Three miles in no time

And so we enter week three of that lifestyle change: new diet, new exercise program, new way of thinking, new everything.

I’m less than a pound away from that first benchmark of losing 10 pounds. I’m confident I’ll reach it–perhaps even surpass it–when I weigh in on Friday.

I’m fortunate that Maryland offers so many opportunities to walk outdoors. Many of our railroad lines have been converted to paths in what’s known as the rails-to-trails program (do you have that in your state?) that run throughout central MD. It’s nice. We also have Loch Raven Reservoir about two miles from our house, and on Saturdays and Sundays, they shut down the portion that meanders closest along the shoreline. From gate to gate, it runs a mile and a half. There are a few hills along the way, especially the ascent to the gate that marks the halfway point. It’s really quite dramatic for us newbies walking the entire length; as you enter the final quarter mile and turn a bend in the road, you can see the gate at the top of the hill. We took great pride in reaching the gate together, touching it as some sort of inspiring moment before turning around to head back to where we began.

What made the moment even more dramatic and made-for-tv is that, at the very touch of our cold fingers on the even-colder gate, the very first flakes of snow began to fall. On the mile and a half back to the car, the snow intensified just enough to change the entire landscape. It was like walking in a loop, unchartered territory, virgin land covered with silk-white innocence.

A new beginning indeed.

Maybe that new beginning was marked by what happened in the first quarter-mile.

Before we began our walk, I made a conscientious effort to set my stopwatch so that I could record just how long it takes me to walk three miles along the shores of Loch Raven. When I’ve done this exercise regimen in the past, I’ve been really ridiculous about recording every workout, every walk, every moment and how it was spent before, during, and after the workout.

Why would this be any different?

I looked down at the ground and synchronized my first step across the gate with pushing the top right button on my watch.

Step One, Second One. Step Two, Second Two. . .And so on.

Until that watch began to itch around my wrist at less than an eighth of a mile into the walk. I made sure I kept my stride while being momentarily diverted by this “equipment malfunction.” I took the watch off, double-checked the time to make sure I had not reset it, and tucked it gently in my jacket pocket.

Ever-nervous that I would reset it by putting my hands in my pockets, I kept my hands out in the bitter cold as we walked.

About fifty strides later, I heard a beep from that pocket, a solitary, somewhat sad note that I had never heard before (at least from my watch). I broke stride. I couldn’t help it as I reached into my pocket and pulled out the lifeless, stiff watch.

The screen was a pale olive green. Dark, blank. Within a quarter-mile of my walk, the only means of measuring my success had passed on.

At first I panicked. After all, what was this walk for if I couldn’t measure it? Analyze it? Put it on paper and compare it with the previous three walks already archived in ink? Where would this walk now fall among subsequent walks?

But then I did something I’ve been doing a lot lately. I let this panic consume me fully for five seconds. I let it run through me so I could feel fear in every extremity, feel it as if it were all there was left to feel.

And then I let it go. I picked up my stride, threw the watch in the big blue trash can on my right, and carried on, no longer worried about time, statistics, spreadsheets, or post-exercise analyses.

This workout thing, this change in lifestyle is not about the individual workouts and pushing myself to extremes. It’s about all of the things that genuinely matter in life and making these changes to enjoy those meaningful things. It makes no difference if, when I walk later in the week, I shaved off 13 seconds off my mile. To me, it makes a difference that I walked; I looked up at the sky instead of down at my watch; I heard the beat of the ruffed grouse’s wings as it moved across my path; I lived fully in the walk, and not back at my desk in front of a spreadsheet charting the latest trends of my exercise program.

Slowly, but certainly, I’m remembering what all of this is about. One fully-lived moment at a time.

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4 thoughts on “Three miles in no time

  1. I just reached the 10 pound down mark myself. It is too cold and icy up here to do much outside, so I joined a health club at the start of the year. I really enjoy going.
    Good luck in your quest.

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  2. I’m glad the watch died. You don’t need it anyway. Much better to lose yourself in that landscape, bleak and brown, then white and pure. What a beautiful walk that must have been.

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