This is a guest blog post by Pam Eidson, executive director of the National Physical Activity Society, a lead organization for the February monthly theme of Walking to Connect to You (#Walk2Connect). The National Physical Activity Society provides education for professionals who use public health approaches to physical activity. Pam is co-chair of the Every Body Walk! Collaborative. 

 

Our garage tenant had filled our yard with junk. She was an artist of “found objects.” Multiple discussions yielded no appreciable difference in the amount of stuff in the yard, and the neighbors were bearing down on us. My spouse found himself in the hospital for a few days, and I had health issues of my own, with repeated bronchitis. Something was about to break, and I wasn’t sure if it might be me.

In late July, I started walking every day. The dog, the harness leash, the FitBit, and me.

August in Georgia is hot. It’s also back-to-school time. I would walk my younger son to elementary school in the morning, then keep going to get that walk in before the heat rose. I waited until September, Day 47, to publicly announce my quest on Facebook. My average at that point was 245 minutes a week.

What’s the hardest part of walking every day? Not the fitting it in, when I’m lucky enough to have a flexible schedule. Not the rain, when I have both rain jacket and umbrella. Not the repetitiveness, which can be meditative. The hardest part is getting up and going, whether it’s out of bed or off the couch. The flip side to my advantage of working from home is that I had no destination to walk to regularly, to fit walking in as part of transportation. I had to create my walks. If I can get through the first ten minutes, I’ll keep going. If I can get up off the couch, I’ll keep going.

After three weeks, my blood pressure was back to normal. It was easier to walk every day than to try to remember to do x number of days a week. It was also easier to get my number of active minutes into the higher range while walking daily. I had anxious dreams that I had reached the end of the day and forgotten to walk. I was always glad to wake up and find they weren’t true.

Over the year, I walked on three mountains. I walked my neighborhood 300 times. My dog tangled with other dogs. It rained. It got cold. I woke up at 5 a.m. to walk before an all-day conference. I woke up at 6 a.m. to walk on New Year’s Day before traveling all day. I walked in QT gas station parking lots, more than once. I walked in England. I walked around Washington, D.C. I walked with walking coach Michele Stanten during the National Walking Summit. I walked with my sons. I walked with my husband. I walked with my earbuds in. I walked the morning of my grandmother’s funeral, and the afternoon my older dog died.

Were there days that weren’t fun? Yes, maybe 15. Strangely, the hardest clump of days, when I felt the least motivated, was right after New Year’s, due to uninviting colder weather. Atlanta didn’t get snow that winter, though. My one entirely indoor day of walking was at Heathrow airport in June. Dodging people should have been a useful challenge, but instead it was annoying that I couldn’t get a steady pace going.

The penultimate week, just when I was wondering if I’d make it through a July in Georgia, Pokemon Go became a hit. My sons and I filled water bottles and set out chasing creatures all over the neighborhood. I logged my highest number of weekly minutes, 528.

What did a year of walking every day give me? Confidence that I can set and meet a goal, even one that involves doing something steadily over time. Whether I felt like it or not, I did it, though I was surprised how often I felt like it. Second, a steadier mood. I weathered several hard days with equilibrium. And third, clearer thinking. When there’s a problem to work out — or even when not — inspiration would come to me while walking. I connected to myself.

I finished Day 366 with a 52-week average of 310 minutes per week. One leap year of daily walking. Sunny July sky, gentle breeze, stirring the trees surrounding me. And the tug of the dog, who happily joins my side again when I tug back.

Photos and writing ©Pam Eidson. Used with permission.