A Simple Walk

By Tracey Barnes Priestley

tracey BPOn a recent weekday, I found myself with an unexpected two-hour lunch break. What to do?

The obvious choice would have been to tackle my bills but one look outside and I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

The sun was brilliant and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

The answer was obvious. I’d dash home, change clothes, hitch up the dog, and we’d have a glorious walk in the sunshine.

Was I really considering such an irresponsible choice? I had a brief pang of guilt and quickly double-checked my decision. Paying bills vs. the countryside on a sunny afternoon? It was, as they say, a “no brainer.”

Fifteen years ago I tried running, managing to get up to a steady three miles and you know what? I hated each and every step.

  • I’d wait for the endorphins to kick in. They didn’t.
  • I’d try not to be bored. I was.
  • I’d watch other people jog along, looking so content. Ha!

For nearly three years I begrudgingly took to the road, mile after mile, day after day until one morning I stopped next to a pasture of fat, oblivious sheep and laughed out loud. What in the world was I doing? I knew I had to get my exercise but really, did I have to be miserable each and every time?

It was then that I discovered the magic of a long walk at a quick pace. For whatever reason, this proved to be my kind of exercise.

  • Was it because my knees weren’t screaming with every step or my chest wasn’t heaving, on the brink of explosion?
  • Or was it that walking allowed me greater clarity of thought and more opportunity to appreciate my surroundings?
  • Best of all, the negative mental chatter had all but disappeared.

Good old fashioned walking – exercise for every age. (At 80, my father still walked an hour each morning. My 81year old mother was making a 5 mile loop around San Diego Bay, a practice her doctors believed helped her recover so well when she fractured her hip.)

Establish a brisk, solid pace and you’ll have many physical, mental, and emotional benefits. It’s free and requires nothing more than a good pair of tennis shoes. You can walk a little or a lot. You can walk alone, with a friend, or even with a group of friends as some my neighbors do. If you can put one foot in front of the other, you can get some daily exercise – even if it means using a cane, as my father did.

Of course, depending on where you live and what season it is, the weather can dampen the spirits of even the most dedicated walkers. Here in northern California, the weather can make or break the best of them. I know this from years of experience.

One Sunday morning, in the dead of winter, my husband and I thought we’d head north to the mouth of the Klamath River for our weekly commune with nature. We got as far as the delightful seaside village of Trinidad. It was cold. It was wet. We fought our way out onto the pier, made a pass by the boat ramp, briefly stared at the beach, and then, with heads down against the wind and rain, struggled to get back to the car. (With age comes wisdom, some of the time!)

Final score? Inclement weather one, two drenched Boomers and their stinky dog, zero.

Well, that\’s not entirely true. That walk was thoroughly invigorating, in a somewhat painfully wet kind of way. But it’s worth noting that it’s entirely possible to have a wonderfully energizing walk on a day when even the birds are smart enough to stay grounded.

How was my midday walk that sunny day? Perfectly wonderful. I appreciated the delicate, pink blossoms of a quince. The dog had a good romp. And I headed into my afternoon of work entirely refreshed.

Take a walk! You’ll feel better for it.

Tracey Barnes Priestley spent many years as a therapist and is now a Life Coach. A former syndicated columnist, Tracey currently writes about Boomer issues on her website, TheSecondHalfOnline.com. Her first novel, Duck Pond Epiphany was published in May, 2013.