People who enjoy walks usually appreciate the beauty that surrounds them. Whether they’re on a nature trail or darting through the city, the act of placing one foot in front of the other feels like moving meditation. Then there’s the rest of us.
While I know it’s good exercise, walking can feel like I’m spinning my wheels. I could be using that time to write. Or do a tougher workout. Or clean the house. Pretty much anything else. In the end I’m just moving around in one big circle, after all.
To reduce the (unnecessary) guilt and convince myself I’m doing something meaningful, I like incorporating other activities into my treks. If you feel the same, see if one of these ideas might make your outings feel more exciting.
1. Use a Jogging App
No, I’m not talking about an app-based pedometer. I’m talking about something that brings flavor to your movement. Take Zombies, Run! for example. The app plays narrative missions in your ear as you take on the role of a post-apocalyptic runner moving supplies to your outpost. Encounter a group of undead on the way? Time to speed up! The story gives extra incentive to get that heart pumping and makes you feel like the star in your own Walking Dead spin-off.
FitHero is another app that gamifies your walking/jogging, allowing you to choose a character and use your steps to battle bosses and unlock new characters.
If you’re looking for something even more simplistic, there’s a title called Wokamon that’s essentially a pedometer, but allows you to use your steps to explore new worlds and collect/level up cute monsters. I’m impatiently waiting for Pokemon Go (update: now released!) as well, so a wild Bulbasaur will finally appear when I’m wading through the tall grass.
2. Collect Neat Stuff and Make Something
This works far better if you’re in a natural setting rather than the middle of a city. See a pretty flower? Grab it so you can press it at home and save it as a memento. Gather some cool-looking moss, a pristine bug carcass (if you’re not squeamish) and a small branch so you can make a mini terrarium. Use a few seeds or tiny pine cone in a bottle necklace. People actually pay money for this stuff! And let’s face it, they look pretty nice.
This makes any hike more akin to a scavenger hunt, and can literally give you incentive to stop and smell the roses. Just remember to stay respectful of your surroundings. I.e. look for flora that’s fallen away from its host plant; don’t rip bark off a healthy tree or tackle a bush for its flowers.
The same goes for insects. Look for something that’s left the world naturally rather than tossing an innocent bug into a jar for your jewelry project. When you’ve collected some wholesomely acquired specimens, you can browse Etsy for cute and cheap supplies to make trinkets.
3. Take Pictures
I don’t profess to be a great photographer, but it’s fun to snap shots of the unexpected things you see during your travels. There have been several occasions where I’ve seen birds, rabbits and even snakes (another jogger didn’t share my joy at the slithery wanderer’s arrival as she shrieked off the path) up close during my jogs. It’s fun to have something you can point to and reminisce.
If you keep an eye out for interesting shots it can also serve to help you appreciate the beauty of your surroundings. The same tree you’ve passed countless times might look particularly nice during sunrise. The old store around the road might have charming architecture. Make a habit of it and you might even find your eye for composition improving as you take shots of your favorite locations.
4. Have a Destination in Mind
There’s a big field where soccer teams practice about a half mile into my local trail. There are times where I set out planning to catch them during scrimmages so I’m walking with an actual “end point” in mind even though I have to make the return trip. I’ll watch for about 10 minutes then head out again, feeling more accomplished than if I was doing my usual circular trek.
This tip is even easier to use if you jog in an urban neighborhood or city. If you usually drive 5-10 minutes to pick up groceries or knickknacks, turn it into a walk instead. In most cases you won’t feel like you’re “working out” since the journey is part of your usual chores.
On the other hand, if you have a trail where there’s no “typical” destination in mind, you can make your own up. Maybe there’s a particular spot that offers a great view or some other landmark. Keeping these spots in mind and taking a brief break can make a difference. You could even take up geocaching for a real treasure-hunting scenario.
5. Bring a Furry Friend
Everyone knows running with a friend is supposed to help you bond and make the experience more palatable. But who said the friend can’t have four legs instead of two? I say take a furrier companion along. It’s extremely therapeutic to jog with an animal, and not just for you.
If you don’t have a pet of your own, you might be able to get in touch with your local animal shelters and volunteer to take dogs for walks. You not only get a travel buddy, but they get much-needed exercise and a break from the tight and sometimes noisy shelter walls.
There are days where I can enjoy wandering without any bells and whistles in order to clear my mind, but these tricks help whenever I’m feeling bored of the usual routine.
How do you go about motivating yourself when a regular walk just doesn’t sound that appealing?
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