When my roommate and I found out we could have dogs in the condo, we quickly took advantage of having some four-legged visitors. We also quickly learned that dog sitting also meant earlier mornings, anxiety to get back home from work and lots and lots of walking. I nearly always hit my 10,000-step goal on days I’m watching a pooch.
Now that we’re on a dog sitting hiatus (don’t worry, it’s only for a couple weeks – we can’t go too long without getting our fix), I noticed my steps going back down to their old normal.
So, I started taking myself on walks (because I don’t need no man dog).
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think about going on walks, I think about moms in the suburbs in the 80s, taking the sidewalks by storm in their jogger suits. I don’t know why I visualize this (is it just me?!), but basically it boils down to this: somewhere in my mind, I got to thinking that walking wasn’t cool. I don’t know why, but based on the lack of people in the city out power walking in the morning (unless they have a dog accompanying them), I’m guessing other people might secretly think the same thing.
At first, it felt weird to go outside to just walk a few blocks before work. I felt like I was the only one around who wasn’t running or walking a dog (bonus: it’s a great time to see all the dogs in your neighborhood out and about). But, after a few days, it felt more normal. Sometimes my walks evolved into jogs or runs, but sometimes it felt nice just to ease into my day with a few extra steps.
I started to notice some benefits a few days into adding more walking into my routine, and while some are more obvious than others, I have gathered a list of reasons for you to join me on the Dog-Less Walking Resurgence of 2017 (it sounds cooler if you give it a name, right?)
1. It gives the day more structure.
In a normal week, two or three of the mornings I wake up early to get to a workout and the other two or three I take advantage of sleeping in. Despite all the evidence that you should try to wake up around the same time every day, I have held this haphazard pattern for years. Lately, I’ve been waking up earlier on my non-workout mornings to get a walk in, and it’s added a lot more consistency to my schedule. I feel more awake when I get up and consequently, my bedtime has also become more consistent.
2. It’s some activity on days I otherwise miss or skip my workout.
Let’s be honest, some mornings I’m just not in the mood to begin with a 6 am HIIT class. Despite my best intentions to make a workout in the afternoon, sometimes it just doesn’t or can’t happen. Work, events, life – it gets in the way for all of us. Admittedly, I sometimes beat myself up about it when this happens. Getting in a walk before work, during lunch or quickly after work has been an easy way to keep some activity in my day. Walking is a workout that doesn’t require a different outfit or a post-activity shower, so it’s easy to squeeze into my day if I need a physical boost but don’t have time (or want to) fit other exercise in.
3. It helps reduce stress.
There’s been a lot of talk about self-care lately, and walking has been my self-care go-to. Like any cardiovascular exercise, walking (briskly) boosts endorphins, which reduces stress hormones and can alleviate mild depression. I also find it gives me some extra time to think, especially in the mornings, and I’m more mentally prepared to take on the day ahead of me.
4. More walking may mean more running.
Despite all my efforts, my running routine drastically decreases in the winter. I would argue that 90% of the reason I don’t run nearly as much in the winter is the effort it takes to get myself outside (it’s just not as fun when it’s grey and gloomy!) Sometimes on my morning walks, I’ll dress appropriately for a run in case I feel like turning it up. Sometimes I do (and sometimes I don’t) – but regardless, I’m running more now that I’m actually going outside more. Funny how those two things are correlated…
5. Walking is great active recovery.
The older I get, the more I realize I need to build more recovery and mobility into my workout routine. Just like running slowly, walking is great aerobic exercise that acts as a supplement and welcome addition to any workout plan. Walking burns fat, strengthens your muscles and improves your balance – all while giving your joints and muscles a break from more strenuous activity.
6. Walking can be a good form of meditation.
Not good at formal meditation? Walking might be a good solution for you. Go for a walk and let your mind tune out for a bit or listen to a guided mediation on your phone during your walk. You’ll reap the benefits of meditation AND the benefits of some regular exercise – win, win.