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5 Things a Daily Walk Has Taught Me

On a warmer, balmier, kinder weather day in October I started a challenge that has slowly morphed into pursuing 100 days straight of walking outside for at least 45 minutes. I'm on day 39. Some of you are instantly judging: Why wouldn't you walk outside? We walk 1,506 miles a day! We love it outside! We love the weather! We are insane in our pursuit of walking outside-edness!

That's cool, that's cool. I like to walk inside and use it as my excuse to watch trash tv without guilt. Burning calories + Burning Brain Cells = It Balances Out.

Our last house was in a busier neighborhood that bordered an even busier road with semis barreling down it. I didn't find that conducive to walking and becoming one with nature.

Now that we live on a little, quiet, tree-lined block whose greatest threat is having to say hi to Frank* with his puppy for the 15th time that day, I find it much easier to make myself perambulate. (See, I use that word because I watch less Trash TV now, ipso facto: Smarter!)

Unbeknownst to me, I discovered some other walking truths along the way:

-Habit: I'm a person of routine, but not always one who is consistent. Determining I'll walk for 100 days straight forces those excuses out of me. It eliminates the "if"-ness I default to. I bundle up, two pairs of pants, scarf and warmest mittens when it hits "feels like 8" out. They say, "There's no bad weather, only bad clothing!" To this I respond, "Au contraire! There IS, indeed, bad weather, there's just good clothing."

I like what this teaches me in the bigger sense, that at times we just DO because it must be DONE. In making room for the daily walking, I create more of a routine for my days. And in making routine, I waste less time, especially less time on excuses for why I can't. And that overflows into other areas of my life where I realize yes, I actually can.

-Awareness of Self: When you've lost both your dad and mother to cancer, you tend to start blocking feelings about Things Doctors Could Possibly Announce. I had blocked them so hard that when I revisited my doctor (after starting a new medication), she asked how I felt on it, and my reply was a long pause..."I don't know how it feels." I had blocked feelings so intensely that I could not have told you how I felt physically. And some of it wasn't just physical, but a result of a few really tough years and blocking how I felt because it was exhausting. This is hard to explain. But if you know (and have experienced this), you know. Walking wasn't the only thing that helped, but it definitely is on the list!

Some of the walks have been alone and this, too, adds a certain awareness to me. Choosing my own pace, my own direction, my own distance, my own silence brings me peace. Maybe other mothers can relate to what this means to me.

A couple months ago, I couldn't say how I felt. Now I find myself more aware. Muscles. Heart rate. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

-Identity: This deserves a deeper dive because it's a loaded topic, and probably the one I've learned the most about over the past few years. But identity is odd. And identity when you get older is still odd. I know this is a universal topic, here's how it played out for me: I was raised to be tied (loyal) to family. But then the family was gone, and I no longer was "______'s granddaughter. _______'s daughter. ________'s caretaker."

We moved and I was no longer "______'s friend. _______'s neighbor. _______'s worker."

I'm out of context.

This throws me off. I begin to build the context again, piece by piece. And remind myself context doesn't completely define identity.

The pace of walking slows down my gogogo brain enough to pause and focus. I process. I pray. It brings my mind to the Lord and His identity, who He is and how my identity is in Him, not in who I am (or am not). Walking pace allows my brain to step, step, step. Breath, breath, breath. I am here. Identity.

-Nature is Cool: There's a great blue heron who greets us (almost) every evening. He sits silently, side-eyeing us as we approach, but frightens at the last second and squawks his warning as he glides away. The trees make a spooky whisper in the wind. The snow swirls in the streetlight. Sometimes the walks take me down to Lake Michigan. The weather affects the lake in color, in waves. There are patterns in the sky, in the grass, the trees. Nature is cool and reminds me that He who creates is One who loves.

-Happiness: At this point you're wondering if I've ever walked before? Yes, let me reiterate that, yes, I walk. Yes, I love my treadmill. Yes, I love the indoors. Yes, I like going outside. Yes, we hike trails in the area. Yes, I love walking early in the morning, or when it's dark at night. Yes, we walk with friends.

It's the daily part that is new to me. I'm on day 39, and I realize I just laid some heavy points down, but also, walking simply brings me happiness. Time to consider, time to think, time to be aware, but also time to relax, breathe and be happy! Happy the blue heron has waited to greet us (unhappily), happy to explore new trails, streets and sidewalks, happy to feel the rain, happy.

A daily walk outside has become a fun challenge for myself. A diversion from trash tv (any guesses what I watch?), a way to become more aware of myself, and what's around. Partly cloudy beckons me, I wrap my scarf around my neck and breathe.


What do you think? Do you enjoy a good walk? Do you like rain? Do you prefer an indoor walk? If not walking, then what habit do you have that brings you happiness and has taught you a little about yourself?

*Names have been changed because I like my neighborhood.

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Liz Weddle
Liz Weddle
Dec 05, 2023

I also love a good outdoor walk but only in the summer. I can't get myself to like it in the winter though, except for the occasional walk with Dad when I'm home. But there is something about being surrounded by nature and letting the sounds and feelings and beauty of it all wrap around me. I think the habit that I have been the best at staying consistent with that also brings me happiness and insight, is journaling! It helps me organize my thoughts and process them and I love rereading old journals and seeing where I've grown stronger but also, unfortunately sometimes weaker. It helps me keep myself accountable in a way.

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