Grrls in Motion

In Defense of Walking: A Reperspective

Photo: Viktor Hacanek

If you’re like me, self-identifying yourself as a whenever-the-mood-strikes-you exerciser with a bundle of (justifiable!!) excuses for why you didn’t make it to the gym today, you probably consider the activity of walking as a way to balance your daily caloric budget in your preferred fitness app. Walking was the activity I did when I was too lazy to dress myself for running. If I happened to walk on a hill in a scenic area, I’d consider that hiking. Walking to the store is me going on an errand.

I hadn’t previously considered walking a legitimate physical activity. But then, I had an epiphany as I was preparing to write my first story for Girlnetic. As I started to evaluate how I’ve been “exercising” my adult life, I realized something that I had taken for granted up until now: I have been exercising. I just never called it that.

As a drama major attending college in NYC, studying my “craft” involved required movement classes where I’d “discover” my psoas and correct my alignment through arcane techniques to develop a relationship with my “core”, and in doing so become a more truthful, emotionally available actress.

Do I sound skeptical and sarcastic? Good. You might not be surprised to learn that I decided a career in the performing arts was not for me, and all my movement was contained in those classes so I needed to find another activity.

Throughout my mid-twenties, I worked at a private equity office job (read: flat bum) and invested in a personal trainer. After a few sessions, the personal trainer asked me out on a date, and I flipped out. So, all this time, as I was doing awkward butterfly flutters with my inner thighs and letting him roll-out my knotted backside, he was secretly harboring sexy thoughts for me?! UGH. I felt immediately exposed and stopped training immediately.

At some point later (probably not exaggerating when I say at least a year later), I signed up at this new fancy, budget gym (think JetBlue for gyms) a block away from my apartment that was only $20 a month. It was so cheap, in fact, I was under-motivated to visit after the first obligatory walk-through, and proceeded to ignore the automatic monthly withdrawals for a year. (I know, I know…I’m the WORST.)

I tried unlimited yoga for a month because the studio moved into my apartment building, and then boycotted the place in solidarity with my boyfriend who got in some spat with the owner (Bonus: no more pretending I like crows).

There was a time I moved to Colorado to teach myself how to snowboard, and a snowmobile patrol guy had to drive me down the mountain because I was helplessly stuck in the snow (Sick powder, dude!).

There was a time I joined a social league to casually play lacrosse, but I’m pretty sure the amount of beer consumed post-meet ups cancelled out all health benefit gained on the field.

Randomly nostalgic from my childhood days dancing at the Boston Ballet, I took some adult ballet classes, and then decided that it was too difficult to get to class in the MTA rush-hour commute (there are those excuses again).

Then, I went to law school at the age of 29 and haven’t exercised since. Seriously. Besides from the occasional corporate challenge, 5K run for charity, or random race I did on a dare, my life is completely replete of exercise. I’m turning 36 years old this month, and I haven’t committed myself to any structured, consistent exercise regime since high school athletics required me to.

Or, have I?

How is it that I’m not an obese woman with the muscular structure of a sea sponge? I’ve been.. (gulp!) walking!! I’m a healthy, relatively in-shape, limber, strong woman because of that silly little excuse for a physical activity called WALKING. Huh!?!

Before you roll your eyes at me, just take this into perspective. I haven’t owned a car since I was 18. I have been using walking as my primary mode of transportation and living in cities where that’s conducive (NYC > Albany > Syracuse) for half my life. Sure, I’ve leaned on public transportation some, but my use of subways and buses pales in comparison to my use of my own two feet. My legs have been carrying me everywhere and have received no recognition or support.

Suddenly, I feel proud! I’m an able-bodied, walking machine! I’ve increased my agility, maintained my weight, and kept myself relatively sane, by years of simply walking. Sigh and smile. I guess I’m not the consummate slugger I always imagined myself to be.

In defense of walking, here are the three main reasons why I (now) love to walk:

I am exercising and I don’t even know it. I’ve spent half my life feeling guilty that I don’t have a proper exercise regime, and I come to realize that I actually have been exercising all this while. Brilliant!

I can do it whenever and wherever. I am never, ever going to put on a sports bra and spandex after a staff pizza lunch. It’s just incorrect! But you can convince me to take a long walk. Especially if we’re headed to a cup of coffee or glass of wine.

It can be done simultaneously with other activities. I can call Mom, listen to a podcast, even carefully text and read work e-mail. I like being productive and I’ve never found that reading and running on a treadmill works. It’s hard to stay focused when the text jumps in time with my bopping head and staggered breath.

Want to be more deliberate in your walking routine? Start a walking plan with this guide from Runner’s World (excuse the irony). Travel the world by foot with one of these Walking Adventures. Check out competitive walking opportunities in your neighborhood on Active.com. Or track your steps using a trusted pedometer.

Still think walking is a lame excuse for exercise? Read here.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” – Friedrich Nietzsche*

*Indeed… On a recent work trip in NYC, I thought up this beauty of an article while gracefully and skillfully dodging through laggard tourists.

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