I tried running a few years ago – really dug into the idea of increasing my distance and time, even told myself maybe one day I’d train for a marathon with a friend. If that describes you and that’s your passion – good for you! For me however, I quickly realized I hated it. My joints hurt, I’m not sure I ever experienced the coveted ‘runner’s high’, and I just generally disliked it. I mean, I did OK I suppose. I’d run about 5 miles 3 times a week at the peak of my experiment, but I just never really looked forward to it. After about 3 months, I gave it up in the pursuit of other forms of exercise that I far more enjoyed. I put it happily in my rear view mirror and never looked back.
Fast forward to today. I’ve been feeling like I needed more cardio in my life and in the back of my head, I kept hearing the word “running”. The hobgoblin that I’d banished years ago was coming back to haunt me. But I wondered is there a better way to approach it? What if I abandoned the quest for progression – maybe a faster time or something, but kick out the desire for a marathon, half marathon, or even a 5k. Would I enjoy it more? It would certainly tick the box of additional cardio that I wanted to fill in, but I didn’t want to overdo it. 2 times a week on top of the other workouts I’m doing seemed reasonable. Not too far – a mile and three quarters twice a week (I had a perfect route mapped out in my mind – the distance was arbitrary). But I know myself, and I know if I don’t have some kind of regularity, I’ll leap gleefully off the wagon of progress into the ruts of cardio mediocrity. So what should I do on my off days?
Such a simple basic thing, most of us take it completely for granted, but IT has been he most unforeseen ‘quality of life’ enhancement I’ve made in the past year, and I think they’ve made the difference.
You see, I’ve given myself a few rules I follow on my walks:
- Not too far. My walks are around a nice lake near my home. Just a little over a mile once I walk to the lake and take a short loop around it and return home.
- Enjoy it. I bring along a cup of coffee and sip it as I walk. I also pop in my earbuds and listen to a playlist – no podcasts or anything that might entail controversy – just music.
- No phone interaction. Obviously I have to set up my playlist, or change a song if I’m not feeling what I’m listening to at the moment, but no email, no texts, no social media. UNPLUG.
- Gotta be early morning. I walk around 7:30 am. about a half hour after I get up, scarf down a light breakfast and head out.
See? not a lot. I honestly didn’t plan on making these ‘rules’ as much as I just wanted to get myself out there and moving first thing in the morning. But over time, they’ve sort of become steadfast rules that I find myself following and I’ve noticed a lot of positive things!
- It’s a surprisingly easy thing to do! Unlike running, there is very little exertion in walking. I try to vary my pace, from a slow gait to a hurried step from time to time, but nothing over the top.
- I find myself leaving the house a little sluggish and tired, but by the time I’m home 30 minutes later, I feel alert and ready for the day – like I just hopped out of the shower, except I haven’t hopped out of the shower – I’m about to hop INTO the shower, and that’s never a bad thing!
- I find my mind is sharper. On days where I walk (or even run) I find that afterward, I feel clearer. Oftentimes, solutions to thoughts and things I’m wrestling with at work will come to me on these walks.
- It’s extremely peaceful. I credit a lot of this to unplugging from technology while on my little jaunts, but I think the fact that I’m focusing on the beauty of nature in the morning vs. the crisis of the day helps a lot. The few people I see on my walks would seem to support this as well. Typically, passing people on the street is just a ‘passing’ maybe a smile or a head nod, but almost everyone I see on my morning walks has a smile and a ‘good morning’ on their lips. While I wouldn’t call my walks ‘meditative’ a lot of the benefits I can identify are similar to the benefits of meditation.
- My runs are easier and less stressful on my body. Of course some of this may be because I’m limiting my distance and not pushing to far, too fast, but the daily loosening up of my joints and conditioning I’m getting from my walks is helping as well. I’ve noticed a lot faster progression on how far I can run without a break than when I was dedicating myself completely to running.
But don’t take my word for it! According to ‘Better Health‘, walking for 30 minutes a day increases your cardiovascular and pulmonary health, lowers your chances of heart disease and stroke, improves management of hypertension, high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain and diabetes, increases bone strength and improves balance, increases muscular strength and endurance and reduces body fat. That’s a hell of an upside for a simple walk! Of course for the full benefits, that walk needs to be brisk, but brisk walking is nowhere near as taxing to your body as a run.
Give it a shot, if nothing else, it may spark you to try something else, or it just may be as transformative as it has been for me!
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