walking path

 reason one :: walking & stories

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to walk and think of stories.  It seemed so natural to me, that I was surprised to discover early on in marriage, that Evan did not do the same thing.  He, if left with open time on a walk or long car ride, thinks in song.  But I, from a very young age, would walk around trees and bushes in my yard and neighborhood whispering stories aloud to myself.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve dropped the habit of whispering, but I still love to walk and daydream. Since I was small, I’ve known that walking could be creative.

 

daffodils

 reason two :: walking & talking

As I’ve gotten older, walking has taken on new dimensions. The summer before college, I started taking walks with friends. I was also saying goodbye to a host of high school friends, so I’d call someone up and ask her to go on a walk with me.  Older friends, who had already been off to college for a year or two, offered up their advice as we meandered underneath shivering aspens.   Walking could be social.

 

 springtime succatant

 reason three :: walking & exploring

In college, I started running. I ran along Illinois parks in swirls of fall leaves or to the crunch of snow. The summer I spent in France, I learned about the independence of running through a city. I liked that I didn’t really need to talk to anyone in my mediocre French. I joined the pedestrian mass of the city and ran along the Seine from the Eiffel Tower all the way to the Louvre. Walking could be adventurous.

 

spring willow

 reason four :: walking & loving

But I ran so very slowly that it turned out walking fast was only a slightly longer time commitment, and caused considerably fewer injuries, and provided fewer reasons I could make up to not do it.  I think that Evan and I might have tried to go for a run together maybe all of two times. At 6’4” my soccer loving husband likes to sprint, and even his “slower” runs had such long strides that he could mostly just walk briskly next to my jog.  I ran just enough to understand and respect why people love it, but walking is a better fit for me. Evan and I love to walk, or as we term walking in state and regional parks, going on hikes. We’ve had some of our best talks on hikes, so I learned that walking could be for connection.

 

tree two

 reason five :: walking & walking away

I’ve also found that walking could be for escape. When I think back to my favorite times during graduate school, they were walking. I loved to walk around the neighborhood of Georgetown with its cobblestones and beautiful rose gardens. I love to walk up Wisconsin Avenue, the 5 and half miles to a Panera in Friendship Heights, and then sit there with a splash of hazelnut coffee in my white mug filled with decaf.  It was probably a sign that the life of the academy wasn’t for me that I just loved to avoid work by walking.  But a long daily walk was one of the foundational habits to getting better after I was so sick during grad school.

 

 spring tree

 

Now, in a life after grad school, I learned to walk the same path through the seasons. I’ve looked forward to the plum tree blossoming next to the showy cherry trees. I’ve learned to walk with strollers and baby carriers, coaxing unwilling toddlers up hills, stopping to examine ant hills along the way. My walks have changed to reflect the different seasons and companions of my life.

 

Sunset tree

 walking & self-care

Walks are my favorite form of self-care. Last week, I wrote about three guiding questions for self-care practice. Can you invest in it? Do you enjoy it? Does it have long-term benefits? Over the next few weeks we’ll explore more about each of these aspects of walking as models for self-care. We’ll look at how walking has a low investment of money, but a high investment of time, and how I enjoy it a lot more than running, so I tend to do it more. And we’ll look at how walking about four miles a day seems to be one of the only things besides a good nights sleep and a large serving of vegetables that health experts universally agree are good for you.

 

thistles in the sun

 

Evan refers to these walks often as my preferred form of caring for myself. (He’s not big on the term “self-care;” he thinks it’s a little self-help-y. It’s ok; I don’t mind being a little self-help-y. But there are plenty of terms for talking about disciplines that are good to invest in if you too don’t like the term self-care.) If I’m having a really horrible day, Evan will send me out for a walk.  I have a 4 mile loop that I make time for most days. On weekends or off days, there is a 6 mile version that goes through a series of well kept soccer fields next to a wooded county park. Everything seems less overwhelming after a good walk.

 

Fall walk

 reason six :: walking & listening

Finally, Anne, at Modern Mrs. Darcy, just posted a beautiful reflection on Adam McHugh’s new book that has a chapter on the spiritual discipline of the long walk. I don’t often consciously pray on long walks, but the beauty of nature and the meditative rhythm of walking often has a way of loosening my tight grip on the list of what’s wrong, and helping me notice all the sparrows in the trees and lilies in the field God cares for: walking can be restorative.

 

snowy valley

 

Why do you walk—to think, to daydream, to talk, to explore, to connect, to escape, or to be restored?

 

5 Responses to 6 Reasons I Love Long Walks

  1. Alicia says:

    I love this, Amy! You’ve inspired me to take some more walks and to use the time to care for myself. Thank you for your thoughtful reflections!

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thanks Alicia! It was so fun to have dinner last week! Now, if only it wasn’t quite so cold, it would be easier to get out for some good long walks! Love you friend!

  2. Beautiful, Amy. And yes to all of these things. I have always found walking therapeutic, and it gets my imagination going.

    I’m finding it more difficult to make time to walk regularly with a toddler in my care, and during the winter; but I do my best (stroller rides every day, except on the most freezing days).

    Are all these photos your own? They’re stunning!

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Oh thanks Kathleen! They are all my photos, just of the places I usually walk during the week. They are mostly of my neighborhood, a few of local parks. It’s been cool to try to notice the little pockets of beauty just in my neighborhood throughout the seasons. I know that I need to get my blogging act together and put like a watermark-thingy on them…but I’m behind :) Walking with toddlers, it’s so hard sometimes. I want to be really laid-back, and let them explore and not be hurried, but that’s not the same as a long walk for me. ( I mean it’s long in time, but not in distance.) Sometimes I go for a walk before my kids arrive (obviously a plus on being a nanny, but as a mama your toddler is always there), or during a nap if Evan is around. But usually I try to differentiate between the open meander time, and the more serious walking time for the toddler. It’s been so extra cold in Maryland this January though, so normally I’d just power through the 20 degree lows, but if it’s -12 wind-chill I stay in with the kids too. I’m trying to just remember how much I do love walks all the more when it’s too cold to go on them! I’d love to hear more about how you make your stroller-walks work! Does Lydia mind staying in the stroller, does she want to get out and walk, do you have time to get out certain places?

      • I usually do our stroller rides around her nap time, as part of her pre-nap routine. (Bonus points if she falls asleep during the walk. SCORE!) So by that time, she’s too tired to want to wander around.

        If I do want her to walk with me, we do it in the morning, and we take a different route, down an old railroad track path. During different seasons, we can find animals or pick wild grapes.

        I haven’t walked much in the last couple of weeks; this conversation is making me itch to get back out there!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>