On January 1st I decided to start walking (outside) at least 1 km a day. And that’s exactly what I’ve done for 90 days and counting.
I’ve walked in rain. I’ve walked in freezing rain. I’ve walked in hail.
High winds? Check. Icy sidewalks? Check, check, check.
I’ve trudged through snowdrifts and walked in multiple blizzards. I’ve logged miles on a frozen lake, on maintained sidewalks, and through backwood trails. And I have, occasionally, seen the sun.
I’ve worn hats and gloves and snow pants and heavy jackets. And that’s mostly all I’ve worn because, well, it has been winter in Canada and that is the dress code. I’ve worn boots and I’ve worn plastic bags inside those boots after they sprung a leak. And now, finally, I’m logging most of my miles (kilometers) in sneakers. Except for Monday, when we had an April snowstorm that closed schools and left the sidewalks covered in slippery slush.
I’ve had an Apple Watch for years now and, at first, the daily activity rings were a great motivator. But last year, when I had some health flareups and burned out completely on exercise (Exhibit A: 25 km last July), those rings started making me feel…terrible. Maintaining streaks and closing rings sometimes (often?) took precedence over proper recovery periods and mental health. I literally ran in the dark at the foot of my bed on multiple occasions to close rings. Arbitrary billion-dollar-tech-constructed rings.
I’m not against rings or related equivalents. They worked for me for years. But then they didn’t and it took me longer than I would have liked to come to terms with that reality. Because I had learned to crave those gold stars from Apple.
But I did stop closing rings. And literally nothing bad happened.
Last fall I tried to exercise regularly but with the chief aim of prioritizing mental and physical health. In September I ran every day – no set distance and no rings, but I was still so relieved when the month was over. Every day felt like work. And as much as I appreciate our treadmill, it’s a depressing piece of equipment.
So on January 1st, I decided I would walk – outside – for 1 km every day. There was no set goal or streak. Just walking. Outside. Through the Canadian winter. Until it didn’t work for me.
It’s still working.
1 km doesn’t feel like much. But it’s enough to get outside, reset my mood, and put my heart muscles to work.
…the benefits of exercise begin with any amount of exercise that is more than zero.Ellen Vora
Working it out across the first 90 days of 2022, I averaged 4.0 km/day. A lot of this is related to our walks to/from school, but it also represents walks with John, close friends, and even a few solo walks.
I no longer record everything (for example, the walk to/from the school bus is rarely recorded unless I haven’t already logged my 1 km for the day).
It has been a wonderful, wholly positive experience. I don’t have to think about getting outside each day – I just go. Some days I walked solo until I reached the 1 km mark and then raced into the warmth of the house. Other days I’ve set out two or three times with different companions.
But, without a doubt, the benefits of this daily walking routine have been more mental than physical. The cold air has woken me up on days when I felt exhausted. The birds and the trees and the snow have given a source of lightness to the world, and my thoughts, on this dark, long winter.
A friend recently asked me how long I’ll keep up with daily walks outside.
I’m not sure. I didn’t make a goal for the duration. For now it works and I like it. It doesn’t feel like a burden – it feels like a privilege. I am healthy and mobile and live in a place with safe sidewalks and clear air and I have the use of my legs. This too shall pass, so I’m enjoying it now.
But I hope when the time comes that I miss a day – and that time will come – that I shrug and move on with my life and then, hopefully, wake up the following morning and walk if I’m able.
I’m currently on Day 97. And, for the record Apple, I haven’t looked at my rings a single time in 2022. And literally nothing bad has happened.
Your turn? Does anyone else have to be careful with their exercise patterns? Anyone else overstretch their limits and burnout like I did? Anyone else prioritizing low-impact walking over other forms of more intensive exercise?