Finished Friday: What I Learned From Our Virtual Hike

We did it! Our virtual hike of Hadrian’s Wall is finished. In less than ten weeks, Dory and I walked a total of 94.5 miles. Woo hoo! I’m pumped. I can’t believe we actually accomplished this goal. Just ten days ago, I was pretty sure we wouldn’t make it. But we did, and we even finished a day early.

We succeeded because I set a measurable goal, picked a reasonable deadline, and was flexible about how I went about it.

Having an actual number of miles to walk came from the idea of pretending I was doing a through-hike instead of just wandering around our neighborhood with the dog. That gave me something to measure.

Then I thought about what was reasonable. I wanted to pick a number of miles to walk per week that was a stretch but wouldn’t require herculean efforts. I also didn’t expect to walk every day. I allowed for 5 walks a week. (We actually walked 42 out of 67 days, averaging 4.4 days/week.) Dory’s birthday was 9.5 weeks from our start date and would require us to walk 10 miles/week, so that was the day I picked as our deadline.

The super-hiking Dory is 6 years old today and ready to walk another 94.5 miles.

The only restriction I put on myself was that I couldn’t walk without Dory. I wanted us to both be in better shape, so she had to be with me if I wanted the walking I did to count.

I didn’t tell myself I would walk every day, or that I would follow a fixed schedule or a fixed route. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to walk at a specific speed, either. Being flexible about when, where, and how we walked turned out to be critical to our success. We had bad weather, sick days, and days away from home. We were constantly adjusting in order to get our walks in.

I did keep track of our miles in a spreadsheet, so I could see how much progress we had made and if we were on target to reach our goal.

I hate to admit it, but my initial idea didn’t really work. I had thought that using a trail to track the miles we covered would help me to be more interested in our walks.
Except for setting our mileage goal, Hadrian’s Wall didn’t enter into it much. I didn’t have the time to read up on it like I thought I would. If I had used a paper map of the HWP to track our progress, I would have been more conscious of the trail. But using the spreadsheet made it more about the numbers and less about the virtual environment that we were pretending to pass through.

Fortunately, I found another way to make the exercise fun. I kept track of the birds we saw and heard. By the end, I was carrying binoculars with me everywhere and looking up new birds when we got back to the house. Since it’s spring and migration is under way, this is a great time to be watching birds. Birding made the walks fun.

So, I won all around. We met our exercise goal, we both are in better shape, and we had fun doing it. Best of all, we got to watch spring unfold all around us.


P.S A friend of mine is actually hiking Hadrian’s Wall right now, so I am getting to see and hear all about it from her. I have already recognized the names of places she’s mentioned and feel like I’m getting a second virtual hike of the HWP. I’ll try to pay more attention to the actual trail this time.

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