In this age of sedentary occupations, busy schedules, and convenient modes of transportation, most of us do not exercise as much as we would like. Every option seems to take more time than we have and/or more money than we can afford—except walking. Once we get up from our desk and head out the door, we’ve begun. It’s as simple as that. But it can also get boring. So here are five empowering ways to keep you engaged and motivated.
Notice everything around you—every glorious nuance—with hyper awareness.
It’s a great way to practice mindfulness, get into nature, and lose yourself from whatever has been occupying your brain and (possibly) tying up your emotions. Walking in the moment offers a respite from stress. It replenishes the spirit and soothes the heart.
Listen to things you normally don’t have time to enjoy.
We live busy lives so sometimes it feels as though we don’t have even one minute to spare for anything other than work and family priorities. If exercise is one of those priorities, then walking presents a perfect opportunity to listen to audio books, podcasts, or music. All of these options can help us walk farther by taking our mind off the distance, easing our boredom, and helping to assuage our fatigue. But each one also has an additional and unique benefit.
Audio Books – Since you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume that you value reading. But do you have the time to read as much as you would like? If you don’t, then having a book read to you might satisfy that need. Whether fiction or non-fiction, there’s something magical about listening to language. It can sink into our mind, evoke our emotion, and stimulate our imagination in ways that are sometimes more vivid and more profound than reading words on a page. If you haven’t tried it yet, now might be the time.
Podcasts – These days, we can find podcasts on just about anything that interests us: health and fitness, business, books and authors, sports, celebrities, personal transformation. We can even listen to fascinating people having candid conversations that explore our shared humanity—that would be Empowered Living Radio in case you hadn’t guessed. By the way, I’ll be releasing my final and 57th (!) podcast on September 21st. I hope you’ll tune in.
Music – And of course, music effects our mood and fuels our pace. Whether we’re hoping to relax, have fun, or burn off some calories, the right soundtrack will carry us on our way.
Many times, our most perplexing puzzles come together when we’re not focused on them.
Like catching something out the corner of our eye, answers pop into our awareness seemingly out of nowhere. But is that really what’s happening? I don’t think so. Just as staring can blur our vision and attention, fixating on a problem tends to lock us into the answers we’ve already explored. When we move, we disrupt that fixation—we shake up the snow globe so the flakes can land in a new position.
Physical activity invigorates the brain and stimulates imagination.
Some of my best ideas come while walking, so much so that I’ve taken to walking with a voice recorder. This way, I can record the idea and then let it go. I don’t have to concern myself with remembering. I’ve plotted stories, enriched characters, imagined dialogue, and composed Mindful Musings on my walks. In fact, the bones of this essay were assembled during a hike in the mountains when I was both listening to music, observing nature, and letting my mind roam.
Focusing our thoughts through recitation can embed powerful messages and calm the mind.
Recitation is repetition, and repetition embeds. This is true for learning physical skills and applies equally well for instilling positive thoughts. Whether we repeat a few key words, an affirmation, a prayer, or a lengthy mantra, our recitations effect how we feel and how we view the world. This is the flip side of obsession. In the same way that a litany of negative thoughts can undermine our self-esteem, a positive recitation can empower. So choose carefully!
The act of memorization exercises the mind.
I carry the written version with me for reference, and memorize it in bits. In this way, I have committed to memory pages of mantras, vocabulary for new languages, lyrics of songs, dialogue from scenes, and codes of ethics—all while walking or hiking.
If you have a skill you can practice while walking, try it!
The added complexity might help to ingrain the skill more deeply and make it feel more in tune with your body’s natural movement and rhythm. When I hike on mountain trails, I utilize a six-foot staff—ninja-style. It feels good in my hands, keeps my fighting skills honed, stabilizes me in steep terrain, and provides me with an effective weapon against dangerous animals or humans. Some of my best solo training sessions have been on scenic plateaus.
There is no right or wrong way to take a walk.
It doesn’t matter if we stroll or power, if we’re on a treadmill or along the coast, if we’re mindfully communing with nature or listening to a book. What matters is that we move our bodies on a regular basis. And few activities are as convenient and natural as walking.