3 Unexpected Benefits of Taking Daily Walks

Two weeks ago, I started my virtual hike of the Hadrian’s Wall Path in England. I was hoping to motivate myself to get out and walk more, as well as to make the walking fun by mapping my “progress” along the HWP.

Me and my "hiking" companion, Dory.
Me and my “hiking” companion, Dory.
The real path Dory and I are walking as we “hike” the HWP.

It’s working. Dory and I have taken a long walk 9 out of 14 days, which is a heck of a lot more than we were doing. We’ve covered 23.9 of the 94 miles already. The May 23rd deadline has inspired me to watch for nice weather windows and to make time to walk.

I have yet to read up on the trail notes to see what we’ve passed or exactly where we are, although I know we’ve crossed into stage 3 of the hike, so that part of the plan hasn’t gone quite as I had hoped it would. I’ve been too busy enjoying the unexpected benefits of getting out nearly every day to make the time for the virtual part of my hike.

The three surprises I’ve had in the last week:

1) Spring is coming. I now have evidence that is more convincing than the calendar or the weather forecast. Living in Colorado means constantly changing weather. We have warm sunny days that lift the heart and make you sigh with relief. They are often followed by cold and snow, which feels like an icy slap. The grind of returning to winter weather makes me feel like true spring will never come.

Storms rolling in.
Storms rolling in.

Fortunately, covering the same path on a nearly daily basis has opened my eyes to the more subtle changes going on in my neighborhood. Western meadowlarks warble on the prairie and red-winged blackbirds trill from the top of last year’s cat-tails. Grasses are springing up under the brown mat of dead plant material. I’ve even seen tiny flowers blooming. The world is turning towards springtime, even if the weather can’t make up its mind.

Flowers! I found flowers!!
Flowers! I found flowers!!

2) Children still play outside. Those of us old enough to remember life before computers, cell phones, and VCRs worry that today’s children are missing the wonders right outside their door. But in the last two weeks, I’ve seen flocks of kids running on the prairie, bouncing on their trampoline, riding their bikes. There may be many more children hiding inside, but I am filled with hope whenever I see the children on the playground or at the skateboard park. Maybe technology won’t be the death of our society.

3) Walking feels good. I have spent years feeling drained and even sick after the mildest physical exertion, so it is still novel to me to have the energy to go for these long walks with my dog. What is even more amazing is that I feel so good both while I’m doing it and afterwards. Part of it is moving my body, and part of it is being outside. The sunshine and fresh air both make me feel alive, and I’m grateful I am able to enjoy them again.

I still want to read up on the trail part of the hike and find out where we are. I’m hoping we’ve gotten past the urban part of the trail head and into the countryside, but since I’m not really on the HWP, I suppose it doesn’t matter. I am getting my exercise and enjoying myself, and that’s no small achievement.

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