above the discomfort of too much summer heat and get my feet back on the sidewalk every day.