It takes me an average of 5-7 minutes to drive to work. (Sorry honey if you’re reading this! my partner’s commute is not so blissfully short as mine….) Walking takes me 17 minutes.
So, after almost three years at my new, literally right around the corner, work location, I decided it was high time I began walking to work more often.
With my son passing his drivers test last month, the mom taxi is now on the verge of retirement which means the need for me to drive places immediately before and after my work shifts is now marginal. It was the perfect time to start a walk to work behaviour.
It would require more planning on my part. I would have to be ready to leave for my shift about 30 minutes earlier than normal (20 minutes to walk and 10 minutes to towel off and change clothes), I would have to remember to bring my keys to lock up the clinic (learned that one the hard way on day 2!) and I would need to organize my back pack with work attire, food, etc. rather than tossing it all in my car at the last minute.
The first week was easy. The sun was shining, and I was full of that juicy on the cusp of Fall, structured, school’s back in energy that made for a glorious wind in my sails.
That is until week two, at which time I began to falter...
The weather turned, my peri-menopausal insomnia returned after a several month hiatus and both our kids were back home for the week which meant more meal planning and meal making, just more energy expenditure in general.
During that second more difficult week, I ended up walking two days and driving two days and I had several aha’s that surfaced, both having to do with just how important and integral my WHY was in this experiment.
Let me explain a little further. My decision to begin walking to work was not based on an attempt to exercise more, burn more calories or up my daily step count (if I was someone who measured those things, and I am not). The decision I made to walk to work was based on a desire to get out of my car more, a small shift that aligns with my desire to activate myself and the people around me to wake up to the desperate situation we are in as a global community with regard to climate collapse. This has deep meaning for me. And my move away from getting in my car daily for a short trip to work was representative of this meaning.
What I realized on one of the days that I was walking during that challenging second week was that had my decision to begin walking been related to a fitness or body goal, I would have abandoned it completely. At the first sign of difficulty or discomfort, my human nature would have taken over and any health driven motivation would have evaporated.
Simply put, health and fitness WHY’s do not have enough meaning to motivate us for the long game. No matter which way you slice it. It’s just how human behaviour works and there is a great deal of research out there to back that up.
Have a read through these quotes below from the book “No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring you a Lifetime of Fitness” by Michelle Segar PhD
The two days I ended up walking when I really wasn’t feeling it were due to the fact that my motivation for the behaviour had a deeper personal meaning for me. The desire for this behaviour change was something that went beyond my body. I was still enhancing my fitness- getting my heart rate up and working my muscles by walking to work- but that was a happy by-product of something that is much more meaningful to my heart and soul.
OK, so what about the two days that I ended up in my car during that second week?
Well it turns out that there were some great lessons there as well. The rain that was pouring down those days was definitely a deterrent and the thought of being extra soggy was what pushed me into my car those days but as I reflected on the decision to drive, I had another realization.
20 years ago when I was still in the throes of disordered exercise, I would often resolve to do some form of exercise on a regular schedule. My mind would create some false structure with the desire to have my body follow along. The result of which would hopefully be whipping it into shape, controlling it, making it smaller, tighter and more acceptable.
Inevitably the behavioural goals I would set for myself with regard to exercise would be lofty and there would always be a point at which I would fail myself. This would devastate me. Because my movement goals were tied to my body and at that time my sense of worth any deviation from the “plan” would leave me feeling an abject failure. It would often send me into a depression that led to me straight to my decades old coping strategy of binge eating and I would end up not moving at all for several months until the pendulum swung the other way again.
This is not what happened with my walking to work intention. Getting out of my car more as a small act of reverence for our Mother Earth is a long game. It’s not intended to be a short term burst of climate awareness or point getting from something outside myself. So when I chose on those days to drive, I didn’t beat myself up. Instead I allowed myself to feel happy about the days so far that I had stayed out of my vehicle and resolved to see how the next week felt. My intention and my connection to my deeper meaning WHY remained wholly intact.
Why am I telling you this story about my last few weeks walking to work?
To bring home the point again, that your movement WHY matters. It matters a great deal. Any and all exercise intentions that are tangled up with a narrow definition of health or body control or manipulation are doomed to fail us in the long run. We simply must get reconnected to the broader spectrum of what movement brings into our lives in order to do the following:
Lori Race is a healer, health clinic owner and writer with a passionate message to share from her past as a fitness instructor suffering from compulsive exercise disorder.