I am a walker. That’s one of the things I would always consider a part of my identity, right up there with “I am a mother,” and “I am an artist.”
As a child, I walked through the fields behind our home. I walked to the store, and to various babysitting jobs in the neighborhood. My school days were punctuated by walks to the bus stop, the library and the park.
That didn’t change when I became an adult. As a young mother, I’d load my babies into the stroller and take long walks with them. As a college student, just getting around campus involved covering quite a distance on foot. Of course, as a waitress, walking several miles per day is incorporated right into the job. Currently, my job at the hardware involves lots of walking, too.
Beyond that, walking has been my chosen form of aerobic exercise for much of my life. I’ve tried other things, without much success. I’ve never been much of a runner. I’m not good at following the choreography of even the very simplest aerobic videos, and find those workouts too confusing (and exhausting!) to be fun. I could bicycle, but not in the winter, and not with three dogs. I can always walk, though.
Having said that, I’ll tell you it’s pretty amazing how quickly an ingrained habit can disappear with neglect, and how quickly an ability can falter. It was never just one thing that caused me to waiver in my daily practice, but a combination of circumstances combined with a lackadaisical attitude. An arthritic older dog, a hard day at work, a bum knee, mosquitoes, rain, wind, ice, snow, lack of sleep, lack of time, lack of ambition…if I wanted an excuse, I could always find one. Before I knew it, my lifelong daily habit was reduced to a sporadic whim.
That had to change, but change is not easy. Newton’s law states that “an object in motion remains in motion,” and (most pertinent to my life, and this discussion) “an object at rest remains at rest, unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.” I had become that “object at rest.” It became more and more difficult to compel myself to get out the door for a walk. I was frustrated and constantly disappointed in myself.
In my life. the “external force” that compelled me to action was Blackie Chan. This sweet eight-year-old chihuahua joined my household last spring. He has lots of energy to burn and a need for a routine. Regular walks were the answer. The little dog learned the pattern right away.
By the time I finish my second cup of coffee in the morning, Blackie Chan is quivering with anticipation, anxious to get moving. When I get home from work, he’s waiting at the door, ready to go. My big dog, Darla, has always been happy to come along. At first, the second chihuahua, Rosa Parks, with sore joints and a love of leisure, had to be coaxed to participate. Now, she loves the walk, too.
When we started, a quarter mile down the road to the real estate sign and back seemed like a lot. I kept it up, though, morning and evening, and that quarter of a mile expanded, as my stamina improved and time allowed. I continued to walk every day, twice a day.
Now, we go at least one mile each time, usually two. When I have a day off with no time constraints, we go further, and sometimes add a midday walk as well. In addition, I’ve been incorporating some other benefits into my time. I’ve added speed walking and jogging intervals into my walk at least once a day. Sometimes, when I walk on the trails rather than the road, I practice walking meditation and breathing exercises. Often, my walk is timed by the length of a chapter in an ongoing Audible book.
Once the habit is in place, things that seemed like impossible obstacles are proven to be manageable. When the mosquitoes were out, my walking gear included head-to-toe mosquito netting. If it’s cold, I add an extra layer. When it rains, I wear a plastic poncho. If I come home absolutely exhausted from work, I focus on the enthusiasm of the three dogs, and just continue to put one foot in front of the other.
No matter what my temperament is when I start out, I feel better after I’ve gotten a walk in. If I’m tired, the walk usually restores my energy. The foulest moods are improved by moving myself along, out in the fresh air. At the very least, I feel good having done well by my four-legged friends, and a sense of accomplishment for following through. Once again, I can truthfully and confidently state, I am a walker.