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Walking for Obligation or Enjoyment?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve gone for walks. Even when I didn’t like any other form of exercise, I still enjoyed taking walks.


But lately, it’s become more of a struggle because walking feels more like an obligation, something I “should” do. And being told what I should do usually makes me want to do the opposite.


Walking “shoulds”

I think a big part of the problem with “shoulds” is the widely published idea of getting 10,000 steps every day, and the statistic that you should get 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity every week – which, for me, means walking. And with phones, watches, Fitbits, etc., keeping track of all your steps, it’s very easy to see or be reminded of when you’ve fallen short.


When I was younger, none of this was a factor. I didn’t walk to get a certain number of steps or a specific amount of walking time. I walked to clear my head, get some fresh air, have a change of scenery, and see what was going on in the area.


Sometimes I took short walks, sometimes longer ones, depending on the weather and what else was going on. And if I missed a day of walking, it was no big deal.


Now, though, it’s difficult to turn off the calculations. How many steps will this walk be? Do I need to do more to “get in my steps”? Have I met the quota for my cardio?


Walking for enjoyment

My goal is to get back to walking for enjoyment, but how?


It helps that the weather is improving, which means we’ve had some days where it’s so nice out that it doesn’t take nearly as much effort to convince myself to head out.


Plus, the warmer weather is bringing flowers, flowering trees, new leaves, lots of birds, and increased animal activity. Practically every day something new is coming up or blooming more fully, making it a sort of game to see what’s different.


So, a couple of weekends ago, instead of thinking about how I “should” go for a walk, I tried to think of how nice a walk would be, especially somewhere I haven’t been for a walk.


It was still a bit of an effort to get out, but once outside, I quickly forgot about the “should” and simply enjoyed the trail. It helped that I hadn’t gotten very far when I saw a pair of black-capped chickadees darting in and out of a small nesting box, presumably busy with nest-building.


As I walked, I spotted lots of new leaves, the ones with that brilliant, almost neon shade of green, as well as several squirrels and chipmunks scampering about. And when I got to the end of the trail, I was surprised but delighted to see an egret. 

By the time I got back to my car, I wasn’t thinking about steps or how many minutes I’d been out. I was too full of the many lovely sights I’d seen.


That’s the feeling I want to hold onto. My goal now is to try to remember that whenever I feel some resistance to the idea of going for a walk. Instead of getting stuck on “should”, I want to hold onto the wonder and delight to be had.


It’s all about mindset

Changing how you think about something doesn’t happen overnight, but it is possible. The goal is to redirect your thoughts from the usual paths to the new direction you want them to use.


In my case, I’m keeping photos of that walk on my phone, so I can glance at them to remember how much I enjoyed being out on a stroll. And I’m going to try making walks into a bit of a scavenger hunt by looking for new changes.


If you also struggle with the “shoulds”, hopefully, this gives you some ideas for how to get past that feeling and instead focus on enjoying what you’re doing. I’d even bet you end up doing more of those activities once you’re focused on the fun.


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