Three meals, three walks

You may be wondering why I am always coming up with new walking strategies. Is it just that it’s my job to experiment so I can tell you what I’ve learned?

Not really

Like you, I want to walk regularly to enjoy the health benefits, get that energy boost and reduce the effects of stress. But also like most of you, I have a very busy schedule: a full-time job, a family, I’m going back to school, etc. So sometimes it’s hard to put the time in, or I get bored with my routine.

This summer, for example, I found myself completely resistant to doing my usual 45-minute morning walk.

Just the thought of it made my heart sink. I’d start walking and then become overwhelmed with thoughts of things I needed to get done at work or at home. For a couple of weeks, I just stopped walking entirely.

But I soon felt the effects. I was tired in the afternoon, I felt more moody and my “idea bank” seemed depleted. (For many people, myself included, daily walks are a great source of creative inspiration.)

Instead of trying to force myself to “just do it,” I tried a different approach.

A change in routine

I thought about how a change in routine can completely refresh your point of view, enliven your walks and recharge a body that’s become used to the same daily effort. And since I knew that it is just as effective, in many ways, to split your walk up during the day, I decided to take shorter walks of about one mile, three times a day. I’d walk first thing in the morning, before or after lunch and after dinner.

I was amazed at the energy and inspiration this change in routine afforded me. Instead of dreading my morning walk, it became as automatic as having breakfast or getting washed and dressed (and it took about the same amount of time — 15 to 20 minutes).

I looked forward to a brisk walk away from my computer at lunchtime and a chance to explore the neighborhood or chat with a friend. The after-dinner walk, however, was the biggest challenge. Sometimes it got dark before I could finish the dishes or run an errand. But if I did miss the evening walk, I already had two to three miles under my belt, well within the minimum health recommendations.

In addition to making it easier to schedule my walks and dispel any resistance I had, I found that three short walks a day increased my energy level all day long. Instead of feeling an afternoon slump, I had plenty of energy to work all day. I didn’t crave a late-afternoon snack as much either. And I found myself getting more accomplished in the evening.

Will this be my permanent routine? Only until my next change of heart! Our exercise patterns need to go with the flow of our life, not determine it. And when I create a new pattern, I’ll be sure to share its unique benefits with you.

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