Tag Archives: Walking

Take a Walk This Thanksgiving

Close-up shot of a leaf-littered autumn path. Both sides of the path are surrounded by trees and bushes that are still half-full with their autumn leaves and colour. This post will meander much like my Thanksgiving strolls do.

One of my favourite things to do on Thanksgiving or any other holiday that has decent weather is to take a walk.

If the big meal of the day is scheduled for the evening or if the weather is expected to turn chilly later on, I’ll wander off in the afternoon when the temperature is as its warmest.

Ideally, someone will join me, but there’s also something to be said for walking quietly with your thoughts on a day like this one.

Thanksgiving is one of those big holidays that temporarily shuts down the usual rhythms of life here in Ontario. This is even more true this year due to our government asking us to celebrate it with other members of our households only and avoid all unnecessary in-person interactions with other people now that the second wave of Covid-19 is surging.

Yes, there are advantages to gathering with kind relatives during the holidays. I miss my parents, siblings, sister-in-law, and nephews and dream of the day when my spouse and I can be together with them again.

But there are also advantages to quiet holidays at home, and a walk at the nicest part of the day is one of them.

Our slice of the world is a fairly still place on Thanksgiving even during ordinary times. If they’re lucky enough not to be working, most folks stay home and rest on that day or go visit relatives.

The streets are nearly as empty as they’ll be a few months from now at Christmas. Very few restaurants and other places of business are open today, and I tend to avoid the ones that are to encourage them to give their employees a break.

A walk doesn’t require anyone to put on a uniform, miss out on time with their loved ones, or clean up after you. At most, you might need to find something delicious to nibble on in the kitchen when you return back home.

Walks are meditative. There’s nothing like looking at the beautiful world around you, whether it is a forest painted with all of the colours of autumn, a suburban park filled with curious wildlife, or a quiet urban road that somehow feels like a poem that’s about to begin whenever you unexpectedly see a car drive by.

Parent and child taking a walk on an autumn-leaf-strewn path. Taking a walk is a gentle form of exercise that most people are capable of doing. A pet, small child, senior family member, or loved one who might have a disability that makes more strenuous forms of exercise difficult may be able to join you.

If the pets in your life are anything like the dogs my family had back in the day, they will insist on joining you and might just keep you out of the house much longer than you were expecting to be gone!

Good conversations can happen on walks. Yes, this can include conversations with yourself if you’re walking alone. I am not ashamed to admit that I occasionally talk to myself on walks to sort out a problem or figure out what to do with my stories next.

Walking is non-competitive…unless you’re my siblings who genuinely find joy in making everything a competition between them. Ha! For the rest of us, it’s a form of exercise that doesn’t require any scorekeeping or picking a winner.

It’s tempting to overindulge during the holidays. I find it helpful to go take a walk before I decide whether my stomach truly needs another slice of pie or serving of mashed potatoes and gravy. Whether the answer to that question is yes or no, there’s definitely something to be said for giving your body some time to start digesting what you’ve already eaten before digging into another plate. I’d rather be stopped at the point of satiation than cross that line and end up uncomfortably full.

Have I convinced you to go take a walk yet? I hope you enjoy it if I have.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Canadians!

A Summer Without Tourists

Toronto, Canada skyline. The famous CN Tower is one of the buildings in this shot. The foreground is of part of Lake Ontario There are a few things about Canadian and, more specifically, Torontonian culture that I should explain here for anyone who isn’t already familiar with them before diving into the meat of this post.

I am speaking in broad generalities here and this is a large, diverse country, so please make friendly allowances for that if your Canadian cousin/acquaintance/coworker etc. has had other experiences. There are no secret Canadian meetings where we come to a consensus on this stuff, and it’s just about impossible to get 38 million folks to agree on everything anyways.

With that being said, people make less small talk here there than do in my birth country, the United States. It’s good manners to nod and say hello to neighbours and other folks you’ve seen around before, but you generally don’t talk to strangers unless you have an excellent reason to do so.

At least in large cities here, sidewalks are serious business. Locals walk briskly and single file unless the sidewalk is large enough for larger groups to walk side-by-side. Loitering should only be done in places where you won’t slow down the flow of traffic, especially at lunchtime and in the early evening when the sidewalks are filled with nonstop crowds.

Tourists are the exceptions to these rules. If a stranger asks you for directions or advice on visiting your neighbourhood, you always stop and help them to the best of your ability. Sometimes a large group of tourists will walk slowly down the middle of the sidewalk while trying to figure out where to eat dinner or which attraction to visit next . This, too, is okay. Guests should always be treated with respect and kindness. Just turn the corner and take another street if you’re truly in a rush. If not, slow down and savour the moment.

Now that you know a little bit about how things normally function in urban Canada, let’s continue.

Toronto was eerily quiet in March and April when the Covid-19 lockdowns began. It’s slowly grown more active again as our public health agencies have given our premier permission to reopen certain businesses and relax the quarantine and physical distancing rules.

Yet this still isn’t like any July I’ve known in all my years here. Just like everywhere else, there are no tourists here.

The sidewalks by the busiest roads are beginning to fill up again, but they’re much quieter than they should be. Some streets are still completely empty even at what should be the busiest portions of the weekend.

No one has asked me about good local restaurants and whether the trendy, expensive ones are worth the money. (Some are, but most aren’t in my opinion unless you’re a diehard foodie and Instagrammer. Let me direct you to an awesome hole-in-the-wall down the street instead if what you really want is a full, happy belly).

Nobody wants to know whether they should visit the Toronto Zoo or the Royal Ontario Museum. (They’re both fun, but save the zoo for a day with nice weather when you’re not planning to do much else at all. It’s 90% outdoors, requires hours of walking to see it all, and really isn’t close to any other major attractions at all).

People don’t approach each other much at all these days. We generally keep our distance whenever possible for disease prevention reasons. With the exception of the occasional person asking for spare change, I can’t remember the last time I spoke to a stranger.

In short, it’s quiet here.

A Mindful Approach to Headaches

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any medical conditions. Please consult with a medical professional if you need medical advice. I’m simply writing about my own experiences here. 

The first multi-day tension headache I remember experiencing happened at age seven or eight soon after my family moved to Wyoming. Our house was small and comfortable but rarely quiet due to the simple realities of how trailer homes are constructed and the fact that two adults, three young children, and a small assortment of mischievous pets shared that cozy two-bedroom home.

Ordinarily, the overlapping, never-ending conversations, barks from our excitable dog, clangs from the kitchen, and other noises didn’t bother me as a child of that age, but I did wish for quieter corners of the globe when my head pounded for days in a row. What I had instead were cold wash cloths on my forehead and the stillness that comes from lying down and waiting for all of our home remedies to chase that discomfort away.

woman lying in bed with a headache
Are anyone’s headaches actually this photogenic? Mine sure aren’t.

My life has changed in countless ways since then.

I’ve since learned that mild dehydration, caffeine, and stress are among my biggest triggers for these long-lived headaches.

But every once in a while, one of them still sneaks past my best prevention efforts.

This past weekend was my most recent experience with a stubborn headache that lasts multiple days.

Along with drinking extra water, getting more rest, and eating chocolate when taking over-the-counter pain medicine to help amplify their effects, mindfulness is another tool in my headache-busting toolbox.

Headaches can’t always be prevented, but I can have better experiences with them when they show up by remaining in the moment.

Less Tension, Less Pain

Chalkboard with the words stress and relax written on it. The word stres is crossed out with a red x. My headaches often spiral into a negative feedback loop of pain leading to tense muscles that in turn lead to more pain.

The best thing I can do when a new one begins is to relax my muscles as soon and as much as possible.

This is where mindfulness comes in. Whether I’ve undertaken a formal meditation session on that particular day or have simply decided to breathe in and out deeply and slowly, every ounce of relaxation matters.

Sometimes this looks like me lying down and closing my eyes for twenty minutes. While it can lead to a nap, sleeping isn’t the goal. Breaking that cycle is the goal.

A Distracting Walk

Woman walking barefoot on a beach as the tide comes in. Her footprints are straight and even across the sand.I know I talk about my love of long walks a lot on this blog, but this time I’m thinking of them as a type of distraction instead of a form of exercise.

Ideally, the walk would take place in a natural setting like a park or a beach, but it can happen on city streets as well. It’s generally slow and meandering instead of brisk.

The purpose of it is to gently pull my attention away from my discomfort and to anything else happening around me.

It could be the sight of two seagulls fighting over a french fry someone accidentally dropped or the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze.

Maybe a jogger will run by and I’ll take a moment to silently congratulate them on their good running form. The sun’s rays could shine down on my forehead and almost feel like a warm kiss from a loved one.

These sounds and sights wash over me. I acknowledge them but do my best not to dwell on them once they’ve passed. Responding to small moments like these is a nice reminder that headaches, too, will pass and that I shouldn’t spend time thinking about how long they’ve been going on or when they’ll end.

There’s something about this sort of distracting change of scenery that does a body good, especially when you’re in discomfort.

Living in the Moment

person walking in a forest. The forest floor is shaped like a person's hand held up to their mouth in a shushing motion.

Patience is a skill I’ve honed nicely over the years.

While medication dulls the pain of a headache in the short term, this is one of those ailments that needs time to truly fade away. It can’t be rushed.

One of the beautiful things about taking a mindful approach to headaches is that it teaches you to sit with yourself in this exact moment.

There’s something freeing about doing what you can to alleviate the pain of a headache and then stopping and observing everything you’re experiencing in that moment without judging it.

Will mindfulness cure headaches? No, not in my experience, but it can make it easier to handle them when they pop up.

10 Meditative Virtual Nature Walks You Should Take

A paved road through a park. The sides of the road are lined by tall trees and other greenery.Lately, I’ve been feeling the effects of cabin fever. This is typically the time of year when I’d begin spending much longer periods of time outdoors each day now that the weather is warming up.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many of the outdoor places I’d normally be visiting now are closed. Torontonians have also been asked to only use public transit for necessary trips like going to work, buying groceries, or seeking medical care.

In addition, all of the amenities in our parks are closed. That is, no one is allowed to use their playgrounds, washrooms, basketball courts, tennis courts, swimming pools, or dog parks. Even the benches are becoming off-limits for most folks!

I’ve been very fortunate so far during this pandemic in many other ways, but I am sure am missing those nature visits right about now. Yesterday was a bit of an antsy day for me which lead to the compilation of this list.

Some of these videos last a few minutes. Others go on for a few hours. Feel free to pick the ones that best suit your time availability and interests. They are roughly arranged from the shortest to the longest walk.

Forest Walk Meditation

There was very little speaking in this video. It’s mostly first-person footage of someone walking through a forest. I especially loved the bird calls in the background. They really made me feel like I was there!

Mountain Stillness

Wow, this was a beautiful scene! It included background instrumental music.

 

Spring Awakening 

There was upbeat instrumental background music in this one. It was cool to see the birds floating around in the pond.

Beach Trip Meditation 

Like the forest walk, this one involved no background music. There was some guided meditation here and there, but the rest of it only included the sorts of sounds you’d hear at the beach. The gulls in the background were so relaxing. I could almost taste the salt in the air.

Walking in the Hoh Rain Forest

All of the sounds in this 20 minute rain forest walk were natural ones. I heard many birds chirping in the forest. Sometimes there were also the sounds of the camera person walking on dead foliage or of running water.

Relaxing Virtual Walk Around the Chilterns

I’ve never been to England, but this looks like a very relaxing place to visit. It was a 25 minute walk that only includes natural sounds from the scenery. Most of the sounds the microphone picked up were of the wind.

Zion NP Utah Riverside Walk Trail

Wow, these red sandstone cliffs were gorgeous! This 53 minute walk does include some narration by the camera person. The portion of the walk by the stream was my favourite.

Secluded Beach at Sunset 

Several years ago, my spouse and I went on a beach vacation with a few dozen of my relatives. Other than catching up with everyone, of course, the nicest part of it was walking up and down the beach when there were very few other folks out and about.

I’m a morning person, so for me many of those times were early in the day when the tide had gone out. What a calming experience it was to hear nothing but the sound of the ocean lapping against shore and the cry of seagulls in the distance. This one hour walk reminded me a lot of those ones.

Kruger National Park in South Africa

There was so much wildlife during this 90 minute walk! I liked the lions the most. Their roars made me shudder.

2.5 Hour Virtual Nature Walk in the Redwood National and State Parks

There was some classical music playing in the background of this piece. The scenery was stunningly beautiful.

What are some of your favourite virtual walk videos?

My Final Update on My Walk to Mordor

Photo of red, mountainous region that looks like Mordor
Photo Credit: Dawn Endico

Last spring I blogged about my plans to walk to Mordor. I updated my progress at the end of August when I was a third of the way through with it and again in November when I was about two-thirds finished.

For anyone who needs a refresher or wasn’t following me when this series began, Walk to Mordor is a free app that lets you chart your miles walked every day and gives you updates on where Frodo and Sam were when they’d travelled the same distance in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

As I mentioned in previous updates, my kilometres logged varied quite a bit once again for the last third of the journey. I came down with influenza for the first time in many years at the end of December. It was an unpleasant experience that slowed down my progress in this journey. Some days I only logged a kilometre or two of walking, and the recovery period took a while as well.

It’s probably a good thing that none of the good guys in the Lord of the Rings saga caught the flu while they were travelling. They would have been in for a pretty miserable time if they had. Although maybe the elves would have had a secret remedy for that illness?

Pandemic Distraction

Finishing up this trek was a nice distraction, especially during the last part of it when Coronavirus began shutting down so many places to go in Toronto. I’m quite lucky to be able to work from home, but the days do feel long now that I only leave home for walks and occasional visits to the grocery store or drug store.

Reading updates on where Frodo and Sam were and what they were doing in the last third of their adventure has been a wonderful distraction. The challenges we face are obviously quite different from theirs, but I’m seeing interesting parallels between their journey and what we’re all facing this spring.

Like Sam and Frodo, we live in dangerous times where the future is uncertain. All we can do is put one foot in front of the other and do our best to keep pressing forward.

I Recommend This App

Screenshot of progress on Lord of the Rings walking app. It shows that all destinations have been reached. I’d definitely recommend checking out this app to anyone who is interested in the fantasy genre, keeping track of their fitness goals, and/or getting distracted by something useful.

As I mentioned earlier in this series, this is something that can be used for competitive or  non-competitive purposes. There are no time limits on how long you can use it. People who want to push themselves to walk or run more often can do so, but it’s also accessible to folks who move at a slower pace or who don’t like the idea of turning exercise into a competition.

Reading the plot updates is reward enough. There was no need to add any extra layers of pressure to this game, so I’m glad the developer kept it so simple.

The image in this section of the post shows what the screen looks like after you complete all of the challenges. It was nice to see that long, green list of completed challenges.

One of the things I did have trouble with while participating in this challenge was remembering to log my kilometres walked every day. The app doesn’t have any sort of notification system to remind you to do that. Sometimes I’d have to log several days to a week’s worth of activity. Once I got very behind and logged about a month’s worth of data at once!

With that being said, this is a free game, so I wouldn’t expect it to have all of the bells and whistles that a paid app would have.

If anyone knows of similar games out there, I’d sure like to hear about them. It’s never too early to start planning for amusing things to use next winter.

3 Reasons Why I Take the Stairs Instead of the Elevator

I’m writing this post from the perspective of someone who is able-bodied and still fairly young. Taking the stairs isn’t the right choice for everyone, so listen to your body and your family doctor if this post doesn’t resonate with you.  When was the last time you took the stairs? This question popped into my… Read More

3 Reasons Why You Should Try Mall Walking

Mall walking is a form of exercise involving people walking briskly through the long corridors of shopping malls before the stores open for the day when there are very few other folks about. This is the time of year when I begin to yearn for spring. It’s one thing to experience snowstorms in November and… Read More

3 Things I Love About Walking in a Winter Wonderland

This post is the final instalment of a four-part series I’ve been slowly working on about walking during each season of the year. Click on the links in this sentence to read about the things I love about spring hikes, summer strolls, and autumn hikes. Winter is my least favourite season. The  cold temperatures, short… Read More