A few months ago I mentioned here that I've committed myself to a more active lifestyle. Motivated by a health scare, I started walking every morning and eventually added an evening jaunt to my routine as well. I'm happy to report, many weeks later, that the committment endures.
Physically, the results are striking. My legs are stronger than they've ever been, as is my lung performance judging by how steadily the pace of my walk has quickened as the months have passed. Most of my clothes no longer fit, and I have more energy so I'm constantly looking for ways to get in more activity. I'd like to get my bicycle fixed so that I can start touring the countryside on the weekends, for instance, and begin commuting into town on two wheels instead of driving.
In "Sinews" I wrote that I viewed my walks as not just physical exercise, but spiritual exercise: in introducing myself to physical disicpline, I hoped to improve my mind's mastery over the body. The fact that I'm still going on a daily basis, having overcome a great many mornings of discomfort and outright pain, testifies to my success, I suppose. In the beginning I had to stress endurance and persistance to myself, as my feet were still adjusting to the routine. Now they typically no longer pain me, and the aches and soreness come from my legs, protesting at the ever-quickening pace that I speed down the road with. Some mornings are effortless, and I come home feeling exhilerated from the action and not tired in the least -- but there are mornings when I struggle for every step, when my mind constantly chatters distraction. I must work to keep my focus and maintain my stride, knowing that most of the time this discomfort is temporary and the barrier it represents a phantom: if I push, if I persist, I can make it all the way and marvel that I contemplating giving it a rest earlier. I suspect the physical results of my exercise are much more noticable than the mental effects: as I read the thoughts of those who have made exercise a daily part of their lives, I can't help but note that everyone admits to days where they have to force themselves to get out there, no matter how long they've been at it.
The walking has been good for me in other ways. The quiet time to myself gives me space and energy to think, and sometimes to muse. It gives me opportunities to appreciate nature. I'm able to practice Stoic nonjudgment every day, especially as we head deeper into winter and I find myself feeling frustrated that the weather is denying me tolerable walking conditions. I can walk when it is freezing out, but when it is freezing, windy, and raining? I'm not that good at feeling indifferent to physical discomfort! The most noticable physical result is weight loss, something that I'm quite happy about. That, too, is an opportunity to practice nonjudgment; while I was able to maintain a losing streak for a couple of months,during the last week of November that ended when I gained an ounce. The next week I lost it and much more, but I had to remember that my focus is not losing weight but staying active.
Aside from the physical gains (or losses), the greatest boon of my walking is that it gets me active in my neighborhood. My neighbors have become accustomed to seeing me: I recognize their cars as they drive by me, and I wave cheerfully at everyone. I'm able to talk with someone almost every day -- kids riding bikes after school, a man raking leaves from his yard, an elderly fellow watching the ducks in the pond behind his yard in the morning. I know most every dog in the neighborhood. There are friendly dogs and hostile dogs, dogs that bark from behind fences but which are cowards outside of them, dogs that are friendly when I walk but who chase me when I jog. I feel like part of the neighborhood; my life is daily connected to the lives of others. I have even had people join me on walks.
And so, I look forward to many more future walks and my increasing good health.