Health + Wellness

How (and why) I’m preparing to keep walking, all winter long.

I love walking. I love the chance to quiet my mind while taking in the sights and sounds of a forest path or neighborhood sidewalk. I love breathing the fresh air, listening to the birds (or, just as likely, a podcast) and getting my blood pumping without feeling much strain on my body. And the proven health benefits of a regular walking practice are immense, with a growing body of research pointing to a variety of mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits. That’s a lot of value packed into an activity that’s really pretty simple: just put on a pair of shoes and walk out the door, wherever you happen to be, year-round.

For me, though, that “year-round” part can get a little tricky. I live in Michigan, the land of inspiring springs, glorious summers, and jaw-dropping, gorgeous autumns. Eight months of the year, I typically log dozens of miles of walking each week. But around mid-October, the weather becomes less predictable, with rainy, chilly days starting to outnumber the warm and sunny. I start putting off my walks for later and later in the day, waiting for sunshine that often never comes. By late-November, the busy holiday season is in full swing, then before you know it, there’s a foot of snow on the ground and I’m completely out of the habit. Too many years, walking completely falls off my radar from November until late March.

That means that for a full third of the year, I’m missing out on the numerous benefits of a daily walking practice. Not only that, but two of the values I am working on cultivating in my life are grit/resilience, plus appreciating and taking part in the natural world around me. I’ve chosen to live in a region with four beautiful seasons, and it seems like a waste of that choice to largely sit two of them out. By getting outside even on the days when the weather isn’t ideal, I’m giving myself the opportunity to practice being the kind of person I want to be. And on some gray, cold, sleety day in November, I know that practice will be a lot easier if I have an established routine to support me.

But just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s always easy. There are many days I feel too rushed or lethargic to take time for a walk. Sometimes it will be cold or drizzly and I just don’t feel like going out. Some days I will think my to-do list is too long to squeeze it in. So I’m keeping it simple and challenging myself to a one-mile walk, rain, snow or shine, every morning, Monday through Friday.

I’m planning my walks in the morning for a few reasons:

  • It’s one less thing to add to my plate of daily decisions. When I put off an activity until later in the day – even one I enjoy, like walking – it vastly increases the chances that I will forget, or so get wrapped up in something else that I don’t want to break away, or just run out of steam or time.
  • It gets my day off on the right, pardon the pun, foot. Have you ever noticed that the beginning of your day sets the tone for the rest? When I start off the morning too slowly, I tend to stay in leisure mode and it gets much more difficult to get moving later. There’s nothing wrong with downtime, but for me it works best (and feels much more rewarding) if rest comes AFTER movement.
  • Early morning sunlight is really good for you. Research shows that exposure to early morning sun produces hormones that help regulate sleep cycles and can protect us from insomnia, PMS, Seasonal Affective Disorder and a host of other physical and mental conditions.

All that said, a long walk in the morning isn’t always possible or practical for me. But remember, I’m only committing to one mile at a time! If I get in my mile – usually in twenty minutes or less – first thing and then go about my day, I can always take a longer walk later if I want to.

Want to join me in walking one mile each day?

I’m sharing about my daily walks over on my Instagram account, and would love to hear from you if you decide to follow along. Send me a DM, or shoot an email to meaganfrancis@gmail.com and let me know you’re in!

P.S. – If you’d an inspiring read about why walking is both powerful and uniquely human, I’m loving In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration by Shane O’Mara.

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3 Comments

  • Claire

    I love walking too, but I’m a fair-weather friend (meaning it’s not fun for me if it’s rainy, windy too cold or too hot). So I have some indoor workouts I do when the outdoors doesn’ t meet my criteria. I really need that non-weather dependent backup plan. Good luck with your challenge!

  • Sherry

    What gear are you wearing for wet weather? And cold weather?

    • Meagan Francis

      Sherry, I’ve got a follow-up post coming soon with gear recommendations!! Stay tuned!