Isn’t a simple walk enough? Isn’t there benefit in setting off, putting one foot in front of the other, for whatever length of time one has?
Must fitness be the goal? Must one attempt to raise one’s heart-rate, beat yesterday’s time?
Isn’t the peace and joy walking bring reward enough?
Must a walk be filled with challenges to be beneficial? Walking up the 56 steps one time is not enough of an achievement; the former coach must walk it one more time. If we’re meandering – we must speed it up. Walking for 1 ½ – 2 hours isn’t enough. Walking the hills we encounter is not enough; we must purposely find and walk more hills.
Don’t think I’m lazy. I’m not, some days I walk a fast pace because that’s what I feel. I walk over hill and dale, up steps, and because of my friend’s urging, on dirt trails that are outside of my comfort zone. My complaint is that I’ve seen this “up the ante” behavior before. A simple, pleasurable walk (or other activity) is not enough. It must be measured…evaluated (distance, time, difficulty) to be worthwhile.
This “up the ante” pressure is similar to what I’ve observed in parents reading to their children in a literacy program I once directed. Parents often leached the joy of reading away from a child by quizzing the child about the pictures/the story instead of just reading joyfully, humorously, regularly with their son or daughter. They often made reading fill like a distasteful chore as they turned it into a competition and imitated the strictest teacher they’d experienced. All the program wanted parents to do was read to their children daily. On its own, regular reading will achieve:
- Expansion of vocabulary;
- Pleasant and close interaction between parent and child;
- Broadening of the child’s imagination;
- The comfort of repetition because a child, especially a young child, will ask to hear the same story over and over again;
- The security of routine (bedtime story as nightly ritual);
- Lengthening of child’s (and parent’s) attention span;
- Increased patience and listening skills;
- Motivation to learn to read;
Likewise walking, just walking, 3-6 times a week will achieve:
- Lightening of burdens and worries;
- Peace of mind;
- Appreciation for the neighborhood as you notice things you don’t notice when driving;
- Gratitude for the foresight of landscape planners from long ago (all hail Frederick Law Olmstead);
- Appreciation for neighbors who paint their homes in beautiful/interesting colors and dress their yards and gardens in finery (Thank YOU!);
- Increased stamina;
- Companionship that deepens organically into friendship;
- Improved sleep;
- Increased desire to walk longer, farther, more;
I know the importance of goals, of being pushed, of increasing one’s heart rate but I do think that sometimes in our over-analysis (if you add hand weights, walk at this pace, walk with this gait you’ll increase…) we take away the simple joy inherent in the act itself.
A walk, no frills, no thrills, no spills, is its own reward!
(Ladies – this is not a complaint as much as an observation.)
*It will become a habit, a need in no time at all.