I looked at the calendar and couldn’t believe it had been five months. Five months since the last time I had gone on what had been a daily, one-hour walk. I could feel the changes, too, and it scared me. My body missed the exercise: I was more agitated lately and having trouble falling asleep. During the day, my legs were cramping and I felt tired. Things just didn’t feel right, and I knew much of this fatigue and discomfort was caused by lack of exercise. I knew the importance of daily movement for health and emotional well being.
But every day, something got in the way of my walk. Even if the first thing I promised myself when I woke up was that I would walk. But here it was, almost half a year since I had exercised.
I have been active my entire life, which made it even harder to believe that I had become someone who didn’t move. For the first time in my life, the excuses were winning and it all boiled down to one thing: my belief that I had no time.
It was easy to fall out of step, I can see that now. When my children were younger, my walks were taken care of with them in a stroller. Later, with them alongside me on bikes. As they grew into junior high and high school, I thought my schedule would evolve into more time for me. I was surprised when the opposite happened; their school, sports and after-school activities increased and, thinking I would have more time in my day, I had increased my hours at work. Life became about getting from one place to another with pit stops in between — and none of them by foot. And somewhere in that frenetic pace, I had lost my hour for walking.
[pullquote] I feel focused and clear-minded; I can focus my attention or let my thoughts drift. My time is mine when I walk, and in it, everything comes together. [/pullquote]
That day I had my reckoning while looking at the calendar was over two years ago, and on that day, I said no more. I stood at the mirror and looked at myself. Out loud, I made a promise to not shove good health aside or think it was something guaranteed. I promised to stop thinking of myself as a machine that needs no maintenance. I would stop grabbing whatever was handy to eat as I ran from home to work and to school for the kids. I would stop racking up hours spent sitting working without any break to get up and move around. I would keep these promises and change how I was living. To hold me to my word, I bought a discounted floor-model treadmill so the weather couldn’t become another excuse.
And I promised I would never again let months pass without movement.
I went for my walk this morning, as I’ve done for the past two years. Everyone was still in bed, but my youngest heard me up and came downstairs.
“Why are you up so early, mom?” he asked. “It’s still dark.”
“That’s Daylight Savings Time, and I can’t use the dark as an excuse. You know I take my walks. Remember I asked you to never let me miss a day of walking?” I asked.
He nodded, “I remember. I’ll wait for you here until you get back. But I might fall asleep on the sofa.”
“I’ll be back in one hour,” I called out as I headed for the door. “Then we’ll talk about what we want to do today.”
I closed the door behind me and took my first steps out into the fresh cold morning air. It was dark, but soon it would be sunrise and I would be back home before the rest of my family was awake. I would have gotten my walk in, and the feeling of having cared for myself would buoy me the rest of the day. One hour of my thoughts coming together while my heart and lungs pumped. One hour of keeping a pace fast enough where my breath came in pants. One hour of feeling stronger in spirit, mind, and body. I feel focused and clear-minded; I can focus my attention or let my thoughts drift. My time is mine when I walk, and in it, everything comes together.
Two years ago, exercise became a struggle and was easily put aside for any excuse, but I have taught myself that walking is not an option. It’s a must-do. And now that I associate it with so many rewards — the peace, the time away, the visualization of a healthy mind and body — I have come to look forward to the time spent walking.
Walking makes me feel alive and vibrant. With every step that pushes me forward, my legs move one in front of the other, my muscles tightening. My arms swing and my feet move, taking me away from all that waits for me at home and work.
But this is not escape; it is a path to a quiet place where I feel my heartbeat along with the early morning sounds around me. I am replenished and led back to the space where I connect to my deepest self.
Tomorrow, I will wake and walk again. And I can’t wait.