Mike Bellah

"Walking in the Ď90s is becoming a born-again exercise." ---Mark Bricklin






Walking is one of those simple pleasures in life, reminding me that the best gifts in life are free.






"If an activity is fun, there is more incentive to keep doing it. And if youíve reached middle age, arenít you entitled to some fun?"---Kate Murphy

Walking, A Passion Worth Pursuing

"Walking in the Ď90s is becoming a born-again exercise," writes Mark Bricklin, editor of "Prevention." Kate Murphy, writing in "Business Week," attributes this walking boom to the middle-aging of America where low-impact sports such as walking, swimming, and hiking are now in vogue.

I have been walking regularly for 15 years now, and even on the days when I do other aerobic exercise--such as a spin on my mountain bike--I still like a brisk walk in the evening.

The physical benefits of walking are well documented. It strengthens our hearts, helps us burn fat and maintains muscle tone. However, walking is more than an exercise program to me. It has become a metaphor for life itself. Following are some of the things walking has taught me:

The best gifts are free.

Walking is one of those simple pleasures in life. The aerobic high; the sights, sounds and smells of the out-of-doors; the warm greeting of a neighbor or the engaging smile of a stranger--all remind me that the best gifts in life are free. They are mine for the taking if only I will notice them.

Put one foot in front of the other.

And walking demands such a simple formula for success. I need only put one foot in front of the other to get where Iím going. Walking reminds me that, in life, the race goes not to the swift, but to the consistent. The same appears true for the exercise. "If you hate working up a sweat and you have the time, long, slow, distance walking is a great way to work out and burn calories," writes fitness expert Maggie Spilner.

Spilner says that long slow-paced walks burn approximately as many calories as faster-paced ones with less chance of strain and injury. I remind myself of this when projects get long and tedious; Iíll get where Iím going if I will just stay with it.

Process is important.

I appreciate my whole walk: beginning, end, and in-between. Each segment has its own pleasures. Those of us who are too goal-oriented need to remember this about life. If "getting it done" is our only reward, we will miss a lot of lifeís joys.

Itís good to be alone.

Many people only walk with other people, and I like this too, especially the regular walks I take with my wife. Yet, I also enjoy walks alone. In fact, walking alone has taught me that being alone is important in life, especially for those who live with families. Time alone helps us become more reflective, creative, and self-confident. And it helps us contribute more to our relationships with others when we do get back together.

Choose your passions carefully.

"Business Weekís" Kate Murphy calls it "the fun factor." "If an activity is fun," she writes, "There is more incentive to keep doing it. And if youíve reached middle age, arenít you entitled to some fun?"

Murphy has hit on something important, not only to success in exercising but success in life. Walking has taught me to choose my passions carefully. If I can find something that is good for me, that is not harmful to others, and that maybe even makes the world a better place--and if that activity can be fun too--then Iíve found a passion worth pursuing.

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