I started going on daily walks probably around the beginning of May; in March and April, I avoided the outdoors as much as possible, as seeing parks sectioned off with caution tape, biohazard signs on kid’s swings, and the streets eerily silent even during the middle of the day was almost too much to bear. But as our knowledge of Coronavirus grew and as the weather became too nice to resist, I took up walking before and after work. So I started going on my little “commuter” walks, my black-lab mix, Sofie, in tow.
At first, our little walks were just ten minutes long— as short as I could make them. But as I developed a routine, I started venturing further, mainly so that I could walk in the little green space trails to avoid the foot traffic on the sidewalks. I walked my little twice-daily commute for probably six to eight weeks straight, until the heat and humidity made the afternoon walks to be more of a chore than they were worth.
As I began slacking from my walks, I began to realize that the walks weren’t merely a way for me to get my steps in, they were a means by which I could physically and mentally separate myself from my working environment, a tool to help me unwind from the stress of the day.
So I started walking again, twice a day, all the way through the summer and into the school semester. Again, I found that walking really helped me manage my stress levels— I used it as a solution for everything. Writer’s block on a paper? Walk and think about it. Bored in a class? Hop on a zoom call on my phone and take the lesson to the park. Didn’t do a reading? Find an audiobook and listen to it while hiking… the list goes on.
Usually, Fall is my favourite season, though in 2020 when Fall arrived it brought with it further restrictions on the freedoms of people; restrictions on gatherings, bubble sizes, and the colder weather eliminated possibilities of outdoor dining and park picnics with friends. Fall became more isolating but walks remained, and with them, brought pockets of joy to my life. Though it was too cold to hang out with my friends (in a distanced way), I fulfilled my need for social interactions by smiling at and chatting with the people I’d see on my walks every morning. I even became friends with an older lady who I saw every day, Jean, and at Christmas, we exchanged little gifts.
My walks were my favourite part of the day until the Canadian winter arrived at full force, bringing with it chilly winds and heavy snowfalls, icy streets and gloomy skies. When winter first arrived I took another walking pause, and suffered for it, mentally and physically. Without my morning walks to wake me up in the morning, I turned to coffee, which does a wonderful job fraying my nerves, and I was getting a little antsy being cooped up in the same old space each day. But I remembered the saying over here in Canada, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” So I dug up an old pair of these fuzzy fleecy leggings and every morning put them over my trousers each morning before my walk.
Layering up is so important in the cold, and that second layer on my legs made a big difference in motivating me to go on walks in the -20° weather. But layers are important for other types of weather, too! For those who have to deal with winter rain instead of snow, make sure you have a water-resistant layer over top of your clothes— even if it’s a makeshift garbage bag poncho or skirt to keep the cold rains away. It’s better to be warm than to look good!
That being said, I know it’s hard to motivate yourself to go on walks in crappy weather; especially when the sun is fast to fade from the sky. But remember, every day there’s a little more sun; every day, the grass gets a little greener and the birds sing a little louder. Spring is coming, and it’s marking its upcoming arrival with pastel clouds in the early-morning skies and drip-drops of melting icicles. So go out there; bundle up and listen to the birdsong, find the patches of flowers and watch as the sun breathes life and warmth into the world. This year, instead of waiting longingly for spring to come, go outside and walk, seeking out the signs of spring.