Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mindful Walking--It's Not Just for Breakfast Anymore!

I am a runner. At least, I have considered myself to be a runner for quite a few years now. Ever since I was in high school, I've gone through the rutual: stretching my reluctant leg muscles, getting mentally psyched with an appropriate upbeat tune,lacing up my running shoes, and hitting the road. To me, a good run has always seemed like a kind of manna from heaven--a world of therapy to which I am able to go to escape the cares of the day, and to experience a blessed union of body and mind.

When I was in law school, it seemed that running was the only effective way to clear my head, and to enable me to endure the long hours of studying that were required. While I was sitting in the law library studying tomes of constitutional law or contracts, I would imagine myself gliding across the fields and roadways, always looking forward to that point in the day when there would be no worries or thoughts about final exams.

When I became a young lawyer, I again found running to be my secret sanctuary. Stress, anxiety, and cares all seemed to magically flow from the sinews of my body as I logged mile after mile in the fresh Floyd County air. Running empowered me, gave me self confidence, and made me feel vibrant and refreshed.

I've always been certain that vigorous running, combined with a regular regimen of weight training, was the way to keep my body in the best possible shape. It has been my personal conviction that running was a key to the fountain of youth, and that it was a secret weapon in my personal war against aging. That idea sustained me for a long time, and a commitment to running has seemingly been with me through thick and thin.

It is thus with some regret that I have now begun to question whether running is going to be an activity that I can continue to do for the long haul. Mind you, I am not completely abandoning running now. I am beginning to think, however, that hiking and brisk walking might become my new version of manna from heaven.

I will turn 45 this year. If I am honest with myself, I must admit that I began having doubts about running seven or eight years ago. Unnatural pains began developing in my knees, shins and back after especially long runs. Whereas I used to relish getting out in the hills of Floyds Knobs for a challenging five or six mile run in the evenings, I discovered that I was now wracked with pain after such an effort. Whereas I used to enjoy running every day, I found the pains in my calves and hips persuading me to switch to an every-other-day running routine. Eventually, I found myself running less and less.

Not long ago, I decided to go all-out to reestablish my running regimen. I vowed that I would run every day, proclaiming that my body would just have to get used to the challenge again. Unfortunately, my resolve was soon weakened by the relentless complaining of my back and hips. Alas, I dicovered that I am not 25 anymore! Long runs no longer made me feel renewed and refreshed.

Fortunately, in addition to my running, I have always enjoyed walking and hiking. Until recently, though, I never viewed them as true forms of exercise. I viewed walking and hiking as leisure activities, things that I enjoyed doing on days when I was taking a break from running. My thinking has now changed.

When I began walking as a primary source of exercise, I frankly was a bit embarrassed. Walking, it seemed, did not quite suit the macho personna that I had strived to cultivate. I thought that, if people saw me walking, they might view me as less vigorous, less manly, than I used to be. To my delight, I've now discovered that I could care less about what what anyone else might think about it. I know that I must do what feels right to me, and walking feels right indeed.

I love walking! I have discovered that I am able to walk briskly for several miles without pain or discomfort. I can do it every day. What's more, I find that I am able to commune with nature while walking in a way that was not possible when I was running. As I feel my heart pumping and my leg muscles churning, I am able to appreciate the beauty of trees and flowers. I am able to observe birds in flight, and to actually listen to their songs. I am able to see the sun reflecting off of the Ohio River, to feel its warmth upon my face, and once again, I feel refreshed and empowered.

I've been a runner virtually all of my life. Now, happily, I am a walker too.


Post a Comment

<< Home