- heavily wooded trails with plenty of shade
- a babbling creek running alongside, with occasional bridges
(I swear the smell of honeysuckle plus the sound of a creek immediately lower my blood pressure, even without the walk thrown in.)
Other essentials to a good walk:
- a fairly stiff breeze
- temperatures lower than 70 degrees
- a low number of other walkers; the proper ratio is enough company to keep the trail from being creepy, but not so many that it's a meet-and-greet
This morning, Crockett Park scored a perfect 6 out of 6, so it was a great walk.
It was a beautiful morning to be out, so there were lots of people to watch:
Serious joggers. Since this trail is connected to the Brentwood YMCA, there are a fair number of seriously fit people who are adding a jog onto the end of their morning weight session. Mostly these are men. I don't mind serious joggers. They tend to pass you and not really even see you. I feel sorry for the ones who look like they are jogging because they have to and can't wait for it to be over. These are usually what is known in the running world as "heavy runners." They pound the pavement when they run. When I see them, I think, "Really, stop. Just walk. Your knees will thank you." I used to be a heavy runner, back when I was training for the Music City Half Marathon. When I run, all I can think is, "Ugh, ugh, ugh." All I am focused on is how hot I am (not in a good way). I admire people who are true runners, who lightly breeze past you with joy and spring in their step. They are a thing of beauty.
Older people trying to stay healthy. I am quickly falling into this category. So I smile at my fellow companions who are obviously just glad they can be out walking.
People walking their pets. Some people just bring their dogs along on their walk, while other people are quite obviously accompanying their pets. Like the lady who sweetly stopped to let her puppy inspect the horses grazing just across the fence. "See the horsey? Yes, he's a sweet horsey." Just like she was talking to a toddler. This dog will probably be able to spell horsey by the end of the walk. (I admit, I did stop to look at the horsey. This is one thing I love about Williamson County. There are still horses grazing in meadows right in the heart of suburbia.)
Women walking with a friend. These women might be my age and fitness level or they might be 24 and lacking any visible cellulite. What they have in common is that they meet to walk together and talk together at the same time. As they pass, they are usually saying something like, "So I told her that she shouldn't, but...." These women are on their way to Publix after their walk to grocery shop, or if they have time, they might stop at Brueger's for a bagel and coffee to continue their conversation, but most likely they've already had three cups of coffee early this morning while they folded the laundry before meeting their friend to walk.
Power walkers. I have to be honest; power walkers annoy me. They are the equivalent of the people who drive through the Cool Springs mall area like they're navigating a NASCAR race. Power walkers may not feel superior to us other walkers (I'm trying to be generous in spirit here), but they often act like it. I resent them because they bring peer pressure to the trail. When being overtaken by a power walker, I feel the need to get my game on—to pick up my speed as they pass me. It's not a pretty insight into my soul, I know. I'm just being honest.
Another thing about power walkers: they tend to wear ear buds and an iPod. What are they listening to? Music designed to pump it up? Motivational speakers? The latest ESPN podcast? When I go out to walk, I go to commune with nature. I want to hear the wind rustle in the trees. Power walkers with ear buds— I want to say, "Hey, you just blasted past a beautiful curve in that stream next to us. And you also didn't hear the sound of the water going over the rocks." That's a shame, because we are bombarded by motivational pump it up stuff all day long, but you don't always get to hear the water rushing over the rocks.
A fascinating version of the power walker is the Large Group of Women power walkers. This morning there was a group of 6 women power walking and, it appeared, at the same time organizing a charity fundraiser. The chairwoman of this group was not only setting the pace but setting the agenda in a loud voice. (Thus breaking a fundamental rule of walking etiquette: do not talk loudly as you walk. Come on. The rest of us are deep in thought. Another example of the Loud Power Walker that fascinates me: the power walker who talks loudly on their cell phone. I don't even carry my cell phone when I walk. I don't want to carry on business while I walk. And I don't want to hear you carry on your business.)
I am an independent walker. At times I do walk with a friend and enjoy a little conversation. In the past I have been a Large Group Power Walker. In my experience, though, walking with others is complicated. Because some people are in it for the fun and others are obviously In It to Win It. And since these are the two competing sides of my personality, I have sometimes left others in my dust and sometimes slowed my pace in order to just Enjoy It.
I prefer setting my own pace, and lately I have come to appreciate how crucial that is to our well-being, not just in walking but in doing life. Recently I was talking with my supervisor at work, Jim Baker, who is a wise man and an excellent steward of those under his supervision. Quarterly at work we check in with our supervisors, who are supposed to ask us about our work goals but also about our "ports of life" - physical/emotional health, family, relationships, spiritual life, etc. As I talked about my ports of life, Jim startled me by making the comment, "Well, that's not good; you're not setting your own pace. It's hard to always be living at someone else's pace."
Wow. Yes, it is.
Sometimes we necessarily live at someone else's pace. For instance, when you're a mom of babies or toddlers, you don't often choose when you wake up or how much sleep you get or what gets done in your day. Then you gain a certain amount of your day back when they go to school; you get to own 8:30-3:30. In middle school they suddenly have a social life and soccer practice and piano lessons, and there you are, group power-walking, because they cannot drive themselves to these things. There is that one year when they have their "Learner's Permit" when you ride along, everywhere. Not only do you go to their stuff, you don't get to drive anymore. Then they get their license, and you stay up until curfew, vigilant for their safety.
If you have a boss who is a Power Walker, then you probably don't work at your own pace. I'm sorry for you; that's not good, to quote Jim Baker. Granted, there are times when you full out sprint, in the middle of a project, and you do it for the team. But even the really great runners don't full out sprint all the time.
If you are married and you share a car, as Dennis and I do, you have a constant issue about whose pace you move at. I cannot keep up with Dennis Worley's pace (no human can). I used to feel really guilty about that. Even on his day off, Dennis has a List of Things To Do. I, on the other hand, can Sit and Do Nothing happily for hours. When I was pregnant with Seth, I was SO tired in my first trimester. Everything was an effort. One day I was sitting in the armchair in the kitchen, looking out the window. Dennis was busy with his List. Every now and then he would walk past me and give me that Power-Walker look— "You're still sitting there? I've done 5 things since the last time I saw you sitting there." And I said, "What? I'm doing something. I'm growing a spleen."
That's what I wanted to say to those Group Power Walking Women this morning. "What? I'm doing something. I'm exercising. I'm enjoying the babbling stream. And I'm planning what I'm going to write on my blog today."
Sometimes, when I walk in my neighborhood, I take the route that has a big hill. I'm not a serious runner, but if the temperature and breeze conditions are in my favor, I will run with great joy and abandon down that long stretch of hill, as far as I can go without passing out. It's so fun, although my knees hurt later.
Last Sunday, Mike and Jay talked about Ecclesiastes 3, which tells us, "There is a season for everything." There is a time to walk, a time to group power walk, a time to sprint for the goal and time to run just for the joy of it.
I just want to make sure I ask you to consider this: Who is setting your pace?