I have done more walking in the past four months than I have ever consistently done before. I live about five miles from where I work, and in the coldest months I was walking 4-6 times, in one direction or the other. By the time the weather warmed up, I was in better shape than I had ever been at winter’s close.
In the past I had been annoyed with walking. It takes a long time to get decent exercise, and running felt more efficient. I enjoyed running more. But something took hold of me. I fell in love with long walking that ate up chunks of the day because it freed my mind, let it wander in a more relaxed way. I think while I run, but because I am constantly struggling against mild pain, my thoughts are more jumbled. With walking, my mind can wander with greater ease.
I find walking best–and running too–after I have read an interesting passage or chapter in a book. It serves as a stimulant for my mind.
Walking is the philosopher’s exercise. Patient, stimulating, but not intrusive on thought. It favors a mind that wants to reflect, roil a problem in one’s mind.
The affect of a few weeks of walking feels surprisingly excellent too. Stronger legs, a greater willingness to move about, a thinner waistline. Laying in bed feels healthier, which is a strange thing.
Yes, those benefits come with any exercise. But as I get older, my body more easily slips into sloth. Walking allows me to combine a number of different important activities in a way that is efficient in a way that it may not have been a few years ago.
There is also the benefit of exploration. In the mornings, when I need to leave early and be to work at a certain time, I walk as directly as possible. But in the afternoon, I look around. And I notice architecture and small bits of artwork that I have never seen before in this city. I see my fellow Chicagoans, get a better sense for how a few parts of Chicago move.
And the time invested in moving about and observing the city makes me feel much more connected to it. It makes “my Chicago” more than just my apartment, my workplace, and my social hangouts. I learn to understand the land of Chicago better.
I do of course still love running, and my favorite days have been when I do both a 5+ mile walk, followed by a 5+ mile run. And by mid-summer, I hope to take advantage of my flexible schedule to be trekking 30 or more miles on some days, and feel that sweet exhaustion.