Go for a Walk

Happy Halloween week! If you’re here in the Midwest, then you had a beautiful start to the week. Sunshine, warm air, pretty leaves…the perfect walking weather!

I have a confession: I HATE EXERCISE!

Really, I despise it so much! But, I love to hike. I love to be outdoors, and if I think of myself as going on a hike or taking a walk, it doesn’t sound like exercise and I thoroughly enjoy it. That’s what I’ve been doing the last few days–going for walks, and enjoying the beautiful weather before winter swoops in and steals the show.

My mom was in town last weekend and my boys and I got to spend some time with her. On Sunday, she wanted to go for a walk somewhere. Our first instinct was the family farm, but we go out there all the time and I was feeling like something new. I suggested the trail around Community Lake in my hometown. It’s about 3.5 miles long, and currently dotted heavily with sunny yellow Maple trees. The wind was blowing fiercely off the lake, and the gravel trail had a fresh layer of fallen leaves.

Just being outdoors alone can work wonders on your mood, and for me that is escalated by any place that is near the water. But when you’re physically moving too, even just taking a casual stroll down a paved path, you are getting the endorphin release that comes with exercise, burning some calories, increasing your heart rate, and lifting your mood. It’s pretty well-documented that exercise can improve your mood, and it’s one of the primary recommendations by doctors for patients with anxiety or depression as well. But it is my personal opinion that getting in a little exercise outdoors does things for us mentally that going to a gym could never accomplish.

Something about being engulfed by the rustle of leaves, the wind whipping against my skin, the smell of the damp earth rising up to meet my nose, and the warmth of the sun against my face is everything I need to forget that I am “exercising” and just be present in the moment. My wandering mind comes into focus. I feel a sense of joy watching my kids climb and jump and explore. Nothing quite compares to a long hike in the Fall!

We’re lucky enough to live a few blocks from the local bike and walking trail, and the boys spend time on it most every day, even when it’s cloudy and cold. I’m more of a fair-weathered friend, and you won’t catch me outside when it drops below 60 degrees. But Monday was another sunny, beautiful day, so I made a quick run to the store and an equally quick Fall dinner–tomato soup and grilled cheese–then hit the trail with my boys before heading out to grab a glass of wine or two with friends.

This time I went without my fitbit, and I didn’t turn on my Nike run app. I had no interest in how many steps I was taking or how many miles I was clocking. I wanted only to walk and take in my surroundings, without technology or the outside world to intrude. Sometimes a good technology break, paired with a long walk and some healthy food (okay, so grilled cheese is maybe not entirely healthy…but I did make it with some homemade pumpernickel rye from the farmer’s market!), plus a little socializing live and in person, are just what a person needs!

I walked around six miles over those two days, and walked a little more down by the river tonight. It was 75 degrees on the second-to-last day of October, and it’s a Tuesday, so we had to get in a trip to the river. You could definitely tell a front was on its way in, because the wind was blowing something fierce. The water was as choppy as I’ve ever seen it, and I had to wear sunglasses to read just protect my eyes from the wind.

The boys went for a walk along the river wall while I read a biography about Robin Williams, then I walked down to get them, adding around another mile to my weekly tally. Seven miles in three days, and an achy calf muscle to remind me that I was accomplishing my goals. Tomorrow is Halloween, so we could get some more walking in for Trick-or-Treat, but it’s supposed to rain all day long so I’m not sure what will happen. If there isn’t a break in the rain tomorrow night we will probably be hitting up a couple of trunk-or-treats at some of the churches in town.

The rest of the week will probably be pretty chilly, so I’m already making a mental note to spend some time on my elliptical in the basement on Thursday. It’s no walk in the park, but it’ll suffice to keep me on task if the air is chill and damp. Something on my self-care list that I’ve been procrastinating heavily on is exercise. I don’t enjoy…it at all. It’s like a special kind of self-torture to me, but one that I know is necessary, especially with the winter months coming up ensuring minimal movement from under my blanket on the living room chair. So I’m getting myself to do it by whatever means necessary, even if that means disguising it as just a walk outdoors.

If you’re a fellow hater of exercise like me, I hope you’ll convince yourself to get up and go. Lace up your shoes, step outside, and just start walking. You’ll feel so much better after you do. Have a happy Halloween!


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