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The Long Walk

A few times this week I’ve done an XTREME WALK, aka a walk that’s really long (at my current fitness levels, that’s 4-6 miles). My friend Christopher does TOTALLY XTREME walks, we’re talking 5-15 miles, almost every day, and he’s been at it for a year or so now. I asked him his secret and here’s what he said, its been working like a charm for me!

Me: My psychiatrist suggested I walk several miles a day…I’ve been walking a little but not much. Do you have any motivation tips for mega-walks? I know once I get into it, the rewards will follow, but I’m having such a hard time walking more than a mile or two a day. I get tired and despondent, and want to hurry back to my distractions. I know #1 is i should try listening to music.

Chistopher: Yes, definitely the music. I couldn’t walk without it!

What’s interesting in my case is that I didn’t actually start out doing it as exercise. I had been taking a 43 to connect to the 545, either down at Bellevue Ave or Montlake, but I kept missing buses either way. I decided I’d just start walking down to Bellevue each morning since it’s easy. Actually, I once thought your brother was some dude spanging me when he waved from the Broadway bus stop. Ha!

Anyway, it had gotten me thinking about how before I started working in Redmond, I walked 30 minutes each morning to work and another 30 at lunch, and how the commute had zapped all my motivation and free time, and I was annoyed with all the weight I’d gained, so I decided I’d try walking down the back of the hill to Montlake each morning. Soon, it just started to really click and I wanted to be doing more than just that amount, so I started exploring on Fridays and one weekend day, which is now always Sunday; Garrett like us to have Saturday morning free for Fashion Police on the DVR.

But I’ve noticed that the Monday-Thursday and Sunday walks are the easiest to get into, because I do them almost immediately. The alarm goes off at 4:10am and I go straight to the bathroom to pee, floss, brush, and scrape my tongue. Then I do my stretches (in there so the cats don’t get in the way plus I’m still naked and that looks…not so great) and get dressed and leave. Always out the door by 4:25 or so.

I’ve come to realize that doing it immediately helps so much because there’s just nothing else to get in the way. I don’t even check emails until I get to the bus stop, and even then it’s only if I finish all my turns in Draw Something (which we should totally play!) first. I just allow myself the bare minimum of activities that absolutely have to happen before I get started. And it really helps. I get to work, have a nice shower, and then finally get my coffee and breakfast. Coffee and breakfast in another city with an 80 minute walk and a 25 minute bus ride and another 10 minute walk first is a good motivator.

Of course I know a lot of people would pass out, so feel free to grab a granola bar on the way out. And of course every once in a while I learn the hard way, I will get a headache if I don’t drink my big glass of water before work walks. (I wear a Camelbak style pack on Fridays and Sundays) After walking six days a week for a while, a huge part of the motivation comes from just feeling so much better. I’d really hit a wall physically and didn’t even realize it until I felt better again. It’s weird how that happens.

Another part of it is that I’m just really in love with this city and it’s always so wonderful to get out there and see it, especially when it’s early and not full of dumb people. Back before it got too dark, you probably remember all the sunrise pictures I was posting. They of course didn’t do the real world any justice.

All that aside, there are still lots of practical aspects to consider. I would probably not be walking nearly as far as I like to if I always had to walk all the way back home. Getting back up there sucks! You’ve probably noticed almost none of my walks begin where they started. It’s pretty liberating to decide you can walk really really far and then take a bus home. And it’s also more motivating to me if I plan a long route where I have to get back by bus, and it’ll be really hard to figure out the alternate route if I don’t make it all the way to the spot where I’ll be getting the bus.

And finally, I just really love making the maps and impressing everyone. The bigger and crazier they get, the more people freak out. It’s awesome.

In summary:
1) Try going immediately when you wake up.
It works really well for me and may for you, and if you want to keep walking once you’re back on the ol’ 9-to-5 again, you might find that in the morning before work is the only time you can fit it in. I’ve never been able to do the gym or walking or anything like that after work. It just doesn’t work out.

2) Go cool places. I like Interlaken Park and the Arboretum and Marsh Island and Seward Park and all kinds of places. If you’d like, I can even set up some maps for you, including where to get the bus home, and also how to get there by bus if it’s further out. There’s great walking spots around here, one of the biggest mistakes is to limit yourself to what’s right by you.

3) Water!!!! I don’t carry any except on Fridays and Sundays, but it’s absolutely essential to have on hand for longer walks since it’s hard (though not impossible) to find otherwise. Which brings up another subject: bathrooms. All my regular longer walks have places to pee, which is required if you’re drinking enough water when walking more than, say, 80 minutes.

4) Learn to crave the time away from people and the internet. I can’t tell you how much better I feel mentally these days because I have so much more time where it’s just me and music and stuff to look at. I’ve always said things like venting don’t really solve people’s problems, but I feel like the thing that really does is having lots of time with nothing to do but think and gain perspective.

5) Fuuuuck everyone who says you should run instead or that you need to do a half marathon. Do what you like! And lots of it! Take pride in your accomplishments and enjoy them however you see fit.

I’m super duper serious when I say I’d love to help with suggestions that go further and further. If you want to, let me know distances and I can play around and send you some ideas. Oh and circling back to the original question, I definitely think a major key is just not walking back home. If you’re walking back, you’re always thinking, geez, I’m tired, I’d better head back! I think the goal being further away rather than where you started is a major motivator.

Haha, guess I didn’t realize how much I’ve been wanting to be asked this! 😀

(also posted on Christopher’s blog at

One comment on “The Long Walk

  1. mmmmbobo
    February 6, 2013

    It’s so crazy that we live in this culture where we have to constantly dedicate increasing amounts of our lives just to keeping ourselves sane.

    I appreciate all of your openness about sharing mental health issues. I’ve been struggling to get some help lately too, and ‘the system’ is so bad it’s driving me completely batty.

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This entry was posted on February 5, 2013 by in Anxiety, Discovering Tats, Health, Spirit, Therapy.
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