Walk this way

I don’t belong to a gym or fitness club. There’s no room for home gym equipment where I live, even if I was moved to spend money on something like a treadmill, stationary bike, or rowing machine, which friends, I am not. These items make up my home exercise equipment:

Five-pound handweights and push-up bars

Five-pound handweights and push-up bars

A hoola hoop - because anything is better than sit-ups or "crunches"

A hoola hoop – because anything is better than sit-ups or “crunches”

I’ve got a jump rope too but nowhere all that practical to be jumping rope. Sometimes I jump inside and try not to smack anything.

All that being said, fitness and staying in shape are important to me, a central part of my life philosophy, so I get outside a lot. That’s a good bit easier when the weather’s decent but I realized a long time back, you can’t sit around 3 months out of the year waiting for weather conditions to improve. (Things can really go South in that time if you do. I’ve never forgotten what a fitness teacher said in an exercise class I took many years ago: that it takes six weeks to get in shape but just two to fall out. It ain’t fair but there it is.)

I walk. I’ve walked for years. I make myself walk.  I recently read that the Amish have an obesity rate of less than 5% AND they walk 14,000 steps a day. (Curious about their life expectancy, I just checked and found it the same as the rest of the population.) I am fortunate to live in a community where it’s possible to do a fair amount of walking while generally staying out of the flow of traffic. And besides, I don’t have a car which certainly lends itself to more walking.

However, I think people feel sorry for me! Sometimes I get offered rides when I’m walking on purpose. One time, I was in the adjacent town, several miles from home, where admittedly it was kinda hairy be walking, at least in some areas along the road, where there was no public sidewalk. Three people offered me rides and I started to feel guilty! I realized, in retrospect, that I was dressed too nicely, as if my car had broken down or I was stuck out walking along the road for an unfortunate reason. (I dressed a lot more casually, scruffier, the next time I walked the same route and was offered no rides, lending credibility to my theory.)

I think what has happened culturally, at least in this semi-urban area, is that walking on purpose has become weird, particularly for a “nice, middle-aged lady” like me. What is she doing out there? She should get a car and drive to the gym – I really think, whether they’re conscious of it or not, that that is what people believe. They don’t see the point in walking. I know that’s not true for everyone – thousands of people belong to local hiking groups – but that’s more about driving somewhere scenic and then walking around, as opposed to walking in your everyday life (which ain’t always so scenic and involves dodging cars).

The longest trek I’ve done locally – and not too recently – is two miles out to a big park which has a 5.5 mile trail through the woods, and then 2 miles back home. I’ve even biked over and locked up the bike while I walked the trail. I’d rather do that than say, go over to the high school’s outdoor track and walk around in dull circles with a boring view of a housing development and a road.

The thing that is worth saying, is that I almost always feel better after I walk, especially if I get in a couple miles. Probably need that many in order to have endorphins kick in. A walk to the corner mailbox does not endorphins make.

When the weather is bad and wicked cold, I go out so I’ll appreciate how nice it is to come home and get all warm-and-cozy. Although, it occurred to me recently, in a spate of cold, snowy, low-temps weeks, that my thinking might be a little like the old joke about a guy who hits himself in the head because it feels so good when he stops.

I want to walk because I can. While I can. For as long as I can.

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44 thoughts on “Walk this way

  1. John Callaghan

    I love this. I too do not have a car. I walk or take the bus. But I also have a gym in my building and love to run on a treadmill and ride the stationary bike. When I do this I listen to audio books. I look over audio books. When the weather is nice I run outside. It sounds like you live in an area with some nice walking trails. I think the more we exercise now the better off we’ll be in our old age.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Absolutely – I’ve got the long haul in mind – if I’m going to be old, I want to be independent and old. Gym-in-the-building sounds very nice! And so do the audio books. I have run in the past but was never a full-fledged runner in the many-miles sense.

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      1. Sister Grumpy

        I AM old–77 this month. I make myself push a grocery cart through the store once every one or two weeks, That and walking 100 ft. to the mailbox and back every day is my exercise. Fortunately I can still drive. I hate to exercise, and I used to be a physical therapist, so I know I must. But this morning I awoke with the stiffest low back that I have ever had! My hips and knees are shot. One shoulder pops when I reach with it, and my legs and feet have surface numbness from a surgical spinal procedure (not diabetic.) This was a long time coming, but the stiff back was the topper. I could sit in a wheelchair and feel no pain at all, but I want to be able to walk as long as I can. So I gotta get up and move–while I can.

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  2. daveb42

    I relate strongly to the last line in your post. I’m firmly convinced that one key to enjoyment of old age (a place toward which I am rapidly headed) is maintaining your strength, and that walking is a great way to do that. Strength, flexibility, and balance are all important. Adding yoga or tai chi to the walking would be even better.

    My wife and I have modified your last line to “while we can and while we care” because ability and desire don’t run out at the same time.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Walking is far from my only activity, but it’s the most constant, the bottom of the pyramid, if you will! Your point about losing desire ahead of ability is interesting. So often I see it’s the other way around; people losing physical ability before desire.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      True enough – most of the other walkers I see have dogs in tow. So far as the Amish, I imagine that they have lower heart disease and related conditions, so they aren’t dying at 40, 50, 60 (bit I don’t know for sure). Maybe they stay healthier longer.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Exactly. I’ve run some but never was a Serious Runner. And you’re right – once you take the attitude “it’s too cold” and stay home you never acclimate. Better to get out & stay out!

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  3. markbialczak

    I’m like you, Colette. I love to walk. It makes me feel better not only physically, but mentally. I truly believe it is in my genes. In Brooklyn, N.Y., growing up, I remember walking with my grandfather on my mother’s side, all around his neighborhood of Greenpoint, picking up empty soda bottles for the deposit money and scrap metal and such and just walking for the sake of walking. And I heard the neighborhood kids call my grandfather The Walking Man.

    In Syracuse here, I walk my dog even in the winter, and I walk myself when it’s tolerable, and I try to walk in the mall when it’s too dang cold, which it has been since it turned 2015. Walking in the mall makes me feel old, too, even older than my 57 years.

    I believe you are right about our society. People do not expect to see you, a fit, well-dressed, middle-aged woman, walking on the side of any road that’s not a hiking trail just because you choose to be there doing that. We are worse for that sweeping change. Please keep walking because you like it and need it. If we lived in the same city, I’d try to set up walking trips with you so nobody would stop the car and ask if you wanted a ride.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thanks Mark. That’s great that you had that experience and memory with your grandfather – my family didn’t do that, walk for pleasure (although I too looked for bottles https://writerinsoul.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/pepsi-coke-2/).

      I agree that we’ve lost something, although I understand why busy people want more efficient exercise (machines, gyms). Still, the literal slowing-down that you get from outdoor exercise offers superior mental benefits.

      I’ve seen the “mall walkers” but wonder if that floor surface is actually hard on the body?

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      1. markbialczak

        I enjoyed your three bottles. Thanks for the link, Colette. Hobbleskirt! You taught me something neat.

        I agree that the outdoor benefit of observational walking, compared to machine-speed, is of the mind. It’s my stake in the game, too.

        Also, the mall walking is unquestionably harder on the knees than outdoor walking, but it still beats stationary living for weeks at a time, per your trainer’s six-and-two formula.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Yes. I am never sorry when I walk. At the very least it gets me out of my head a bit because it feels productive and stimulating – things to look at, people to see or greet. In addition to the basic health benefits.

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  4. foguth

    Have you tried callanetics? All you need is a DVD to guide you through the deep muscle toning – it is a lot like pilates, but no expensive, fancy equipment.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      No, thanks, I haven’t. My muscles are pretty tone. I like to pick exercises that give me something tangible in the end when possible: gardening, building things, and so on. I’d split wood if had a fireplace!

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      1. foguth

        I do, too. In fact, we used to have a house that was mainly heated by a wood-burning furnace that looked like a fireplace (made by Century & 90-somthing % efficient) … so I even split and stacked a lot of wood.

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        1. writerinsoul Post author

          Hah! You’ve reminded me that years ago when I first lived on my own in a group rental house, there was a wood stove I kept going. None of the other housemates had any interest.It is so odd now to actually have to think up manual labor to do – I shovel snow in winter that I don’t have to, in part for that reason!

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  5. Ellen Hawley

    When my partner and I lived in Minnesota, what got us out in the winter was the dog. I used to say we were on the spotted dog exercise program. I don’t think we’d have managed it in a Minnesota January without the beast. But it is crazy that we’ll drive to a place for exercise. Walking’s what we’re built for.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      I have heard other people say the same thing about walking their dog (but I have to say when I’m out & about and see them, especially on the crummiest winter days, they don’t look all that happy about it!). Our culture has really moved away from the walking-is-what-we’re-built-for thinking. I think all the labor-saving mechanization went too far. More of us need labor in our lives.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thank you for reading & commenting. When everything seems so complicated, especially in terms of Exercising The Exact Right Way, it is nice to have something no more complicated than a) your own body & b) leaving the house.

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