On 90 Days of Walking

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.

See burnout creeping in by July 2021; ironically enough, and without trying or monitoring, my second highest mileage over the last two years occurred in March 2022, with 180.0 km of walking. Also I realize, to some, 57 workouts/month might sound excessive, but some of these would be 0.3 km walks to the mailbox. Or 0.1 km runs at the foot of my bed. When I was trying to close my rings I recorded…everything.

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?

Header photo by trail on Unsplash

24 thoughts on “On 90 Days of Walking”

  1. I’ve never had an Apple watch because I fear I might become obsessed with making it happy. I know I need to walk because it is good for my body, not because my ego is into making the numbers on a gadget look good. Probably doesn’t make much sense, but I’ve resisted all forms of quantifiable data regarding my walking since the early days of Fitbits when the one I had ruled my days– and that didn’t seem healthy.

    1. It makes lots of sense to resist the data, especially if you’ve identified it doesn’t work well for you!

      Overall I’m trying to measure less; sometimes it really does work and is a great motivator (and we tend to monitor what we measure, so for me right now it’s more about changing what/how I measure certain things). I don’t want to banish anything from my life forever (necessarily), but I’m trying to recognize certain seasons of what I need to motivate me to be active and right now the rings are definitely not the right fit!

  2. I had a Fitbit for years and walking five miles a day became an obsession. When the battery ran out, I just stopped counting and it was for the best. I have a dog and we walk at least a mile every day, but that’s about as much as I can handle – I definitely feel you on needing to feed the technology gods so that I get a bit crazy. I definitely do better with “30 minutes a day of activity” as a focus because it prevents me from getting uber-focused on something!

    1. The more general category thing appeals to me too.
      The rings do allow for this as you can make up your activity minutes, for example, in a variety of ways…but doing it every day to get a “perfect” week or “perfect” month became a big mental health stumbling block for me.

  3. Yes, these “technology inspired” workouts can be great, or it can get out of control. I’ve experienced it with Peloton. Sometimes we have to do our own thing and not worry about closing circles or getting a badge.
    Walking outside every day probably gives you a deeper connection to nature. It reminds me of a family I knew when my kids were little- one summer, they went to the beach every single day- the exact same beach, same spot, rain or shine. They said it was fascinating to experience it in all different conditions, and notice the subtle shifts as the season started to change. I’m sure you’re feeling this as well as spring (slowly but surely) starts to emerge.

    1. The beach trip sounds so cool! I know Ally Bean took pictures of the same location (I think it was a treeline on her side lawn) over the course of a year and that was a really neat perspective on how the seasons changed.

      As you mention this now I am slightly regretting not recording the weather! It would have been another thing to keep track of I guess, but if I do this another year (or even tomorrow, I guess – I could start now…but the winter just seems like a more obvious choice)…it would be interesting to see the change in temperature, what footwear I had to put on, and general conditions (ice, rain, snow, sleet, icy etc).

  4. I have reached burnout in the past when training for marathons or other races. Since having kids it hasn’t been an issue because I just can’t workout as much or as intensely as I used to, at least not in this stage of parenthood. I had a long streak of 10k+ step days during my maternity leave because of all the bouncing I did when Will was fussy. But then one day I didn’t hit 10k steps and was like – oh well. I’m kind of like Sarah H-U and don’t love streaks because then I put too much pressure on myself. So it’s almost better for me to intentionally not strive for streaks so I don’t feel horrible if I break a streak!

    I do track my workouts & days I walk 10k or more steps. I define workouts as a run or a beachbody workout, though – I don’t count days that I go for a walk, but those are days when I tend to walk over 10k steps, so I get credit somewhere. And I’m not really measuring myself on the # of checkmarks for the month. I kind of track it out of curiosity and then I graph it in my planner to see what my trend is looking like!

    Well done on walking outside every day for the last 3+ months. There has been some truly horrid weather here and I imagine it’s similar where you are so it’s a feat to walk outside some days!

    1. Yeah. Streaks are tough. That’s why I was purposeful in making this open-ended. At this point I still WANT to keep this up and consider it a streak of sorts…but I also don’t have any end goal. It’s more about forming a habit…so hopefully I will skip a day and then get up and start walking again the next?!

      It has been some epic weather lately; one of our more miserable winters of late. But, only doing 1 km felt doable, while also being an accomplishment (1 km is long enough I actually had to get bundled up and dressed to go outside, but it can also be over in about 10 minutes and just about anything is bearable for 10 minutes)!

  5. I don’t have an exercise pattern, but I’m a natural walker. My two dogs make this happen! However, in recent months I have slipped in and out of apathy and have sometimes asked my husband or daughter to walk the dogs. I try to get out every day and soak up the season, but I give myself grace when that just feels too hard. Your journey inspires me though. As the sun pours in through the open hatch on my boat and the wind shakes the ever-greening trees, I think I might just take another walk. On my own today. To clear my mind. Thank you, as always, for sharing your words, Elisabeth. I hope you too will show yourself kindness when you can’t quite make it out of the door.

    1. Definitely to giving ourselves permission to rest. So much of exercise/life is about listening to our bodies…which can be remarkably hard.
      Having pets (dogs most specifically) is such a wonderful prompt for exercise. It’s also quiet companionship. We don’t own a dog, but I think the walking part would be one of my favourite aspects of dog ownership.

      Enjoy that beautiful boat and your own transition into spring. There were all sorts of crocuses poking their heads above the surface this morning and it really felt like spring (there were also tiny mounds of snow everywhere too because of our snowstorm on Monday, so winter is still rearing its head occasionally).

  6. Impressive!! I can’t seem to stick to full out “streaks” lately…I suppose I I know that I could, if I really wanted to, but oftentimes I just have such a variety of things I like to do/ want to do, that I struggle ALWAYS making time for one specific thing. And then I can find myself getting frustrated if my family/ life gets in the way of me completing my self-imposed “task”…so for now, I’ve just been letting go of the streak idea! But I do enjoy a good streak, too. 🙂 That’s so awesome you’ve found a wonderful form of physical activity that you can pretty effortlessly be consistent with. Consistency is key! And walking is just such a fantastic thing to do. I really love walking also.

    1. Streaks are over-rated and I refuse to call this a “streak” because I hate breaking streaks so much…but then invariably do…and then completely give up.
      I just started running again for the season in the last week, but aside from that + walking, I don’t do anything else. I don’t go to the gym or strength train or do yoga, so I leave out some great options because, to me, it just feels too overwhelming. There are too many activity options.
      Everytime I read people discussing Peloton it makes me slightly anxious in both a FOMO way but also thinking “I should be doing more than just walking.”
      But…walking DAILY (I’ve always walked a lot but there is something different about naming it as a decided priority/daily activity) has been a huge, huge mental health boost to my routine in 2022.

  7. I also walk every day, no matter the weather. It always makes me feel good. If I am not walking with another person (husband or friend) I listen to podcasts, and it is always a nice highlight of my day, even if the weather is not great.

    1. Yay! I think I basically knew this from your blog, but it’s fun to know someone else is doing this too!
      When it’s daily, even the bad weather can feel like part of the adventure of it all? Or maybe I’m just crazy? But I almost enjoyed the really bad days because I felt so…good to be out weathering the storm. Like some ancestral drive to conquer the elements (in my Sorel boots, down jacket, less than 1 km from a heated dwelling…so I’m not exactly Ernest Shackleton here).

  8. This is a testament to what every “fitness instructor” (should) tell you: find something that works for you and stick with it. Because trying to force yourself into a fitness habit that you don’t enjoy will not be kept up long-term. Also, switching it up is highly underrated. I think it’s great that you closed your rings, and then you didn’t, and then you ran for a month, and then you didn’t, and now you walk, and who knows maybe you’ll stop tomorrow or next year…. the most important part is that you enjoy whatever you have set up for yourself.

    Having said all that, I definitely thrive on streaks and right now it’s the “blue” dot on the Peloton App. LOL But what I like about that is that it can be anything – a ride, a run, a walk, meditation, stretching, meditation. It all counts as a blue “dot” (and yes, it all counts in real life too – recorded or not!)

    1. There is some quote I’ve seen (attributed to different people!) that says: The best exercise is the exercise you’ll keep doing. And it’s so true. It’s easy to start off big or try to incorporate things because it works for someone else. But ultimately, something that is sustainable is almost always the best choice.

      And yes to enjoyment! There are no gold stars for being miserable while doing something I feel “compelled” to do…

  9. How wonderful! I was walking 90+ minutes a day for over a year because Minnie took her morning nap in the stroller. Now I am limited to 30-45 minutes on the elliptical machine every morning— and I miss walking outside so much! I also agree about Apple watch— I was obsessed with closing the rings, but then it started to… not work for me.

    1. We walked SO much when the kids were in strollers; it’s a great season of life for outside exercise (depending on work arrangements, of course).

      Good job doing that long on the elliptical every day! I have a hard time sticking to any machine inside…even though sometimes it would be a great option.

  10. I saw your comment on my post, & had to come over & check it out! My Apple watch is new (November), so I’m definitely enjoying the novelty of it. I really need consistent cardio to maintain my mental well being, & to keep my lupus in check. That said, totally agree on taking breaks for injuries, and recovery. I haven’t needed to yet, but it’s definitely something to plan for. I travel for work, and international flights & jet lag wreak major havoc on my fitness plans. I do so well with consistency. Once I hit a small bump (say, one day of recovery from a COVID vaccine), it can often take me 3 weeks to get back into a routine. I’m hoping that my being able to get back on the horse immediately with some sort of tracker, it will help me more easily get back on a routine. We shall see.

    I walk almost every day. There are a few exceptions, but because I’m in California, those are more often heat or fire related than cold. I’d say there’s a day every few months where it’s just not tempting (much needed rain, or the like) & I use my elliptical, & am grateful for indoor options.

    My ongoing fitness challenge for 2022 and beyond will always be consistency. Thanks to COVID and working remotely for the last two years, I’ve finally made daily workouts a habit. Now, to stick to that, with the return to in person work!

    1. I have a hard time sticking to things (I’m attracted to the idea of streaks, but then it can start to feel overwhelming/if I miss I day I just give up because I’m so attached to that idea of a “streak.”)

      I’ve had an Apple Watch for 3 years? And for the first 2 years, the rings were a huge motivator and I can see returning to them at some point. It’s more about being in a place in life where I have to be honest about what’s working/what isn’t and why I’m doing something. At a certain point last year I had completely lost sight of the goal: to stay fit/healthy and to prioritize physical activity for the purposes of mental health. I was burned out and it was negatively impacting my mental health…and so it was time to remove this element of tracking from my life until it works again!

      All that said, I LOVE my Apple Watch and even though I’m not using the rings, I still find it motivating to record my daily walks (and for the timer; I’d buy the watch for nothing else but the convenience of the timer function which I use CONSTANTLY)!

      All the best keeping up with your daily workouts!!!

  11. I have an all-or-nothing personality, which means the minute I fail at a streak I’m on, I lose all will to keep going. It’s something I’m trying to work on because it truly misses the point of doing the streak. It’s not about the checkmarks but about making me feel better and following through on something I said I was going to do. This month, I’m on a mission to do 30-minutes of activity every day (which can be a low-impact walk!) and I missed one day but I’m still trying to be active every day. Because the point is to move my body in a way that feels good to me and lifts my spirits, and doing 29 days of activity is much, much better than what I usually do.

    I really like that you noticed a harmful habit you were engaging in with your Apple Watch and found a new way to get the exercise you want without making it a whole THING. It’s so easy to announce a goal like this and get carried away with it. I love that you’re doing this thing because it feels good and joyful to you, and when it stops feeling that way, you’ll move on to something else. That’s such a great way to look at our habits and goals!

    1. I can so relate. I try to remind myself the 1 km I walk every day is better than the 5 km I walk once a month. But the idea of “streaking” can be hard to navigate. I – like you – tend to want to abandon a good habit if I’m trying to do it daily and then miss a single day.

  12. What a wonderful habit to get in to. (I, too, prefer “habit” to “streak”, because missing a day doesn’t “break” anything…) Since… well, sometime early in the whole COVID thing (probably end of March, 2020?) I have had a goal/habit of getting outside for at least a few minutes every day. Even when it’s -20F (as it was on Christmas day 2020, I believe). Most of the time, this is a 20 minute walk. Sometimes – in inclement weather/ice/etc., it’s shorter. But every day, I have managed to be outside for at least a few minutes. I wanted to challenge myself not to merge completely into my desk chair and it seems to have helped!

    I hear you on the Apple rings. Something that has always bothered me is that you can’t change the rings to reflect your priorities. I’d rather track steps vs. exercise minutes, or logging an activity vs. hitting a calorie “target”. Why can’t I tailor the rings to reflect those things, instead of their arbitrary minutes (for exercise) or calories (for activity)? Grr…

    And I do tend to get sucked into them, on and off. Most days I don’t – but some days I pay an inordinate amount of attention to them, so I completely, completely get where you are coming from.

    1. Love your choice of wording and you’re so, so right. Habit is something we do long-term, for the betterment of our lives. Streaks tend to be arbitrary.
      That said, I DO sometimes find it motivating to set up a short-term streak. I think a long-term streak doesn’t work well for me (but it does for other people), because if I miss a day, I’m prone to abandon the whole thing.
      There are some people I know who aim to do something every day over long periods of time, but they also still consider their streak intact if they miss a single day every month or so.

      I know of someone else who does streaks, but has a designated day or two grace that they allocate as a “pass.” I don’t think I could do that because I’d feel like I was cheating in some way, but it’s so interesting how we all have to dig deep into how our personalities work to best set up these healthy habits.

      Ugh. It drives me crazy that you can’t modify what is tracked with Apple rings. I wanted to do the steps as well, and never got the stand goal because I always stand a lot each day and it feels like such a nuisance ring (for me, personally) to include.

      And congrats on making it outside every day. What a great habit (I won’t call it a streak and jinx anything).

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