I have a fast walking stride. Purposeful – as if i’m late or going somewhere important. And in NYC that’s pretty much how everyone walks. Right now people walk a lot more slowly.
There’s nowhere to rush to, really.
When I came back to NYC after two cross country road trips last October, i thought about how to reshape my work/life balance. Getting up in the morning and going straight to email wasn’t working, so I joined a FB group rallying around a two week challenge of getting up earlier and carving out time to do an activity (or multiple activities) to help positively start the day.
Early for me was 6:10AM so I’d have about 2 hours of “me time.” What I wanted most was to walk and get invigorated. The first day I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s worth mentioning that I live ½ a block from the bridge and in 7 years can count the times I’ve walked across on one hand – so my first feeling was WOW! Why haven’t I done this before? (Note, in my defense typically there’s a throng of tourists and vendors at the entrance which isn’t inviting for the local!)
I decided to explore Manhattan’s neighborhoods each morning with fresh eyes. Walking on streets that were always there, but being more aware of the architecture, art, and people started to give me a sense of fulfillment I was craving. I’d walk for 30 – 60 minutes and afterward felt a new energy that stayed with me for the rest of the day.
Daily walks have become a must and even though I loved walking before, they only had one purpose – to get me from one block to the next.
Walking was practical, a mode of transportation – not to mention a healthy activity that helps lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease. So because I’ve taken my walking up a notch I have tips to share on how to get the most out of each walk:
- Think about errands you can do that can be incorporated into your walk vs. driving or taking public transportation. We get so used to other modes and don’t realize that there are many things we can walk to! It may be visiting a friend/family member, going to the post office, or dropping off clothing donations. I suggest thinking about spots that are approximately one mile each way.
- Use your walking time to do something that makes you happy. It doesn’t need to be the same thing every time, but some days you might be purposeful about what you want to do before you set out on your walk. What I mean by that is you have choices: listen to a podcast, a book, music. There are even walking meditations that guide you through a walk experience. Sometimes I like to put on my headphones to create silence and more focus and awareness of my surroundings (not recommended in a high traffic area!). Look at what’s new, what’s old, notice things you never have before. A friend shared a color exercise for awareness – think of a color before your walk and then take note of all the things you see on your walk in that color. It’s incredible how much more you’ll notice. One day my color was yellow.
- Track your walks. Whether that’s on your apple watch, fitbit, phone, pedometer, tracking your steps will give you a sense of accomplishment. I didn’t really “count” walking as exercise when I was going to the gym and dancing, but now it matters that I walk at least a few miles a day, or 7500ish steps. This is challenging in the winter and will continue to be more so in the coming months, but I feel passionate about trying.
- Walk with a friend. Being social outside is the only thing we can do right now. So walking has taken the place of coffee, lunch, and drinks. It’s so nice to walk and talk sometimes, catch up, compare notes on life. It’s also fun to share and compare routes with each other. One friend took me on a long walk that I never would have done alone – I think we walked close to 20,000 steps that day!
- Bumble. Not every walk has to be laid out beforehand to provide satisfaction. Take a new turn, go to a neighborhood you haven’t been to before. When you feel pulled in one direction, go the opposite way and see what happens. I’ve discovered (and rediscovered) places I never would have without the spirit of curiosity and adventure.
When I’m walking these days I feel alive. I make eye contact with strangers, see what’s going on in the neighborhood, even stop and help someone who needs it if that’s a possibility.
The idea of walking with purpose doesn’t have to be about speed walking for health and exercise, nor is it necessarily about achieving goals. I highly encourage bumbling around and making the walk up as you go. It’s about incorporating a walk into your daily schedule as a way for you to have “me time,” social interactions, learning, listening to the news, all while moving your body and getting your blood flowing. And it might be the best, safest, most fulfilling mode of transit we have right now!