As you all know, walking is kind of my thing. Which is funny if you think about it, because I used to think of walking as a boring waste of time. Why not just take a car? What kind of weirdo would go walking for fun in their spare time? Why do people waste their lives doing something so dull??
Obviously my opinion has changed. And since I’ve been doing this “walking for fun” thing since late 2010, I figured it’s about time I actually explained why I do it and why it’s enjoyable for me.
The whole reason I started walking in the first place was for stress relief. In August 2010 I was just starting my second year of grad school at UBC and I was already obscenely stressed out about it. It got to the point where, one weekend, I was so anxious that I felt like I just needed to get out of my apartment. So I put my shoes on, grabbed my keys, and just went for a very brief walk. I didn’t have any sort of pedometer with me on that walk, so I can only guess that the walk was likely no longer than a mile tops, but it almost instantly calmed me down and made me forget all my school-related nonsense for the half hour or so I was out there.
Knowing that I’d likely want to go do this again, I dug out a basic pedometer I’d gotten from somewhere and just put it next to my shoes. On my next walk, which was within the same week as the first, I started tracking my steps.
Well, because I’m me, the “walking for relaxation” very quickly became the “walking so I can beat my previous step count,” which was surprisingly just as relaxing as simply walking for walking’s sake. So I kept at it. By that point I’d bought an iPod Nano ‘cause my old one finally died, and it had a built-in pedometer feature that I started using instead of the clip-onto-your-waistband pedometer. Once I bought my iPod Touch, I downloaded the pedometer app I still use today and was able to keep even better track of my walking stats.
Over the next horrible, horrible 8 months of grad school, walking was really the only thing that kept me from jumping off a bridge. Unlike nowadays, when I’ll gladly walk 7+ miles on any given day, I pretty much resigned my walking to Saturdays while I was in Vancouver (though that was mainly due to the fact that it rained about 5 out of the 7 weekdays in that freaking city). But my Saturday walks took me all around Vancouver and were the only things that would get my mind off of my impending thesis and all the other hellish nonsense that second grad school year brought me.
And I’ve been walking ever since. While I’ve never been nearly as stressed as I was in that last year of grad school, walking has consistently been the thing that’s calmed me down and given me time to just think. I always feel like my mind clears up and just works better when I’m out walking and for hours after. It allows me to explore cities (and Moscow) and to get a better grasp on directions/knowing where I am—which is super helpful, because I have the fantastic ability to get lost even with a map in my hands.
And the stats. I freely admit that I would not walk as often as I do now if I didn’t have a way to keep track of my steps/mileage/calories burned/walking time. I really, really like keeping track of things like that. It’s a nice feeling to me to be out on a 4 hour walk, for example, knowing that every step and every second is being counted and recorded and can be referenced and explored later. I just love that. Plus I can do analyses on all the old walks, which is the BEST FREAKING PART OF IT ALL.
So yeah. What began as a desperate attempt at regulating the stress of grad school has evolved into something that is very much a part of me now. I walk because it’s just what I do, and I can’t see myself wanting to cut down on it or stop any time soon.