by Aaron Leatherbarrow
Walking is one of those lovely activities that every one of us participates in every single day. For me, it’s important to engage in a different way of thinking when it comes to such a common activity. Recently, with the rise of the Fitbit, step counting, and the Apple Watch, we have become very aware of the steps we take. We count them and hope to reach certain totals to feel good about our day and our self-discipline. Some have taken the next step and turned walking into running. Mad props to those people; I don’t think I could do it.
Whenever I think about running for exercise, I immediately think of the Friends episode, “The One Where Phoebe Runs.” Having been invited to join her friend Rachel in a run, Phoebe runs much like a toddler in the rain, feeling the air and swinging her arms. At first, Rachel is embarrassed by this behavior, but she later tries Phoebe’s style out of boredom.
That’s just it: boredom. Our feet are bored. Our legs, back, ankles, and metatarsals are begging for something new. Our thighs want to stretch, our calves need to try harder, and all of this is possible by doing what we do every day, just differently.
As humans, we were gifted with bodies designed to conquer every surface of the earth.
We can climb mountains, swim oceans, and hike forests. We have amazing bone and muscle structures for these purposes. Our toes are meant to be wrapped around all sorts of surfaces, and our muscles can be stretched in so many different ways. Our backs bend amazingly, and our arms reach to let our hands explore. Our fingers crave textures. Our mouths love the addition of textures in our food. Think about it: a salad with croutons is more appealing than one without. Yet every day, we stick to our carpeted floors and our flat concrete sidewalks. Our feet crave textural variety.
Take a moment to look at the bottom of your shoe. You can see your personal style of walking. I favor the outside of my foot: the outer edge of my shoe is more worn than the inside.
The insides of my feet are craving attention! They deserve to be used the same!
These sorts of habits can cause problems later in life—I can only imagine how much damage it does to us in the long run. Perhaps we can become a bit more creative in our walking style.
How does one walk creatively? We walk in the same places almost every day. I wake up and walk briefly around my house and down a couple of stairs to my driveway to my car. I walk on a sidewalk to my office door, then go up two or three steps to my carpeted office. I sit in my chair and stay there for several hours. I get up and walk briefly to the car to go to a meeting or for lunch, which normally involves a short sidewalk and more carpeted surfaces. Rinse and repeat, over and over and over.
How to fix this monotony? My first answer is, watch a five-year-old. They will always find a better path. I watched my second daughter walk to the car. She chose a very different path. She climbed my armchair before going to the front door. She jumped through the threshold, and when she got to the stairs, she jumped all three of them; because it was so much fun, she went and did it again. After that, she ran back up and asked me to catch her as she jumped off sideways. On her way to the car, she ran as if being chased. Then she climbed up the side of the door, grabbed the handle at the top of the window, and swung herself in.
This was my epiphany. Forget the sidewalk. Stay safe, but look for alternate paths. Your feet will always prefer grass and rocks to pavement. Where there are no better surfaces, there are balance beams. Follow the line; use those parking stops. There is always a more interesting path. Find it. This will do so many things for you. Your body will be used much more appropriately, thus possibly lessening the chances of the negative effects of monotony in physical movement.
Get out there, find some textures, and be creative. Your body is craving it!
Aaron Leatherbarrow grew up all along the east coast, lives with his wife and 3 girls, loves bird watching, playing Pokemon, writing musicals, collecting way too many comic books, listening to Joy Division on Vinyl, and drinks out of a White Castle Coffee Mug. He pastors kids, teaches them to paint, sculpt, whittle, or anything that helps grow creative thinking.