These 2 Words And Walking To Work Changed My Life For The Better: Swear By It

Fall leaves make gray sidewalks less ... gray.  (Photo: Lisa Yeung)

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In this regular series, we’re sharing the things we swear by that are a part of our daily regimens and that have helped us with a particular issue. Got something you love that you will back 100 per cent? Tell us in the comments below, we want to know!

For about 30 years of my life, I had a deep-seated, irrational fear of the gym. The gym has weights and machines and people bent on one thing: getting you fit and healthy! Sounds great, but I’ll pass! 

For me, the risk of humiliation was a certainty. I was certain I didn’t know how to use the equipment, certain I wouldn’t be able to finish a full circuit and absolutely certain I would be the most unfit person there. My deep-seated fear can be very creative. 

So, I didn’t go. 

I knew, fundamentally, that I needed to exercise. Everyone needs exercise. I was just really afraid to fail.

The ‘TSN Turning Point’

When HuffPost Canada moved offices in 2011, closer to where I lived, I had a choice: I could submit to a 20-minute daily ride on a crowded, sweaty streetcar filled with other sour, germy commuters just like me, or I could get off my lazy ass and start walking. 

I chose to walk. Two words I’d read somewhere made my decision for me: Start anywhere. It’s valuable advice for anyone who is easily overwhelmed, like I was at the time. When it came to exercise, all the unknowns seemed huge. 

But start anywhere and you’ll be doing more than nothing, right?

I used to streetcar, but I'm walking people now. Here's a scene from my daily walk to work along King St. in Toronto.  (Photo: Lisa Yeung)

So, I put one foot in front of the other. And repeated 3,280 times for the 2.5 kilometres to work. It took damn near forever that first time — and I was so tired! My legs ached, I was out of breath and I needed very badly to sit down and possibly nap. 

But I had done it. One small victory.

So the next morning, I did it again. And I kept doing it. Not surprisingly, it got easier. But what I didn’t expect was the transformative effect walking to work would have on my life.

One small step for me, one giant step for ... me!

I shouldn’t have been so shocked. There are so many well-documented benefits to walking; it improves your cardiovascular healtheases joint painhelps bone density, relieves symptoms of anxiety and depression, maintains muscle tone, and prolongs your life

But here’s what else walking to work does for me on a daily basis:

  • saves me transit fare every morning
  • lowers my stress levels from not being stuck in traffic
  • increases my energy and sustains it throughout the day
  • keeps me even-tempered and positive so I can take better care of my relationships
  • jogs my creativity as my mind wanders and I seek out new routes
  • keeps me connected with my city as I observe my surroundings
  • helps me discover new stores and eating spots
  • gets me the occasional “Hello” from a stranger that restores my faith in humanity
  • permits meditation, because I can’t sit still with my eyes closed without falling asleep
  • opens up time to listen to podcasts 
  • makes my skin look clear and healthy first thing in the morning
  • gives much-needed “thinking time” for planning before the day begins
  • gets me off my phone because I don’t walk and text (most of the time)

But I don’t have time ... 

Now, I walk nearly four kilometres to work each morning. It takes me about 50 minutes to an hour, which seems like a long time, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, even in the winter. 

Walking to work in the morning ensures that I get exercise in before my day fills up or I get too tired. It’s one thing I do for myself and it sets up my day for success. 

And, eventually, it got me to the gym. Sure, it took six years, but the confidence and strength I built up walking helped me try yoga, then boot camp, then eventually, a full-blown gym membership. Who am I even anymore?!

You too, can start anywhere!

I know not everyone lives close enough to work to walk. But if you want to build in some walking in the morning, here are some easy ways to do it: 

  • Start parking a block away from your work and walk from there
  • Get off transit one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way
  • If you live in a building, take the stairs a few flights down
  • If you work in a building, take the stairs a few flights up

Take it slow. One extra step is better than nothing. And if you don’t do it every day, that’s OK too. All the times you do make it will add up.

For now, just start anywhere. And guess what? You just did, ’cause you read this post. One small victory!

One of my favourite parts of my morning walk is though this archway in St. James Park.  (Photo: Lisa Yeung/HuffPost Canada)

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.