Walking Again

It’s too hot to walk in summer here in Phoenix. Somewhere around mid-June the temperature stops going below 90 and even if I get up early, it’s too hot to walk.

So I joined a gym. Nothing against gyms, I just hate them. I hate the stuffy smell. I hate that the loud music that is supposed to get you energized and makes me want to eat glass instead. I hate the machines in their cruel light and their baffling weight-setting methods, which varies from machine to machine.

I hate walking on the treadmills. I love walking. In the cooler months, I walk three to five miles every morning, but walking through parks and neighborhoods is nothing at all like slogging along on a treadmill. The treadmill asks me how old I am and how much I weigh, then decides how fast my heart should be beating. Because I’ve walked for a long time, my resting heart rate is fairly slow, so the machine accuses me of lying and demands I put both hands on the heart monitor, as if using one hand will give me a half-count for my heart beat.

This morning it was overcast and I had a great idea–I’d walk to the gym, do the machines, and walk back. A round trip of three miles, and a shorter time at the gym. Download an audiobook to entertain me (and it doesn’t fight with their loud techno-music) and it was almost a good time.

Best of all was the walk. Something magical happens when I walk. It’s calming and soothing and I can solve problems and dream up ideas.

Small pleasures, found and taken. I am grateful.

Quinn McDonald is teaching an online poetry class starting August 11..

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17 thoughts on “Walking Again

  1. Me too! HATE the gym. A treadmill . . . are we there yet? So artifical I want to scream! I like my exercise as part of how I live my life and add in some meditative walking in pleasant surroundings. The only thing that would get me into the gym would be a therapist after an injury . . . heaven forfend! HATE it! Hate it! HATE IT!!!! Did I ever tell you I have a very low thresh-hold for boredom?

  2. We joined a gym, too–but it was damaged in the tornado and we had to use an alternate location. Sounded like yours–small, stuffy and not very inviting. Our gym is back in business–large, high ceilings, windows overlooking a pond and yes, the music, but I use my Ipod and headphones and listen to Gregorian chant as I walk on the treadmill. Much better!

  3. I know about those too-hot-to-walk mornings her in Tucson. My doc suggested walking at the Mall! So now we are up and walking around the quiet, air conditioned, not crowded mall at 7 a.m. It’s not far from where we live so it’s easy to incorporate into our morning wake-up routine.

    • If they’d turn off the music and stop Cinnabon from pressing free samples on you and turned down the lights, maybe. But the way it is now–loud, stuffy, bright, even at 6:30 a.m., it’s just not for me.

      • They close at 9:00 p.m.. They open really early for the Mall Walkers. When I tried mall walking there were a lot of people doing their walking and socializing. Seems the stores are closed (the stores open at 9:00 a.m.) but the coffee and snack places are smart enough to open. And there are mostly older walkers, often walking three or four across, often with handicapped people. It’s a cool, dry place to walk.

  4. Hi Quinn ~ how about walking in other places besides a gym? A mall is not the best alternative but at least its not stuffy or filled with machines or music that you hate. Many places have mall walker groups before all the stores open or you could go alone & listen to your own music on your mp3 player.
    I lived in Phx 5 years before moving back to Bflo NY – its stifling for about 6 mos. or more there in Phx. But one thing that’s better in Az is more sun for more days – it can get too oppressive by late winter/early spring here. That’s when its time to take a vacation somewhere – like Phx!!

    • Our mall opens early for walkers. But each store plays its own music–loud. And the mall is stuffy and the store windows make for a busy look, too much color, lights, noise for my peace of mind. And then Cinnabon offers free samples every time I go by and it’s hard to resist temptation. So, no mall for me. I’m just really an outside walker.

  5. “…the machine accuses me of lying…”

    One of the basic principles of designing interactive systems is honesty. It’s most often considered from the other side, where it’s important that the machine be honest to the user.

    Honesty on the part of the user is important too; you wouldn’t want a bank’s interactive system to assume that there’s no such thing as lying about who can withdraw your cash.

    A more subtle point is how to design the responses of the system to present to users an accurate impression of what’s going on. You don’t want to present so much detail the user is put off: “…document has a problematic checksum in block 48372 at this physical location…” is honest, but a bit to much like that guy who, when you ask him how he is, *actually tells you*. You also don’t want to make it seem too much like the system has thoughts or feelings. It’s a machine. Very complex, but a machine.

    There are schools of thought about this. Humans can very easily infer pretty sophisticated things from simple clues like a “thing that looks vaguely like a facial expression”. That can be useful; presenting an icon that looks like an unhappy face can be a lot more immediate and effective than an error message. But it can be tricky not to cross the line to implying that the *system itself* is unhappy. To me, that’s an example of dishonest design.

    What an exercise machine’s software can do honestly is report that its signal is weak (maybe your palms aren’t sweaty enough), or the data is unusual (a simple chart with a glowing dot?), but introducing the idea of lying? That’s just dishonest.

  6. When I moved here 6 yrs ago, I spent the 1st yr reorienting after selling my home of 30 yrs and the 2nd yr traumatized after being fired from my job of 20 yrs. Walking with the dog helped this place feel like home. Helped my heart settle down & my mind wake up. Helped me slowly lose 15 – 20 lbs. In fact, Danke & I are about to set forth in a light, cool rain right now. Wish you cd. walk with us.

  7. I love walking! I used to love biking. I still do, but not in the place where I live now, because there’s usually too much wind (I like biking, not suffering) and also it’s a small island, so on a bike you’re done pretty quickly. One road to the west side, the other road back and then you’ve biked about 15 miles, which is less than I used to bike every day to work when I still lived on the main land. 😉

    But walking has become my mode of transportation here, there are so many roads and paths and also you are allowed to just walk straight through the dunes all over the island, it never gets boring. It calms my mind and I love being in nature while I do it. I think the only exercise I’ve ever liked is the one that gets you moving while enjoying the scenery and being in the open air. Gyms or group exercise are not for me. I find it utterly depressing to go into a room with other people and just move for moving’s sake.

    Since two months I’ve started working less and now have four days off every weekend, and I have started taking early morning walks and I love it. I’ve always walked a lot, but now it’s like a standard thing at the beginning of my day. On my three job days I try to walk on my lunch break, but a half hour walk just doesn’t cut it with me. It’s nice, but it’s not where the inner calm comes from. I don’t have time to get in that zone of finding a pleasant pace where I could just go on and on. On the walks in the early morning I usually walk between 4 and 8 miles, all depending on how much time I have, the weather and how I feel or what route I’m taking. On these summer days it’s especially nice to be out relatively early (I usually leave the house around 8 am) before it gets too warm (too warm here of course being what would probably be considered a cold winter in Phoenix, haha, but I hate hate hate the slightest bit of heat with a passion) and also before it gets busy with people (summer is tourist season here), so it’s still nice and quiet and cool, just the way I like it.

    Walking is my form of meditation which is also why I prefer to do it alone. There’s a whole other feel to it when I walk with someone else. Not so much that that cannot be enjoyable, but that’s not where my calm comes from, that’s socializing. A walk alone is where I can just let everything be for a while and enjoy where I am and feeling in tune with my surroundings. And of course I’m always taking my camera and/or my phone in case I need to take some snapshots and it does seem I always need to. 😉

    • I agree with you completely–walking is a form of meditation and is best done alone (for me, anyway). I want to be in the open sun and wind (but not in our broiling summer) and you got it exactly right. Which is why I hate the gym. Too bad we live so far apart, we are walking soul mates.

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