Over the last year and a half, I have logged 5,989,993 steps on my Fitbit. That’s about 2,537 miles or 4,083 kilometers. I also earned a bunch of badges to stitch onto my long lost Girl Scout sash, most recently one called Monarch Migration.
I am especially skilled at putting one foot in front of the other – on mostly paved surfaces. I nearly lost my life, discovering the hard way, that I am no hiker but a walker.
I am quite the avid pedestrian. I embrace it as a lifestyle. My wardrobe, my schedule, my reading, my writing, my socializing, my moods, and my prayer life all revolve around my walking.
Proper provisions for my daily constitutional are a must.
I carry a very compact backpack packed with enough stuff to keep me alive for a couple of days. More like keep me entertained for a couple days — should I become stranded at some urban outpost.
Inventorying my bag (and without exaggeration) these are the essentials:
- Wallet, sunglasses, keys, and chill pill box,
- Colored pencils and sketchpad,
- Colored pens and notebook,
- Tissues and cucumber face wipes,
- Throat lozenges and ginger mints,
- Kindle or paperback book,
- Checkbook and chargers,
- Lip gloss and mascara,
- Hand cream and sunscreen,
- Kind Bars and water bottle,
I am so prepared I put Boy Scouts to shame. Who knows? I may need to stop and sketch the next Mona Lisa. I may need to stop and write the Great American Novel.
And of course I have to look fabulous. I may meet some dark and handsome stranger along the way.
So yes, it is also critical to be properly outfitted.
In order to maximize walking opportunities I always take a change of clothes with me wherever I go. I either take my walking clothes to work or work clothes to change into after I walk. I don’t leave home without them.
Shoes are most important. Mine are size 7 ½ ASICS Nimbus. Proper socks are also a must – either Feetures or Belega. $12 a pair and worth every penny.
Sweats and jeans are way too heavy and slow you down. Running tights for freedom of movement, breathable high tech undershirt, lightweight, water repellant jacket, thin gloves, and a hat. Knit in winter, brimmed in summer.
You can shop at Target or Lululemon depending on your budget. Lululemon is pricey but their stuff wears like iron and lasts forever. This is a lifestyle choice remember.
The goal is to be as fleet of feet as possible.
And don’t forget to accessorize! A little jewelry is appropriate.
First and foremost is my Fitbit Flex.
I never take mine off (except to charge it of course!). I shower with it, sleep with it, grocery shop with it. It keeps me honest and motivated. It sends me weekly report cards in my email and gives me badges for a job well done – which greatly appeals to the third grader in me.
A wrist rosary and Tibetan prayer beads.
My two-decade wrist rosary is a souvenir a dear friend brought back from Assisi. The Tibetan prayer beads are from off the rack at Ten Thousand Villages. I pray with them as I walk. I pray with them on park benches. Both are great for sidewalk contemplation traipsing around God’s creation.
St. Christopher Necklace.
Yes, he is a totally bogus saint, a pious legend from the 13th century, but his name literally means “Christ carrier”. The medallion reminds me that when I am out and about that every driver, every cyclist, every pedestrian carries the sacred within them. Every single living, breathing thing is holy. So watch those traffic lights and look both ways before crossing the street.
NO earphones. NEVER.
The only soundtrack I want to hear is the sound of the streets. Oncoming cars, horns honking, birds singing, wind in the trees, street musicians playing, people talking, children playing. The sound and rhythm of my own footsteps on the pavement.
And so where do I go?
Depending on the weather and my moods, I change up my destination as much as possible. The best routes are both away from home and close to home — different and interesting but also doable. I rarely, if ever, walk in my own backyard.
But I do have favorites.
The Del Ray Loop
Starting at High St, down Russell Road to the train station, King Street to the river, and back again. 4.2 miles. Favorite stop: Killer ESP for latte and Hotrod Potato pie.
Old Town Riverfront
Starting at Jones Point Park beneath the Wilson Bridge, walk the Potomac riverfront through Old Town Alexandria up to Tide Lock Park, and back again. 4.5 miles. Favorite stop: Carluccio’s for coffee and scrambled eggs.
Huntley Meadows Park
Starting at the visitor center, several turns around the woodland and wetland boardwalk trails. 3.5 miles. Favorite stop: Observatory tower that overlooks beaver dams, wild geese, and cattails.
Walking with my steady, Teddy is the best. Wetland and forest trails through this memorial wildlife preserve dedicated to our 26th President, father of the National Parks. 4 miles. Favorite stop: Photo op with the great man himself at center island.
Hometown, Downtown DC
Yes, I am a native Washingtonian. Subway to Metro Center at 12th and G streets. walk 10th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue, up to the Capitol, East Capitol Street to 8th, ending up at the Eastern Market, and back again. 4.6 miles. Favorite stop? So many to choose from: Ford’s Theater, Madame Tussaud’s, the National Archives, The Botanical Gardens, and be still my heart, The Library of Congress. (And coffee, or course, at a variety of cafes along the way.)
Walking has become my spiritual discipline, my philosophy of life.
Find a path and walk it. Investigate all the twists and turns. Do not be afraid. Change direction as needed. Pay attention. Listen to the rhythms of the street. Pause and talk to strangers you meet — entertaining angels along the way. Breathe the breath of life into your lungs — bus fumes and all.
And not to worry — it is perfectly okay to get lost.
In the life of an avid pedestrian, that’s what God, and therapy, and Google Maps are for.
So strap on your shoes, my friends, go outside, and take a walk.
Joani, I am not a walker but you make it sound so Interesting and Meditative, perhaps it is time to rethink! Thanks for this wonderful blog.
A little walking each day can brighten your outlook on life! Strap on those shoes, Barbara!
Barbara, just walking a little each day in the great outdoors is renewing! Strap on your shoes and give it a try!
Dear Joanie – I’ve been following your blog for the past year and love it. Hope to meet you one day. I am an avid walker too and wanted to tell you about another fabulous place to walk – the Accotink Wildlife Preserve, a network of 15 miles of trails that are accessible by entering to Tulley Gate at Fort Belvoir (you can park at a small lot before reaching the checkpoint). The wood there are gorgeous and you will Pass by streams and ponds that take you down to Accotink Bay. I try to get there at least twice a week with my Lab Pippa and it is an amazing walking meditation for me. And I log about 20,000 steps on my Fitbit the days I go there:)
Kathy, thank you so much! I live finding new places to walk. Accotink Wildlife Preserve sounds wonderful. Maybe we could meet up and walk together some time!