Friday, May 22, 2015

A Walk a Day (My New Secret Weapon)

I'm not what you would athletic person.

I prefer the kind of exercise you don't notice yourself getting. Like, running around with the kids, or playing a sport (even poorly). Going to a gym or training for this or that run is just not my cup of tea. Blame it on asthma and a desire to be doing more creative things with my time.

And also on...I don't like it.

I was my most fit when I worked a job that involved manual labor in the sun for weeks on end. Again, I didn't realize I was getting exercise....and I was getting paid for it. But that was forever ago. I've tried and failed to get into this or that since then, looking for something that would hook me. I mean, you can't ignore exercise for all of your life and expect to not be extremely unhealthy. Just because I have a small-to-average build doesn't mean that I have strength, or tone, or stamina. (Spoiler alert: I don't.) And here I am, entering the final decade of my life when physical things can still come somewhat easily to me. Better not waste that, huh?

Just before our trip to Disney, on a really beautiful day, I didn't want to go home after running errands. Truly gorgeous days in April, in Buffalo, are like unicorns. You don't ignore them - they are so rare. I knew that Matt was probably going for either a walk or run soon (he so much healthier than yours truly), the stroller was already in the back of the I decided to call him and see if he'd be interested in having us tag along. He said yes, and we put a couple of miles behind us.

I felt so good after that walk, that I suggested we take one every day leading up to Disney to build up our tolerance for walking miles and miles each day. It was meant to prevent misery in the parks, but it ended up being so much more.

Because here we are, back from Disney for a handful of days, weeks after that first walk - and we're still walking every day. I can't stop. I'm hooked.

Walking is like the gateway drug of exercise. It's not too taxing to do, and you barely realize it's doing anything for you. You might break a sweat every 4th or 5th walk if it's really hot out or you're cruising over hilly terrain. You get to stroll through nature and fresh air and pass homes that inspire you - Spring especially was an awesome time for this because we got to see everything bloom a little more each day. And quietly, changes are happening.

Your legs gain a little more shape and tone - so slowly that you don't see it at first, and then one day you realize that a pair of pants fits you better, or that you can handle doing yard work for longer than before. You feel better overall - refreshed, more energetic, less fatigued. You make better food choices, because who wants to follow up a refreshing walk with donuts?

What's even more interesting to me, aside from the physical advantages I've gained, is what it does for my mood and my well-being. It makes me happier. It gives me ideas and motivation. It gives me sort of an empowering, pampering feeling. I prioritize that hour I spend walking before housework and work-work and everything else I have going on in my life. Taking a few thousands steps in the sunshine has become so, so important to my every day life. And it frees me up to kick butt at all of the other life "things" that need checking off each day. Even if I don't get to completing everything in any given day, it makes me less uptight about that. I also love doing something with all of my boys. It's just so nice to have something to do together, without it costing a thing or zapping our energy. Jake in particular loves to be along for the ride.

I used to make a lot of excuses about not being able to take walks because we don't have sidewalks at my house. We also live on a semi-busy road, so walking in the shoulder isn't really an option with kids as little as mine. I hated the fact that we had to load up and drive somewhere else just to be able to take a walk. I missed the blocks and sidewalks of my hometown suburb. But really, it hasn't been too much of a struggle. We schedule the walks in the early mornings, when we're already out dropping the kids off at school or stopping at the grocery store. It makes the walks not feel like an extra trip out - though sometimes I want it to be. I still wish we had sidewalks, but we're making do without.

I'm not a runner. I'm not a weight lifter. I'm no a gymnast or a dancer or a yogi. But darn it, suddenly walking makes me wish I were all of those things. It makes me feel like if I really chose to, I could be. For now, I'm just going to keep walking.

I love that a walk a day can be as life changing as it is simple. If you feel like you need a change in your life - physically, mentally, emotionally, creatively, whatever it may be - try a walk a day. It might just be exactly what you need.

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