Keep Walking

After being cooped up in my house for what feels like forever, I wanted to make a valiant effort to continue some form of physical activity to stay healthy. My options for any kind of daily exercise routine were cut short thanks to the pandemic. That’s my new excuse anyway.

In the past, I would go to the gym most days on the way home from work until working from home disrupted that routine. I would no longer be conveniently driving past the gym on a daily basis. For a long time I was dedicated to a half-hour or so “workout” on a reclining bike. Cycling at a moderate pace was good for my knee pain, not to mention I could catch up on my reading at the same time so it was a win-win situation. Coronavirus changed all that. The thought of entering an enclosed building with a ton of sweating people was enough to make me cancel my membership. I didn’t feel safe using the gym no matter how often the exercise machines were wiped down.

Last spring, I reconditioned an old bicycle that was gathering dust in my shed. I started riding again, utilizing the Tri-Community Greenway. Though I enjoyed it, I wasn’t completely comfortable. I couldn’t get used to wearing a helmet. The thought of falling or getting struck by a car was always in the back of my mind taking away the enjoyment of the open road. Not to mention the bicycle seat was killing me.

When fall turned into winter, I reassessed my exercise options. I remembered I had an aerobic step device tucked somewhere in a corner of my back room. Exercising to music can be fun. I dusted off the cobwebs and decided to give it a whirl. While I remembered some moves from a step class I took ages ago, I got more of a workout racing from room to room making sure my blinds were drawn and curtains were closed in case someone walking by happened to glance through a window and catch me hopping up and down while blasting Billy Idol’s White Wedding. When my routine ended, the only benefit I reaped was shortness of breath, a sore back and aching knees. 

I needed a better option. Walking was the one exercise I could still do without too much bodily strain. Before the pandemic closed my office and forced me to work from home, I started walking a few laps around the building with my co-workers. Our short lived “Walking Club” was good exercise and great for inter-office chit-chat. If I was going to start walking again, this time I was on my own. 

Health officials spoke about the benefits of going outside and enjoying the great outdoors during the pandemic. Getting back to nature was proven to be therapeutic. It also helps if you’re within walking distance of Spot Pond. 

Walking in winter presents its own challenges. Some days the preparation is longer than the walk itself. I start by setting the fitness app on my phone to track my miles (okay, mile). I plug in my Google earbuds (the only ones that actually stay in my ears while I walk). I click on Spotify for my Daily Music Mix (its algorithm knows what I like). I throw on my scarf, hat, sunglasses and gloves. I look more like Claude Rains than someone out for a casual stroll (ancient reference, I know). I toss a piece of Dentyne Ice in my mouth and grab my house keys. I’m finally good to go. And thanks to the pandemic, I can’t forget my mask.

I don’t put my mask on when I walk by myself. After all this time I’m not clear on the ever-changing mandates I think it’s safe not to wear it if I’m by myself with no one else in sight. I do walk with my mask in hand in case i need it. I make sure I wave it to other walkers I might encounter from a distance. I hold it up so they can see I have one as they cross the street to avoid any chance of getting too close. I encounter a 50/50 ratio of masked and non-masked walkers on a daily basis. I always make sure I nod and say hello to everyone I pass by. We still need to experience some form of human connection despite our current circumstances.

There is something relaxing about taking in the natural beauty of the Fells. The walk from the Spot Pond parking lot to the area behind the Stone Zoo is full of nature trails and peaceful water views. I can cover a couple of miles in a short time if there is no biting wind and the right music is playing on my phone. During most walks through the woods I’m able to shut out all thoughts of Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees and just enjoy the natural beauty of the pond. Although, I have come across a couple of oddities during my travels. The floating baby doll hanging from a tree branch on invisible fishing line was deeply disturbing. I also found a pack of Russian cigarettes with foreign writing on the label which made me wonder who exactly is hiking in these parts.

When I return home from my walk, I check my fitness app to see how far I’ve gone. A few times I’ve forgotten to press the stop button and the app credits me for a 3-day walk. That’s a lot of steps. 

I’ve trying to walk at least a half hour everyday. If you see me out there, I’m the guy with the mask in my hand waving it to passers-by so they know I’m following protocol. If I don’t see you it’s because I’m lost in thought, trying to clear my mind, and wondering when and if things will ever get back to normal. Until then, I’m just going to keep walking.

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