Saturday, January 23, 2016

39 Miles. 39 Years.

This January, inspired by Katy Bowman's "39-mile birthday week" last year, I decided (almost) at random to walk 39 miles in the week leading up to my 39th birthday a couple of weeks ago. Several factors conspired to make this a very appealing idea for me: we spent Christmas traveling, driving two days each way to Mississippi and back, and I moved for maybe an hour each day, mostly at rest stops and in the rain. Despite balmy temperatures, a stunning number of thunderstorms meant not getting out much when we were in Jackson, either.

so many pretty clouds

I wanted to get back into my body and out of travel mode. I'd been stuck inside for two weeks. I started with a 5-mile walk with a friend on the Saturday before my birthday. No problem, I thought. I have time for this.

What I learned from the week that followed: plan ahead. Or at least plan far enough ahead to build in an "off" day or two. My body didn't need the time off, but the reality of the days that I am with my kids full-time is that I can't walk much more than about 1.5 miles with them in tow, unless we're really out for the whole day. Which is usually ok—on those days I make sure to get an adult-pace walk in before my husband goes to work, or I head out for an hour in the evening. But that just didn't happen on Monday. That left me with four days in which to walk 29-ish miles to reach my goal.

This isn't from Monday, but it's the kind of thing that happens when we're home.
Instead, I had a week that included two days that consisted mostly of walking. On the first long walking day (Tuesday, 9 miles), it was between 25 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit for the whole day. My biggest walking chunk was to and from the mall to return a package after I'd dropped off the boys—1.7 miles each way. There was something deeply wonderful about being outside moving for a long time in such cold weather—it was sunny outside, and refreshing, and I was cozy in my boots and down jacket. I saw all kinds of things I'd never noticed in the neighborhoods on the way to the mall—I always drive through that stretch of town, since it's just outside of what I usually think of as "reasonably walkable." In addition to the mall trek, I walked the kids to school, walked (a roundabout way) home from lunch with my mom, and picked up my kids on foot. That lunch break, it turns out, was crucial.

Yard art I saw on the way back.
The other long walking day involved a five-mile walk with a friend, and I logged 12 miles overall that day. I found myself more fatigued by the end of the day than on my other long walking day, but suspect it has more to do with the distribution of the miles through the day than the distance itself. I did the first 8 miles continuously—walked the kids to school, then went to my friend's house, then our long walk, and back home. The last 4 miles came from walking to pick up herbs from my acupuncturist, then picking up the kids.

Dropping off the fellas in 25 degree weather. Nope, they were not complaining about being cold one bit.
Why am I writing out all this in so much detail? Because I want to respond, in a way, to a comment a friend of mine made on Facebook about envying me all this time to walk. It's true—I have vast tracts of time in which to walk right now, since my kids are in preschool 3 days a week and I have a lull in my work. Here's what I do to stretch out my walks and maximize my daily movement: I "stack" my life. Katy Bowman goes into some detail about life-stacking here and here, but I'll list out for you various errands, tasks, etc., that I stack to make the miles add up (I'll not focus now on other ways to add non-walking movement into your day):

1 mile round-trip: dropping off/picking up kids from preschool (BONUS: they also get a mile of walking in! I could write a whole blog post about the advantages/benefits of this practice for our whole family)
1.5 mile round-trip: walking to Whole Foods for bacon (mostly just for bacon. We have an excellent co-op two blocks away, and I get a few easy quarter-miles by walking over there a stunning number of times per week)
3 mile round-trip: walking to/from the library. Also the post office is near there.
4 mile round-trip: walking to/from the mall. Most trafficky route, but most full of surprises. One block to the east and it's a lovely residential walk. But there are no sidewalks there. So...
3.5 miles: to/from acupuncture.
5 miles: hanging out with a friend.

Seen on the way to the mall. Not shown in these photos: the amazing amount of ice I encountered all week long.
I should note: This all takes time. But my most frequent walks are in the 1-to-2-mile range. They take 20-40 minutes, which is not that long if you think about how much time you spent liking your friends' posts on Facebook last night. Or talking to your parents. Or having a coffee with a friend. 5x 20-minute bursts of walking=5 miles in a day. Which is 35 miles in a week. And suddenly, 39 miles in one week doesn't seem so hard.

Here's me, on my 39th birthday, with my number one fan, heading out for a 1.5 mile walk to buy cupcakes. At 8am.
Here's my challenge to anyone who doesn't have time to walk: find two places you regularly drive to, but could walk to instead. Look at a Google map and see what's within a one-mile radius from your house or office. Then choose instead to walk to those places. Some life-stacking ideas: make phone calls with a headset while walking; walk to the post office; get coffee to go and walk with a friend instead of sitting at a cafe; skip the gym and walk to the nearest playground and practice your hanging/swinging/jumping/balancing instead—and take your kids if you have them. I'll spare you the twelve other examples that are coming to mind. I will add this: stacking my life and deliberately choosing to do more things the hard way has led to deeper and more frequent conversations with friends across the country, with my parents, and with my brother; I've listened to a lot of podcasts and developed closer friendships with my walking buddies, too. Lifestacking means meeting both your body's need for movement and your other needs as a modern human at the same time. Let me know how many miles *you* plan to walk during your birthday week!