the smaller the space, the longer the walk

At the end of this month, I will complete my second year of walking 10k steps each day.

My record is nearly perfect, although I admit I’ve fallen a few steps short three or four times (and always compensated for it the following day).

I think all of these imperfect days were in 2009.   In 2010, the compulsiveness of the behavior has increased.

Most days, it’s quite easy to do.  Some days are more challenging.

Which brings me to my point — a profound, existential, obvious awareness:  the smaller the space, the longer the walk.

Last night, I had quite a bit of work to do and finished late.  I had two thousand steps to go.  Ordinarily, I would have walked down the street, or around the campus, or around the block — and it would have been a piece of cake.

But it was raining hard, so I walked around the couch many, many times.  Sure, there was TV — but it seemed to be a long ways.  And it seemed to take a long time.

Tonight, I walked in the mall while listening to a book.  There was a smattering of Christmas shopping in progress, which does offer some entertainment.  There are people to greet.  There’s the holiday merchandise to notice.  But it’s still a confined space that’s not all that interesting — and it makes for a fairly long walk.

When I’m outside, the 10 thousand steps fly by in no time at all.

The smaller the space, the longer the walk.

One could argue that 10k steps is 10k steps — no matter where — and that it’s the same amount of walking.  One could argue that it’s only my perception that is different.

But perception is all I’ve got — so I’m sticking to my story:  the smaller the space, the longer the walk.

I’m pretty sure this could be applied to all areas of life, but who’s got time for that?  Who knows, it might even be in the Tao Te Ching (although Lao-tzu certainly would have said it better).

Tonight, while walking, a gentleman remarked to me that it was cold outside.

“It’s getting down to 27 tonight,” he said.  “That’s cold!”

I agreed.  I was wearing a sports coat that was perfectly warm earlier in the day.  But the sun had set and it was no longer sufficient.

“I’m gonna freeze walking to my car,” I said.

cold weather
cold weather

This prompted me to look at the weather forecast on my phone for Fairbanks, Alaska — which is where my dear daughter, Sarah, now lives.

It was 22 below, and predicted to be 34 below later in the evening.

Reality has more to do with how we see things than with the things themselves.

10,000 steps a day in 2009

my pedometer tonight
my pedometer tonight
pick-up basketball
Walking tonight: pick-up basketball on an empty Catawba College campus. Spring in NC.

Is it a habit?

An obsession?

Whatever – it’s a New Year’s Resolution.  And certainly the only one I remember fulfilling.

Pedometers are not new to me.  I’ve counted my steps for years.  When I worked in schools, I did a lot of walking – going to classrooms to troubleshoot computers and hoofing it around the computer lab itself.  My feet got tired.  I got in a lot of steps.

When I stopped teaching and started my own business, Coffee News, I delivered the papers and got plenty of steps that way. I once got over 17,000 steps delivering Coffee News.  But that was only a couple of days a week.

I eventually hired people to deliver and now spend my time with sales, layout, and ad design.  Sitting.

When business slowed this past fall (as did everybody’s business), we let lapse our lifelong membership to the YMCA.  Wasn’t using it much anyway.

My exercise used to be tennis.  I’ve spent much of my life on the tennis court – playing and teaching.

About ten years ago, for various reasons, that stopped.

There were many injuries:  knee, elbow, shoulder, feet, wrist, neck, back.  I’ve had surgery, shots, wraps, drugs – and plenty of heat and ice.

I played a lot of tournaments, and spent a lot of time playing with my son.  He got better and wanted to have a little more fun.  He wanted harder hitters and competition.  And, like me, he didn’t like competing hard with his father.

My father was my best practice, and about the time my son didn’t want to play with me my father was forced to stop playing. Often, when my dad and I got on a tennis court, the first rally would last so long that he’d say, “Well, you want to call it a day or hit another ball?” It was a valid question. We had hit so much with each other over the years that we rarely missed.  Neither of us had to run.  We didn’t need a bucket of balls or even a can.  We could have easily used one ball.

When his health declined and he stopped playing, I stopped.

Thus, I noticed last year I was getting a little sedentary.  I was getting five or six thousand steps a day, or less.  Sometimes much less.

On New Years Day, I made a resolution to get 10,000 steps a day in 2009.  The economy seemed to be shot.  Why not get in shape?

I admit my feet were a little sore the first couple of weeks.  I’ve only bought one pair of shoes since then – and that was for $12 in the mall, during my walk, on an impulse.  They are completely shot now and I need a new pair soon.  I procrastinate with shoes like I do with haircuts, and with steps.

Some days, I walk to the drug store, or grocery store, or coffee shop, or convenience store, or knock around town calling on businesses.  These steps add up.  A short walk in the evening completes the 10k.

Most days, I walk to my mother’s house.  Sometimes two or three times.  That’s 1200 steps, round trip.

If I sit around all day, the evening walk is fairly long.  Usually, I use the Catawba Nature preserve.  If it’s dark, I walk around the campus.

Sometimes I put the dog in the car, go downtown, and walk there. Once, I walked to the theatre downtown, and back home.

In bad weather, I’ve done my share of walking in the mall, Walmart, and Lowe’s. Boring.

I think I’m in better shape than my dog.  She starts to drag after about twenty minutes, sometimes lagging a hundred yards behind.

But she certainly enjoys every moment — the anticipation, the walk itself, and the aftermath. The highlight of my day is looking at my pedometer and contemplating a walk (I don’t even have to say anything anymore).  She starts to smile, jump, and whine with excitement.

She used to dart after the deer.  She doesn’t try anymore.  She knows she doesn’t have a chance.

On warm days, she takes a swim.  Or two.  Or three.

There have been a few days when I didn’t feel like it – but not many.  It’s basically become a part of my day, like brushing my teeth or making coffee.

Often, I procrastinate.  At 11:30 pm, I pull myself off the couch take a few laps around the Catawba campus.

A few times, I’ve gone uptown for a beer before finishing the steps.  I’ll drink one, walk around the block, and return to the bar.

One cold night, I walked a thousand steps inside Brick Street Tavern. This would have been embarrassing, but it was such a slow night at the bar (Robert Jones, Bobby — the bartender — and maybe a couple other people).

The night Obama spoke to both houses of Congress, I had had a busy day and recorded only six thousand steps.  I wanted to watch the speech and all the talking heads blather afterwards.  That night, I put in four thousand steps walking around my couch, watching the new President.

Sound crazy?  Hey — a goal is a goal.

No, I haven’t lost any weight.

Question is, what about 2010?  Do I increase the goal to 11,000?  I’ll be older, but I certainly don’t want less than 10k.  Maybe I should increase the goal to 12k and then decrease by one thousand when I turn 60 (seven years from now) and then down to 10k when I’m 70.  That should keep me in decent shape for a while.

The great thing about walking is that it’s easy to be consistent.  There aren’t many injuries and you can even do it when you’re a little sick (although I haven’t been sick).  I did have a tooth pulled and took hydrocodone.  I may have walked a little slower that day, but the buzz was rather pleasant.

I find that walking is the most productive part of my day.  Either I’m thinking, which is good.  Or not thinking (better).  I’ve listened to some great books on my iPhone.  I’ve grown to appreciate my neighborhood and taken lots of pictures. I’ve enjoyed my wife, my dog, communed with deer, beavers, herons, geese, turtles, frogs, trees, flowers, grass, water, vines, streets, students, neighbors, parking lots, and sidewalks.

Don’t know where this will go – but at least I know I’ve found my post-tennis sport.  Except it’s not a sport, I don’t think.