Over the next few weeks I plan on featuring some of my favorite student blogs here on my Culture and Movement blog. The first is by Christina Williams. Not only does she reflect upon the fitness activity of walking, she also gives us a comparison of the benefits of walking alone, with others, and with a dog.
Of course, I can immediately identify with the act of walking with a dog. So my dog is pictured here, giving the look that means it's time to go....
Three Walks: Sisters, Dogs and Solitude, by Christina Williams
I was recently thinking about some of the different types of company that one can choose to walk with. One can walk with people for company (therefore most likely chatting while walking), one can walk with a dog or other animal and one can walk alone. My sister was visiting a few weeks ago and I decided to try all three forms to see how they differed from one another. After trying all three I found that they were all pleasurable, but differed in terms of how mentally/emotionally and physically satisfied I felt afterwards.
My first walk was with my sister and her two children (both under the age of 3). We got a lot of exercise and were able to have a pleasant conversation, but were slowed down by the fact that we had two little ones with us, as well as by the fact that the physical exertion of carrying a child inhibited our pace quite a bit. After completing our walk, I found that I felt well exercised and had, had a nice time, but was unsatisfied mentally. Something was missing, but I wasn't sure what.
On another day, I went for a walk alone and found it to be not very relaxing. First of all, I had trouble finding the motivation to get out the door since I had so many things to do and there was no one to "kick" me out the door. When I finally got out the door and had started my walk, my mind began working and continued to work the entire time, trying to solve problems and thinking about homework assignments with due dates that were getting uncomfortably close. As I was thinking about these things (as well as others) my pace would slow until I would find that I was walking at a snail's pace. When I got home, even though I had enjoyed being out of doors, I didn't feel satisfied physically or mentally because I hadn't gotten enough exercise or mental relaxation.
Later that week, I took my sister's dog, Tighe, for a walk. Now, Tighe is a Border Collie. Border Collies need a lot of exercise, attention and mental stimulation, so I thought that I would change into running clothes "just in case I felt the urge to let him get a run". This thought was disguised under the fact that Tighe needed exercise, it was not until later that I realized that it was really something that I wanted. I had no trouble getting out the door because my motivation was that Tighe needed a walk. We headed down to a dirt road near my house which runs along the Kennebec River. I spent the entire mile down the road thinking about nothing in particular, occasionally speaking to Tighe and concentrating on keeping pace with him. When we turned around and headed back towards my car, I decided that Tighe and I would run the mile back. I know that if it had just been me, alone, I would never have run the entire mile, but instead of focusing on myself, I spent the entire time encouraging Tighe (who, of course, didn't need my encouragement) and after the first few minutes, I was able to just "sit back and relax" watching my legs moving rhythmically underneath me and began to, once again, think about nothing in particular. I came back from that walk, feeling physically and mentally satisfied. I was relaxed, happy and ready for anything!
As I said earlier, I enjoyed and found pleasure in all three of these walks, but I found that if I want to be 100% satisfied with my walk, then I should take a dog along. With a dog for company I can go at whatever pace I wish, I have company, but don't have to talk unless I wish to and I can give encouragement, which in turn, encourages me through the happy look on his face.