Friday, October 12, 2012

The Art of the Walk

Running is my first love. Has been since I was a freshman in high school who ran the 1600-meter track event and finished in last place every single meet. (To this day being on an outdoor track evokes feelings of pure dread.) So while I quickly realized 14 years ago that speed isn't my thing (have you seen the length of my legs?) I discovered that this little body can keep moving for a while. And that's where I thrive—in the distance.

While running will always have my heart, lately I've discovered a newfound appreciation for the art of the walk. I used to view walking as an activity for the elderly, the injured, or the breast cancer aware. But these days I've enjoyed walking for walking's sake. I may not be working up a sweat or burning a maximum amount of calories or feeling that pure euphoria that running provides, but walking has a few perks that running—and most other forms of exercise—do not.

1. Real reflection. I have used many a run to pray and think and talk to myself (and even scream and cry), but I have yet to master steadfast and deep reflection while on a run. For me, running allows a spurt of ephiphanies, quick revelations, and bursts of cognitive and emotional release. On the other hand, walking provides the space to relax my mind. I can practice deep breathing. I can release pent-up energy and anxiety through movement while simultaneously exploring the thoughts and feelings I am experiencing in that moment. There are no breaks in my meditative flow because of a particularly steep hill, belabored breathing, or a cramp in my piriformis (seriously, what is with that?) After most walks, I find myself dashing to my journal to record the fruit of my reflections.

2. Sensory engagement. I like to think that I'm very in tune with my senses. I've been told that I have a keen sense of smell (not always a good thing). Eating is one of my favorite things to do (really). I relish in the beauty of nature and the sights and sounds it spins. And touch is my love language (hold me!). I find that walking engages each of my senses separately, yet simultaneously. I can focus on breathing in the crisp fall air and listening to the leaves crunch under my feet. I can feel the sun shining on my face and hear the children playing down the street. And I can taste the pumpkin bread waiting for me on my kitchen counter (OK, that was a stretch). But there truly is something spiritual that happens to me when I walk and allow my senses to soar.

3. Social time. Last weekend I went on two walks that were especially meaningful. The first was with my dad, and the second with my parents and brother. Conversation flourished. Laughs ensued. Questions were asked and thoughts provoked. To me, regular physical movement is essential for a positive mood, productivity, and overall well-being. I am also a social person and thrive when spending quality time with the people I love (and like). So put those two together, and I am at my best.

Maybe I'm just getting older and lame. Or maybe I'm getting older and wiser. (Or maybe both.) But I'm not a walking hater anymore. It has its place, and lately it's been very good to me.

1 comment:

Victoria Mason said...

I love walks and I don't do them enough. Sometimes I yearn for them but then feel like I need a purpose which just isn't so. We should go on some fall walks!!