Monday, August 18, 2014

On Walking

It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker. - HENRY DAVID THOREAU

A pleasant morning walk in Myrtle Beach, SC
At some point in our lives, those of us who love to walk find that we no longer think of it as any old, mundane exercise. That's something I learned in the short time during which I flirted with running--that runners feel the same way about taking to the pavement. There comes a time when walking, like running, becomes a part of our lives.

I have a confession to make, and that is that I haven't been to the gym in months. That's not to say that I've been a couch potato for all this time, because I haven't. Anywhere from three to five times a week, I have tried to squeeze in anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour and a half of walking. Sometimes even more, if time allows.

The weather has just been so pleasant in North Carolina that I couldn't bare to spend my walking time indoors, on a treadmill listening to the mechanical sounds of machines around me. The outdoors, whether it was in the park or on the greenway, or even a long road in our suburban town, called to me each time. I listen to my music through headphones or I use it as my prayer time to meet with the Lord in silent prayer.

Or I listen to the sound of the birds or the wind rustling through the trees on the greenway instead of the sounds of gears moving within a machine.

Maybe that's why walking has become so important to me. Not that I have anything against the gym, either. I haven't quit my membership and I don't intend to, since I love catching up on my reading on the treadmill. When it's cold or rainy, the gym comes in handy.

And it's not that walking doesn't have amazing health benefits, way beyond just helping with weight loss and maintenance, because it does. A lower impact activity than either running or Zumba, walking also burns fat, builds muscle, strengthens the heart, and relieves stress. There have been studies done that point to walking as being beneficial to reducing the risk of cancer, including colorectal and breast cancer. Even, it's been said, walking can relieve constipation!

Those are all great reasons to walk. I think about those reasons sometimes when I'm deciding if I have enough time to tackle one more mile, either in the park or on a mountain trail. None of those are my main reasons, however, for walking.

I walk because I can. Because God has blessed me with good bones and muscles so far. Because I don't want to take my health for granted, especially because I'm not guaranteed it'll be there next year.

I walk because I have a little time to spare. A half hour, twenty minutes, or two hours. I can take my best friend or my honey (he's another best friend!) with me and share a great conversation along the way. Because my dog enjoys my company. Because the birds will serenade me. Because God is there, and I look forward to praising Him with each step.

I walk because I like the feel of my feet in my running shoes. I like the way my shoes feel when they hit the dirt trail or the pavement. Because I might catch sight of a pretty cardinal flitting from one branch to another or of happy kids whizzing by on their bicycles.

I walk because I love it. Because it gives me pleasure. It's great that, in the process, my heart is made stronger and my weight is maintained and my muscles are built up. But I'm really walking because it's something I do for me. Because it's ultimately more rewarding than sitting in front of a TV for that hour. Because inspiration will often come to me along the path and I'll mysteriously understand what happens next in Chapter Seven.

I walk because walking is a part of my life. Because it would break my heart to be told that I could never walk again, so I gratefully savor my physical ability to do so. Because it costs nothing and it is a blessing from God's hand.

Now...have you taken your walk today?

You can think of it as just physical exercise, as a chore, or you can let it become much more to you.

Happy Trails!

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