Focusing on walking for 30 days has been fun and rewarding for many readers who routinely get their 10,000 daily steps, and then some.
But before we get to them, let me tell you how it helped me during a rather challenging February weather-wise. As a dog owner, I already walk a lot. But keeping track of my steps made me push things a little bit more.
One Saturday, I had a little bit of extra time and decided to go for an epic hike. I walked from midtown down to the Sacramento River and saw the amazing surge of water. I walked to the new arena. I took photos of that $8 million Jeff Koons piglet sculpture. I saw lots of people, several of whom said hello and complimented the dogs. We ended up walking 6 miles, which I recorded on my iPhone with the free Strava app that created a map of where I went. Very cool. My average speed was just over 3 miles an hour, including slowing to sniff and assess about 150 trees, shrubs, fence posts and street signs.
The next morning, I did 4 miles. The dogs were pooped and happy, and I went places I don’t normally go. I felt adventurous, but I was clearly not in the same league as Karey Spivey, who wrote to us shortly after the 30-Day Challenge walking story ran.
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She walks at 4:30 a.m. and, until recently, had been doing it for years with her dog Ella.
“I am not super fit, but it is a way for me to release stress from my day and also to give me an opportunity to experience my neighborhood throughout the seasons,” Spivey wrote. “I have seen owls, heard and seen coyotes, jackrabbits, shooting stars, super-moons, and seen those who choose to not stop at stop signs this early in the morning. : )
“Walking was also a way to get my dog up and moving before she died in December. I guess that I also now walk for Ella to keep her memory alive and remember how much she loved those 2 miles each day. My co-workers think I am nuts to go this early, but it is a beautiful way to start my day and gives me the sense of accomplishment before beginning my day of stress. I set myself up for success by going this early as I get my exercise out of the way. Also, between a full-time job, part-time job, and graduate school, this is really the only time I have!”
That’s an important observation. If you get your walks or other exercise finished first thing, they’re in the bank and can’t be taken away if your day gets busy or you run out of steam and decide to bail. Waking up extra early is a habit and takes discipline. The biggest issue is going to bed earlier. (That could be a future 30-Day Challenge.)
Like many of us, Spivey uses her phone for much more than making calls.
“I use my iPhone and the Pacer app to track my steps. Today, I have completed 10,417 steps, which is pretty much average each day. Over the past six months I have walked well over 600 miles. I am hoping to someday walk the Pacific Coast Trail and the Appalachian Trail to discover the amazing sights of the country. Right now, I am simply enjoying these early morning walks as I discover my neighborhood.”
Reader Ken McGuire is not alone in struggling to deal with all this winter rain.
“I’ve been walking 2 miles a day – recently increased to just over 2 miles – for several months. I’ve lost a few pounds, flattened the stomach a bit, and in fact can now comfortably wear a few pairs of pants that were uncomfortably snug,” he wrote.
“I try to get out every day but the recent rains have hampered the routine a bit. Even on a rainy day, I can usually find 40 minutes or so when the weather’s good enough to get out. It certainly helps that I’m retired with the flexibility to set aside the time for walking.
“I’ve been a bicyclist for many years – most of the time as a commuter – and I still do a fair amount of utilitarian bicycling to my part-time job, for errands, etc. But I really appreciate the simplicity and exercise value of walking. Dress for conditions, lace up the shoes, and start walking.”
Walking, it turns out, is the kind of exercise that even accomplished athletes find beneficial, as we learned when reader Nick Cronenwett contacted us.
“I am a former collegiate pole vaulter and have recently re-learned how even light exercise can really improve your life,” he wrote. “I used to do very strenuous running and weightlifting exercises near daily when I was younger and I kept up with working out after graduating from college, but I started graduate school last year and my exercise dropped to just one hour a week. I thought I just didn’t have the time.
“I noticed that this took a toll on my general outlook and things that I once really enjoyed doing such as hobbies, going out with friends, even organizing the apartment, just required too much energy.
“I started walking to work again, which takes about 40 minutes door to door. During my walk, I listen to favorite podcasts or music, often learning about some famous musician or actor or concept I didn’t know anything about. I also started taking the stairs to get to my desk on the 17th floor. It takes about five minutes to get up 17 floors, and it takes roughly three to four minutes to wait for the elevator, but I sweat a lot after just five minutes!”
That’s quite an endorsement for walking, and there are several things you can learn from his example. Walking can jump-start your fitness and give you a more optimistic outlook about life in general. It’s such a basic way of moving, but it can lead to more rigorous activities if you feel up to it.
Even if you don’t work on the 17th floor, you can still climb stairs if you get creative. There are several large parking structures in the midtown/downtown area with stairwell access, for instance. Some are up to 10 stories high. Nothing says you can’t take a detour on your walking route and do some stairs. If you measure your walks, you can increase your distance every few days and maybe try to up your speed.
The most important thing is to push yourself a little bit without overdoing it. If it’s not enjoyable or rewarding, you’ll have a hard time making it a long-term habit.
The more you focus on walking, the more you’ll start to see things differently. You’ll look for ways to get more steps. The grocery store, the dry cleaners and the post office? Can you get to those places on foot? You may find that running errands – or walking them – can become an adventure rather than an ordeal.