How often do you go walking?
I used to be pretty bad about it. I’d hear the doctors and dietitians talk up 10,000 steps daily and think “that’s a great idea,” only to change the channel and forget the idea five minutes later. Sometimes, of course, I’d get up off the couch and go for a stroll around my neighborhood, but just a few days later that new-found resolution would waver and fail. And what’s the big deal, right? It’s walking. I walk every day, anyways, and I can skip a day or two and make it up on the weekend.
You know how the story goes from there.
I’ve been better over the last six months, and with good reason: I’ve stopped making my usual excuses. I want to be strong, fit, and generally in great health, and it just so happens that those goals are easily reached if I get up off my butt and start walking. So I walk, now, every day of the week, even when that little voice in the back of my head tries its hardest to keep me locked to the couch. It’s not always easy, sure, to force myself out the front door, but I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way. Want to go walking, but can’t convince yourself it’s worth the effort?
Try these four tricks on for size!
1. Soak up the silence!
I’m a big fan of silence. Kicking around my home all day today has really made one fact clear to me: it’s so hard to find peace and quiet. The TV is on, the radio is booming, a vacuum cleaner roars in the background or dishes clink in the sink – the sounds of a normal life, sure, but they’re all just white noise that fills up your mind and makes genuine reflection nearly impossible.
So why don’t you just walk? Don’t bring your iPod. Give your brain a chance to breathe out as you walk and admire your surroundings, soaking up the beauty of the outdoors we so often miss. You might hear the leaves rustling in the trees. You might hear birds calling somewhere close by. You might hear nothing at all – but whether it’s perfect silence or just nature’s playlist, you’ll find that it’s a huge improvement over the hustle and bustle covering your home.
2. Tune into your favorite tunes!
Or, you know, you can bring an iPod. As much as I appreciate peace and quiet, folks, I really like my music too. Some days, then, I’ll bring along my music player and fill my ears with the sweet sound of classic rock. You’ve heard the drama, right, with media players? Hearing loss! Kids retreat into their own worlds! People don’t pay attention! I don’t mean to discredit any of these things, but I do think the chief appeal of the iPod gets lost in the middle of all this conflict: it’s mine.
This is my music. These are my favorite songs, and this playlist, here, is filled with the best damn songs I’ve ever heard. I get to fill thirty solid minutes with the music that makes my heart soar and my spirits rise, and – here’s the best part! – I get to listen to it whenever I want. Walking, as you can imagine, is a perfect opportunity for this. Next time you’re unsure about strapping on your exercise shoes, just grab your mp3 player and head out the door. This is time for you and you alone to do what you want. You can dance while you walk or sing at the top of your lungs (inside your head) and just absorb every emotion in the music, celebrating a little you time far away from the constant pressure of our daily lives.
Maybe it’s just me, but I love that.
3. Improve your social life!
Walking, I think, doesn’t have to be a hurried affair. You want to move fast enough to accelerate your heart rate a bit, but the ideal walking speed (for fat loss and improved cardiovascular health) is just fast enough where you could hold a conversation without feeling winded. So why not give that a try? Walk and talk!
The last few times I’ve taken a stroll, I’ve made it a point to call a friend and see how they’re doing. I’m getting my exercise as I do it, which is a plus, but something as simple as a call is a fantastic way to keep in touch with friends and family I don’t always get a chance to see. And don’t we all feel too busy to ever make a call? Maybe it’s just me, but I usually feel too busy during my day to ever sit down and call someone. A relaxing walk, however, is the perfect opportunity to do it, and a great way to keep my social skills sharp too.
4. Explore a little!
As a kid, I devoured fantasy books like candy. I loved swords and sorcery, sure, but the main thrill was that of the adventure: foreign lands, strange cultures and even stranger sights, the kind of exploratory journey that I felt like I’d never find in real life. I haven’t found any dragons, admittedly, but I’ve started looking at my own neighborhood in a new light.
How much of it have I seen? Not much. So why not craft my own little adventure and start exploring the neighborhood? Do it within reason, of course (and probably not late at night!), but there’s little harm in walking down those streets you’ve never seen close to your home. And if you have a forest nearby? Even better! Again, stay safe, but why not go exploring? You can have a great time just adventuring through a new section of the woodlands, and I think there’s a kind of primal thrill, too, in getting back to nature like that.
I’m surrounded by concrete and empty fields, unfortunately, but that hasn’t stopped me – and it shouldn’t stop you either.
What about you? What do you do to convince yourself to step outside for a bit? Walking thirty minutes a day can improve your health dramatically, so what’s still stopping you now? Let me know!
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