I drive to a lovely historic neighborhood near my condo to walk almost every day because where I live doesn’t have sidewalks. Today, I was halfway there when I realized that I had forgotten to put my Fitbit on my wrist. I almost turned around to go home and get it until that tiny voice of reason in my head said, “Fuhgeddaboudit.”
I started my current walking practice – and that’s what it is for me – about a year into Trump’s presidency. Prior to the electoral apocalypse, I would mostly get my exercise at the gym near my home. I would listen to a playlist on my iPhone while I did the cross trainer for 45 minutes or so, but even with my ear buds on, I could not avoid the sea of televisions hanging above me like Mission Control. Almost all the sets were turned to cable news and invariably, I would see the BREAKING NEWS crawl on every screen and even though I couldn’t hear what the announcers were saying, it made me anxious – even MSNBC – my propaganda of choice. I would leave the gym filled with sweaty angst. Trust me, not a good look.
I just couldn’t take it anymore and decided that I needed a more nurturing venue for exercise. So, I started walking. I mean seriously walking because, well, it’s not like I haven’t been walking for several decades. Now I don’t mean power walking. I certainly respect your choice if this is your deal, but power walking is just too portentous for me. And besides, it makes me flat-out giggle.
My sister-in-law got a Fitbit a few Christmases ago and crushed her step goal every day and got into great shape. I was still not convinced I wanted or needed another device to keep charged and updated, but when I made a break from the Television Zone at the gym, I decided I might as well measure my efforts each day.
At first, I really liked the Fitbit. It was kind of fun to see how far I could go without collapsing and it is certainly a very encouraging and friendly device. It shoots off a display of fireworks and vibrates when you reach the all important 10,000 steps and sends you fun badges each time you hit a milestone. I was a Girl Scout, so the badge incentive really appealed to me. The Fitbit also gently nudges you to get up and walk every hour. And it keeps track of things like your resting heart rate and how you slept. I don’t really enjoy that feature because I don’t need empirical data to tell me that I don’t sleep well so I usually take it off when I go to bed.
I also don’t wear it out like a regular watch. It’s not at all pretty and I enjoy wearing a nice watch when I’m not exercising. Yes, I know Fitbits come in pretty colors now, but at the end of the day it’s still a device and not a fashionable accessory. This is not negotiable.
The Fitbit does reinforce discipline which has never been my strong suit – so I do appreciate that, or I did, until today. Today, I just walked – naked if you will. Just me and my podcast. And it was delightful. I wasn’t checking my wrist every so often to see how far I had gone – or how far I had to go. I just walked like in the olden days before Fitbit.
It was a gorgeous spring day – finally – warm and sunny and bursting with colors. I passed the tennis courts on my usual route and saw a tennis ball on the sidewalk in front of me. There were several folks playing doubles on the courts near me and someone must have lobbed one over the fence. I thought I should be a nice person and toss the errant ball back closer to the courts, but I guess I’m not that nice and I decided to pick it up and keep walking. And then I did something I haven’t done in years – I started bouncing the ball while I walked. And gosh darn, it was fun.
So, I kept walking and bouncing my way along and I felt like a 12-year-old – only 12-year-olds don’t really bounce anymore unless it’s on an app. I finished one podcast and started another and saw the time on my phone. I had been walking about an hour and twenty minutes – pretty much my usual trek, but somehow, I had enjoyed it more.
I got back to my car and pondered what to do with the contraband tennis ball. Yep, I’m keeping it – right there in one of the cup holders. I definitely see more bouncing in my future.
I’m also going to try and be more mindful of why I started walking in the first place. There’s a rhythm to distance walking that I find very settling and peaceful. And I often feel connected to the other folks I pass along the way – strangers mostly, but we almost always acknowledge each other with a smile or hello. It makes me feel happy and I don’t have a clue what cable news they watch.
The spiritual teacher and author Ram Dass says that on our good days we’re all just walking each other home. I like to think this is true. And I love being outside with the birds and trees and so many delightful discoveries. I started taking pictures on my walks and posting them on Instagram with the tag #walkinginardmore. I often write in my head when I walk, and I love getting lost in the words and images. My intention is for these posts to convey hope and kindness and maybe even a smidge of joy – so many of those precious things that have been stifled for what feels like a very long time.
Here are a few gems that caught my eye over the past several months and they are all way better than BREAKING NEWS:
I love finding these treasures on my walks and most days when I finish, I feel more grounded than when I started. That said, I have no plans to kick my Fitbit to the curb any time soon. It helps keep me honest about regular exercise and no harm can come from that. No, I’m just going to try to remember today’s lesson: Walk like no one’s counting.