In 2013, I fell in love with a small, 12 week old black puppy. In the four years that Penelope and I have been living together, she has become my best friend, biggest confidante and almost constant companion.
Right before Christmas in 2014, Penelope and I moved into my current apartment. My apartment is small. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but it is pretty tiny- about 500 square feet. Not really enough room for 45 pounds of fur covered energy.
And so, Penelope and I walk. We walk two or three times a day, every day, no matter the weather. We walk when I’m exhausted, we walk when I can’t wait to get going with my day. We walk, quite literally, morning, afternoon and night.
Walking is a simple motion. Most of us learned it before we can remember. We do it without thinking. When we need something, we get up, and we walk. But the simplicity of the motion is what makes it so powerful.
Typically, when I workout, I want a workout so difficult that I can’t focus on anything else. I want it mind numbing. I want it to hurt, to stretch me, literally and metaphorically. I want to push my body past it’s limit. After a workout like that, I feel powerful, invigorated, full of promise and possibility.
But when it’s really my brain that needs the workout, I go for a walk. When I need to think hard about something, I go for a walk. Heck, even when I need to memorize something… I often find myself going for a walk.
When Penelope and I started walking together so consistently, I started to notice some changes in both of us. First of all, her behavior completely changed. She doesn’t tear things up. She doesn’t get into my trash, and she doesn’t get onto my counters. Also, she became better and better with a leash. I guess I always thought dogs just knew how to walk on a leash. But I guess that’s not true- we definitely learned together. She sleeps more and better, she’s more calm in general- she’s just overall a more happy and healthy dog. That alone is enough of a reason for me, but I have seen some real benefits too.
I lost weight. A lot of weight. In the first 6 months we lived in this apartment, without really trying too terribly hard, I lost 30 pounds. And the vast majority of my exercise was walking. I became more confident. I’m cautious about walking at night, although I’ve never had a real problem when I’m out with Penelope. However, I am not afraid to go for a walk at night, and I like that part of myself.
Also, she forces me to get out of bed in the mornings. Sure, sometimes on Saturdays we go back to bed, but like it or not, I am usually up by about 7:30. I’m not a natural morning person, but I know that I’m most productive in the morning, so it’s nice to start my day with at least a little bit of activity. These days, our morning walk is usually about an hour- roughly 2.5 miles- and it is such a nice start to the day.
I also often use our walk as a time to catch up on phone calls or on books I’m listening to- or podcasts, although I’m mostly on books right now. I love to multi task and this is such an easy way to do it.
I am a lover of routine, and I like that about our walks too. In a life that sometimes feels frenetic and zooey, every day, I must carve out at least a few minutes to strap on Penelope’s leash and get outside. I don’t always love it. I don’t always want to do it. But she needs me. It’s our routine. And I always feel better afterwards, no matter what else is going on.
But I think best of all, walking every day with Penelope helps me to find perspective. The morning walk is a time to think through my day. What projects do I need to work on? Who do I need to be in touch with? What are my top three to dos? The afternoon walk breaks up the day: the major part of the work day is over. What do I still need to do for the evening? Did I get everything done I needed to finish up? The evening walk is the hardest- and the easiest one by far to skip, but I find myself in a better place to go to bed if I go ahead and take it. What does tomorrow look like? How am I feeling about today? And sometimes most importantly, can I make my step goal yet tonight?
Pictures in this post are various things I’ve seen while out walking! Enjoy!
Superhero Action of the Day: Carve out 20 minutes, and go for a walk. Try to make it a habit!