Slow down: Walking is the ultimate stress buster
Stop thinking about walking as a chore. Consider it as an opportunity to explore
Get out: life slows down when we walk. Our stress reduces, our worries lift and creativity flows.
Let’s stop thinking about walking as a chore. Instead, we should consider walking as an opportunity to explore, visit new places and see regular things with new eyes. You don’t need hiking boots, maps or incredible fitness to have a walking adventure. Regardless of your fitness ability or even your interest in exercise, you can create your own mini adventure. You don’t even need to travel far from home, there are plenty of opportunities on your doorstep.
Life slows down when we walk. Our stress reduces, our worries lift and creativity flows. Should walking adventures, however local and leisurely, be part of your summer routine, you will have more fresh air, more movement and less stress in your day.
We all need to leave the indoors and our sedentary lifestyles behind, even temporarily, to feel the mental as well as physical benefits that walking in the fresh air bring.
Choose your adventure
Your walking adventure doesn’t need to be abroad. You don’t even need to have a day off work. There are options for whatever time, budget and interest you might have. You just need to make the decision to get out and go somewhere. Avoid the easy option of doing what you normally do. Do something a little different, even if it is just changing your normal day a little to build in extra steps.
Morning miles: A morning challenge requires the most motivation as the snooze button can often win the battle to get out of bed. Pick a day and decide to arrive at work earlier than you need to. Wander for 30 minutes and watch the world as it wakes up, the look on people’s faces as they rush to work and the activity of a summer morning. You will be surprised what you notice in your surroundings when you are not purely focused on getting to work on time.
Lunchtime: A picnic in the park beats a sandwich at a desk on any summer day. Choose a park you don’t know well at least 1km from your base and decide to make that your lunch destination. Alternatively, could you walk to a tourist site and maybe even fit in a walk around a museum or a gallery on your lunchbreak? We often don’t think about building these excursions into our working day but there is always something close by that you can explore even if you can escape for only a few minutes.
Evening time: There are only a few months of the year where you can safely walk in daylight in the countryside in the late evening. Most of us have local trails and parks within a few miles of home that would be out of bounds on a winter’s evening. It’s even worth considering a stop off for a walk on your journey home from work rather than sit in traffic. If you already walk to work, you could take the long route home and explore somewhere new.
Family time: Understandably, many of these options won’t be practical for families with small children with busy social lives. If you do spend your “free time” ferrying children around, you still have plenty of opportunity to move. When waiting for a child, you don’t need to sit in the car. Instead, stand outside, walk a little, just keep moving. Even if you have only a few minutes, it is a lot better than sitting in the car on your phone.
When arranging to meet a friend at the weekend, could you suggest a walk to somewhere rather than a coffee or a pint? Once talking and wandering, you will forget that walking is exercise and before you know it you will be at your destination. For the apprehensive friend, no doubt you can bribe them with the promise of mid-walk refreshments.
Become a tourist in your own town or county this weekend. Choose to explore a tourist site or a scenic spot you have not yet visited. If you are not tempted by mountains or lakes, bogs or canal paths, you can still build an adventure around going to lunch or visiting a cultural attraction. You could even create your own tourist trail, walking between different attractions and refreshment stops in your home town involving the whole family.
Regardless of your walking experience or intentions, there are wonderful tips, routes and advice on irishtrails.ie. Your free time may be in short supply due to caring for a young or elderly person, however, you could find accessible routes that you could explore.
For city walks, take a look online at what route the tourist buses and walking tours follow or, better still, join a walking tour of an area you know well. Look at your own neighbourhood in a new light when you see it through the eyes of a tourist.
Valuing our free time
We may not have control over our work hours, but we do have more control over what we do with our time when not at work. Try to observe how much of your free time is spent sitting when you have an opportunity to move about. Sometimes it’s not intentional, it’s just habit. We all have a choice and just need to remind ourselves to make opportunities to add more steps to our summer days.
This is the second part of a new series of articles that focus on getting moving, getting outside and getting ready for summer. The next in the series is Taking your walking on holiday.
Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!).
First, pick the programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: This programme is an eight-week course that will take you from inactivity to being able to run 30 minutes non-stop.
- Stay On Track: The second programme is an eight-week course for those of you who can squeeze in a 30- to 40-minute run three times a week.
- 10km Course: This is an eight-week course designed for those who can comfortably run for 30 minutes and want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!