A year ago, I sold my car and committed to walking to work. Most weekdays, I walked a little under three miles to my office in downtown Austin. I encourage others who live within a reasonable walking distance from their offices to give it a try.
I've never been a huge fan of exercise. I figured if I did something extreme, like selling my car, I could reduce my carbon footprint while getting healthy and saving money. In 2013, I channeled my inner Forrest Gump and logged over 500 miles. Here are 10 reasons I'm hooked.
1. A three-mile walk once a day is not a big deal. Before I began walking to work, I casually dated a treadmill and had a few minor flings with the machines at the gym. I was miserable there. I hated waiting for a treadmill, I'm weird about smells (and the gym is full of them), and I always felt like a hamster, plugging along without a purpose. But walking with a purpose? It's really not a big deal. If you are pokey like me, it will take you between 45 minutes to an hour to knock out three miles a day. The time passes quickly and next thing you know, you've made it to your destination.
2. Walking makes you feel fantastic. Every single day I walked -- regardless of the weather or my mood before I left the house -- I arrived at work feeling great. This is the first time in my entire life that I have felt that addicted to exercise. Exercise-addicted people used to drive me nuts, but I finally get it now. If I skip a day, I feel crummy, and by mid-morning I'm pumping myself up with coffee to stay awake.
3. If you're walking to lose weight, good luck with that. I know, I know, it's a bummer, but evidently walking a few miles a day isn't a weight loss guarantee. One of my biggest motivations for walking to work was that I figured I would lose weight. The first few months, I definitely lost weight, but I was also eating a pretty strict vegan diet at the time. When my love affair with cheese beat my desire to go vegan, I quit losing weight. Walking alone doesn't cut the mustard when it comes to weight loss. You actually have to cut the mustard, or, in my case, the chips and queso, but you have to cut calories. Period.
4. If you sell your car and walk, you will save crazy money. I'm married with kids, so selling both cars isn't an option for us. However, just ditching one car made a big difference. I don't miss the car payment, the additional car insurance, the downtown parking fees, and the gas and maintenance. I also don't miss the road rage.
5. Have a Plan B. Likely, you'll need some flexibility for parent-teacher conferences and daytime errands. Austin offers Car2Go, a car share program where you simply check out a cute little smart car to use when you need it. I also rely on our city bus system and my wildly supportive husband, who picks me up from work many afternoons. Of course, not everyone has these options. If that's the case, try and schedule some time to walk before work or after work when you can bring the kids along with you.
6. Walking reduces anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, just five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects. I'm walking proof that it's true. I'm a pretty high-strung gal, and when I walk, it makes a huge difference in how I handle stress.
7. Walking forces you away from screen time. It's really refreshing to take a break from screens. While giving your neck and eyes a break, how about checking out the world around you? I actually see sunrises now. I also pass other walkers and feel an immediate sense of kinship. Some days, I get what I call "God's bonus," and a pack of shirtless guys half my age jog by, and I feel momentarily what grown men feel like when they ogle cheerleaders.
8. Worried you'll get bored? Podcasts are the way to go. When I started walking regularly, my coworker suggested I subscribe to some podcasts, and recommended NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. Now, I geek out to several podcasts several days a week. Here's the iTunes Top 10 to get you going.
9. Be prepared. On Sunday nights, put your workout clothes and shoes somewhere visible so Monday morning you are ready to roll. This will keep you from making lazy Monday morning excuses.
10. Don't stop. Make your walks a priority. Aside from one nasty fall I took a few months ago that knocked me out for a few days, I've been like a postman when it comes to my walks. I've walked when it's 102 degrees, and this week, I left the house when it was below freezing. It's that important. I never thought I would say that!
If I can do this, so can you! Follow me on Twitter @auarndt and let me know how it goes!