Monday, April 15, 2013

Walking For My Life

This past winter, I hibernated like a bear.  Well, maybe not like a bear.  I holed up in my cave and didn’t move around too much, for sure.  But while bears spend the winter months sleeping and NOT EATING—living off the fat they packed on before their long nap—I just kept right on feeding my face.  To the tune of—well, I don’t know exactly how many pounds, because I refuse to get on a scale.  But it ain’t pretty, and my wardrobe ain’t happy. 

Midwinter sucks for physical activity in the Pacific Northwest.  It’s cold and dark and rainy.  Going outdoors for exercise is singularly unappealing; even indoors, the short twilit days just make me feel sleepy and sad.  Still, I scored an exercise DVD from Amazon, and tried to force myself through its paces several times a week.  With limited success, but it was better than not making any effort at all.   

But spring is here, though it has been doing its predictable “Now you see me, now you don’t” routine.  Even so, I am inexorably drawn outdoors.  Walking has been my preferred form of exercise since I was a teen-ager.  When I was young and fit I didn’t do it for exercise.  I did it to sap off excess energy.  And to clear my head.  Twenty years later, I walked to work out the kinks from standing on concrete floors all day—one of the less agreeable conditions of my chosen profession.  A decade and a half after that, I “power walked” to lose weight.  Often on a treadmill, no less.

Before we bought the restaurant, dog and I logged many miles up the hills behind the house, down on the dike, round and round the neighborhoods.  Then I signed up to “live the dream,” and for five years, I barely had the mental and physical acuity left to start the car and pilot myself home to bed after a twelve- or fourteen-hour day in the shit-storm.  I continually paid lip service to wanting to walk to work (it was less than a mile and a half one way), but in all those months, I never quite got around to it.  On some level I must have known it was a bad idea, because by the end of the day I would not have had the energy to get more than about a block.  They would have found me crashed on a bench in Veteran’s Park.

I would love to say that immediately upon ditching the restaurant two years ago, I was free to resume the activity I so missed…but I had developed such a terrible case of plantar fasciitis that I couldn’t walk more than about 500 yards without severe pain.  Believe me, I tried.  But it soon became obvious that the only cure for my problem was REST.  I had to give up walking.

Now, many months later, I can walk three or four miles without a lot of pain.  It’s a welcome thing; a wonderful thing.  But as I tie my shoes, shrug into my jacket and step out the front door, I find my approach to walking has changed once again.  Yes, I need the exercise.  But I need so much more as well.  I need the smell of freshly cut field grass.  I need the sight and sound of birds, from the buzzards and osprey far overhead to the quail scooting across a gravel driveway.  I need the gurgle of the creek and the sigh of the wind and the smell of damp fir needles wafting from the dank depths of a treed lot. 

So you won’t see me chugging along at an Olympic clip, pumping my arms and chewing up the miles.  I’ll as likely be found pausing to chat with a little flock of sparrows skittering through the blackberries; or tipping my head and turning to triangulate the location of a turkey call and catch a glimpse of the big fowl himself; or slowing to bid good morning to the horses and cows I encounter along the way.

I may not be getting the “aerobic benefit” out of my walks that the health gurus tout as the be-all and end-all of exercise.  But I’m pretty sure that life consists of more than just making sure your heart is beating at a certain optimum rate.  You need to be filling your heart with beautiful things, wondrous things; opening it wide to things of the spirit and things outside yourself.  That is where my walks take me now.  And I’ll bet I’m getting more life out of the exercise than ever.  Certainly more than the gal who just breezed past me; with her sports bra and her pedometer and her ipod plugged into her head…    

1 comment:

  1. We are a society that often forgets to just be present in the moment, choosing instead to either view the world through a camera lens or shut it out with an iPdd...glad your plantar fascitis is healing.