This morning I was determined to get back into my walking routine after a three week hiatus due to knee problems. In all honesty, the injured knee was only out of commission for two weeks but that was apparently long enough for old habits to return. I enjoy walking. I like the challenge of pushing myself to improve, and I like the residual energy I seem to have throughout the day. My workout playlist is upbeat and always puts me in a good mood. So why do I resist?
Musing #1: It occurred to me today as I was dressing for the activity... that the hardest part of the walk is putting on my shoes. As silly as that sounds, I feel the most resistance when I first slide my foot into the sneaker and then begin to lace it up. Once I make myself overcome that hurdle, it seems as though I am at the point of no return. I suppose my mind reasons that if the shoes are laced, it is more trouble to take them off than it is to complete the route.
Musing #2: I had walked about a quarter of mile, just long enough to complete the first song and increase my heart rate. I was feeling good. I was feeling confident. And I noticed a woman across the street who was also walking, however her speed was significantly less than mine and I was certain that she would not break a sweat. I reasoned that she was out for a stroll and that was better than sitting on a couch. I did not necessarily snub her choice of exercise, but I wondered if she would receive any health benefits from it. I continued on my way.
My route consisted of walking up the street to the junior high, walking twice around the track, and then walking back home. It is a little less than three miles but is a pleasant path. As I was walking home, breathing quite heavily and sweating more than a little, I noticed this same woman walking back carrying a plastic bag. She had apparently gone to the grocery store and I calculated she must have walked at least two miles round trip. More than a little stroll, I'd say... she was exercising with a purpose.
and that led me to Musing #3: One of the cultural traditions that I love about Europe is the daily visits to the local market. Women (and men) gather their fish net bags and walk to open air shops to find fresh produce, bread, cheese, and perhaps a bit of beef, poultry or fish to take home for dinner. The menu is devised on the spot, dependent upon the selection, and the daily outing is an adventure. Perhaps this is why the Europeans are not as obese as Americans? Perhaps this daily walk to the store, rather than get-in-the-car-and-drive keeps them fit. And perhaps as they walk every day they are more mindful of the groceries to select: striving for heart healthy foods, reasonable portions, and lightweight items.
This woman I saw today is living that European life - or at least I like to imagine it that way. And if this is a tradition that I admire, why do I not implement it in my own life? I live less than a quarter mile from the store and yet if I need a quick item or two, I drive rather than walk. Maybe I need to keep those sneakers out in the open...
Musing #4: Convenience and efficiency. I marvel at the conveniences we have in the 21st Century and I am truly grateful to live in this technological age. Indoor plumbing is something I cannot fathom living without... and a washing machine and dryer are necessities. Dish washers are wonderful, especially at the holidays, but sometimes I wonder if I miss some peaceful solitude by not hand washing the dishes in a sink full of warm sudsy water, gazing out the window at the beauty of nature?
Computers and smart phones have enabled us to be so much more productive. GPS systems prevent us from getting lost, cell phones are invaluable when the car breaks down on the highway, and apps can help me keep track of my to-do list, grocery lists, calories consumed, etc etc etc. I can certainly type much faster than I can write, and emails are a way to communicate irregardless of the time of day. But I question whether my pursuit of efficiency and productivity is a valid one? Ideally I would hope that by taking advantage of these productivity tools I would find more time to relax with pleasant past times that promote peace and tranquility.
But instead I seem to be addicted to the treadmill of life. The more productive I am, the more I want to fit into my schedule. The more I fit into my schedule, the more items I can check off the to do list. The more items I check, the more accomplished I feel. The more accomplished I feel the more I want to do. It is a never ending vicious cycle. But perhaps the time has come to wean myself of this addiction and balance productivity with peace --- convenience with mindfulness. And perhaps the morning walk is a great place to begin.