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Body

Strolling May Aid You In Elevating Your Routine Fitness

During our residency in Spain, my mother would transport my siblings and I to school, then embark on a four-mile stroll with a cluster of fellow expat women. Every morning, they convened to walk and converse. This practice resulted in many enduring friendships.

During my adolescence, I considered this to be the most unexciting “mom activity” imaginable. Now, in my mid-30s, I comprehend it.

Prior to my recent relocation from Portland, Oregon, I would routinely embark on walks with one of my dearest friends. Regardless of the weather conditions (often rainy), we would meet on Sundays and traverse the footpaths of Forest Park, explore waterfall trails in the Gorge, or wander through our neighborhoods for a couple of hours. It presented an opportunity to step outside of our own thoughts, discuss life, and marvel at the little things: the early sprouting crocuses in February, an owl peacefully perched on a branch, the fragrance of blossoming cherry trees.

When the pandemic struck in 2020, I initiated a daily walking routine—sometimes thrice daily, akin to a canine—knowing that each return journey would leave me feeling uplifted. Residing solo, these brief strolls assuaged my anxiety, prompting me to decelerate and approach life on an hourly, or even minute-by-minute, basis. It redirected my focus to elements within my immediate reach that I could influence, especially when the world outside of that sphere was tumultuous. It also instilled a sense of being connected to the world, minimizing feelings of isolation.

The advantages of walking for physical fitness, mental tranquility, and creativity are extensively acknowledged. Walking is a natural stress-reliever, yet individuals with no physical limitations often overlook its benefits. Even as the trend of “hot girl walks” gains popularity, walking is frequently dismissed as “insufficient” to qualify as “true” exercise. In a society that commonly values self-worth based on maximizing productivity, walking may be perceived as a waste of time. Why allocate an hour to walking when you could jog for 15 minutes and swiftly resume work?

However, I would contend that this unhurried pace is conducive to enhancing self-awareness—an aspect of walking that is frequently undervalued.

Life can be tumultuous, appearing to accelerate as we grow older. Yet, walking has the ability to mitigate this perpetual rush. The serene, leisurely pace enables us to closely observe our internal and external environments. While biking or running, the focus typically remains on propelling forward, potentially causing one to overlook a sizable banana slug or a hummingbird in flight. Nonetheless, by allocating more time to traverse a path from point A to point B via a simple, repetitive motion, we often find ourselves introspecting, sometimes without even realizing it. A study from 2021 revealed that the introspective advantages of walking are akin to those obtained from a therapy session.

Walking also has the capacity to elongate our perception of time. Personally, I experience this most profoundly during multi-day hikes. Trekking through the woods for four or five days can feel like an eternity. Embarking on a 700-mile pilgrimage across the Camino del Norte and Primitivo in Spain last summer spanned 45 days but seemed equivalent to six months. These journeys evoke the sensation of living a mini life within a life. Time stretches, senses heighten, and the connection to the surrounding world intensifies.

When the daily agenda solely comprises walking, eating, sleeping, and repeating, mental horizons broaden. Each step necessitates introspection, prompting a more immediate confrontation of personal issues without the distractions of daily life. Every individual I have encountered on such pilgrimages has undergone internal transformations beyond their expectations.

In this unhurried period, even amidst the aching feet, weariness, and the urge to toss my backpack over a mountain, I find myself becoming more self-revealing. My inner voice amplifies, enabling me to listen and trust it more effectively. Through this process, I refine my boundaries, comprehend my limits, and foster greater self-belief. I realize how little is truly required for contentment.

While embarking on an extensive hiking expedition like the Pacific Crest Trail or the Camino de Santiago may not be feasible or desirable for many, I firmly believe that regular weekly walks can afford us the space to attain a deeper self-awareness, whether in solitude or in companionship.

Walking has evolved into my sanctuary, where I feel most authentic. It serves as a reminder that, in the grand scheme of things, amidst the chaos of the world, life is meant to be relished one step at a time.

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