08 January 2018

Winter Walking Plan 5 Years On

Lady in Pink by Childe Hassam, 1890

Five years ago, I wrote a blog post about starting a winter walking plan to help me stay more active during the cold months. I've actually kept up with that resolution every year since, and this will be my fifth year completing a walking regimen during the winter. As I wrote in my original post, I like going for long walks during nice weather and am naturally more active during the spring, summer, and fall, but in wintertime I need a structured plan to keep my activity level up. Five years on, I've found that it's really improved my health and mood during a time when I tend to feel a bit low.

While I initially followed a "couch to 5k" walking plan I found online just to have a starting point, over the years I've developed my own routine. I always start the first week in January, and continue for twelve weeks until the end of March, when spring begins and my activity level usually picks up. My goal for the first two weeks is an easy fifteen minutes a day of uninterrupted walking, and every two weeks I increase the time by five minutes until I'm walking forty minutes uninterrupted by the end of the plan.

Sometimes, if the weather is mild enough, I'll do my walking outside--this year I've resolved to go out as long as it's at least 40 degrees and clear. But for the most part, I actually just walk indoors around my dining room table. Yes, it feels a little silly to start with, and yes, I did used to worry about the neighbors watching me, but I got over it pretty quickly. After all, is there anything more inherently silly about walking around your house than walking on a treadmill? Not to mention the fact that the former is a lot cheaper than the latter!

To occupy myself during my walking, I'll listen to music or audiobooks on my iPod. I like to save any new music I get for Christmas to listen to once I start my plan, so it gives me something to look forward to and motivates me to get started. I also always have a long audiobook going for when my walks get longer--that's how I've been (slowly!) making my way through the Harry Potter series for my first-ever series reread, or rather relisten.

I'm not an exercise buff by any stretch of the imagination, so I'm actually pretty surprised and pleased with myself that I've found a routine that works and I've stuck with it all this time. While it probably seems very slow and mild to those who run, lift weights, or do intense aerobic exercise, when added to my daily activity it's enough to keep me feeling good until the warm weather returns and I can spend more time outdoors walking around town and working in my garden. So the moral of this story is find whatever kind of exercise works for you, at the level that works for you, and don't worry about looking silly! Once you find the right routine, keeping it up will be easier than you think.

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