The Gift of Walking
Having been an athlete for most of my life, my physically activity typically consisted of full speed, high intensity, and competition. Anything less just didn’t seem like it was doing anything beneficial for me. Walking was definitely not something that I would have considered “exercise”.
Over the last couple of years, my pace has slowed down, both physically and mentally. I don’t know if this is connected to getting older or if it is simply a response to having made some choices in my life that have granted me the time to take things in life at a more casual speed. But what I do know is that I have come to appreciate walking as an activity that provides me with exercise in all of the health areas; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Walking is so amazing to me because it really seems to be the perfect exercise. It is inexpensive. It requires no specific equipment. A person is able to do it wherever they are and at any time of day. It does not require another participant. It is environmentally friendly. It is an activity that can be done at basically any age and is accessible to almost all people, regardless of physical limitation or socio-economic status.
To walk is to feel completely free. There is no time or distance limit imposed. There is no “out-of-bounds”. There are no referees or judges monitoring our actions while we walk. A little bit of skipping can be added without penalty. Time to sit at a park bench to listen to the sounds of nature does not disqualify a person from continuing on.
A person can choose to walk in basically one of four styles (there are likely more).
- Walking for fitness
- Walking to socialize
- Walking as a mental, spiritual, or emotional exercise
- Walking to see things
Sometimes, it’s very helpful to identify your intention for a walk before venturing out. There were times in the past when my partner and I would go out for walks and within twenty minutes, found that neither one of us were enjoying our time together and had reached a state of frustration. After some discussion, we discovered that we were seeking something different from the experience of the walk. I was often walking for fitness which conflicted with my partner’s intention to simply slow down from the high pace of her day. My problem solving walks, which required lots of interaction and conversation, didn’t allow my partner the opportunity to meet her need for connecting with nature after being in an office all day.
Now that we have become aware of the different “styles of walking”, we can actually identify our intention and personal need before the walk and are much better able to accommodate each other while still focusing on our own needs.
It’s a great experiment to decide upon your “walk intention” before you tie up the laces. I would like to suggest that for your next four walks, do one walk in each of the four styles.
- Do one walk to get your body moving; you should notice an increase in your breathing and your heart rate and may even sweat a little.
- Do one walk with someone else and the main intention is to socialize; the pace at which you walk is not relevant.
- Do one walk to see things; pay attention to your environment and while you’re taking things in through your eyes, use your nose and your ears as well (this probably requires you to not socialize at all during this walk and slow down your pace even more).
- Do one walk to solve a problem. Identify the problem you want to focus on before you start the walk, and then just start walking. Allow thoughts and ideas about the problem to come to you while you walk. You will probably need to take a walk of at least 30 minutes and trust that some helpful ideas will come to you naturally. For many people, walking takes us to a meditative state that allows us to tap into another level of thinking that we may otherwise not have access to.
After each walk, do a quick reflection of how well you met your intention and identify anything else you experienced during the walk. This will help you to really explore how you personally benefit from walking.
Walking is a very personal experience. Until you fully commit to walking and explore your own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pace, the benefits of walking will not reveal themselves to you. Once you find your rhythm, notice the sights, smells, sounds and touches of the outdoors, and experience a healthy shift in your being as a result of walking, it will be then that you have received the gift of walking.
I am committed to walking for myself on a daily basis and I am also committed to providing walking experiences in the services that I provide through Explore Life Coaching. The Play Passport includes regular walking opportunities because I so believe in the benefits of walking and each walk is intentional. On some walks, I ask participants to walk silently and look for things in nature that inspire them. I have also done walks downtown and participants have been amazed by what they noticed simply because they were directed to look for new things. These walks are also a great opportunity to socialize with the other play passport participants. The Explore Nature, Discover Spirit Retreats also include walking/hiking. I am happy to conduct any one-on-one life coaching sessions as a “walk and talk”.
For more information about the benefits of walking and Explore Life Coaching, please get in touch [email protected]