The following is an excerpt from the best-selling book, "Get Your Walk On." It's also now an online course!
I started filming walking videos for the Billion Steps Challenge in January 2020. Then, COVID hit, and my walking videos became about encouraging other people to get outside, how the diffusion of molecules made the disease less likely to spread, how being outside boosted your immune response, and also increased vitamin D production. My walking videos became about my health and encouraging others to be outside because "outside was okay." If you check out How Healthcare Works on Instagram or the How Healthcare Works YouTube channel, you can see the original walking videos from the past two years.
I originally started the walking videos in Grain Valley, Missouri. Because of the cold weather in Missouri, many days I would walk around my living room or my basement or do steps in my home just to reach a few thousand steps a day. As time went on, I needed to get more creative with the steps because I was trying to reach 10,000 steps a day...regardless if the step count was a marketing campaign or not. Some days, I felt like I needed to get out of the house no matter what. Then, I made getting out of the house and doing my walking videos a routine. Even in the winter, I was out of the house getting my walk on.
Although I didn't say so, I knew while I was doing the walking videos that my life was about to change dramatically. In the first year of the walking videos, in July 2020, I left my 12-year-long relationship and moved to Idaho with next to nothing. I didn't have anything. Yet, in the videos, you would never know because I only looked happy walking and being in nature. That's because when I was walking in nature, I was very happy.
I loved the trail I walked on in Missouri very much, don't get me wrong. I knew the trail so well. I knew all the turns, the shade spots, and the best places to stop and rest. I loved seeing neighbors walking beside me. The trail was only 0.9 miles, and I would make more than ten laps on the trail some days. Every time, there was something to look forward to, a new spot of shade, a new face to greet, or the same old fountain for a drink of water. I can see the clear, blue Missouri sky above me, and sometimes the grey sky, too. I can still see the hill looming ahead of me in the distance, and I can still hear the neighbors' voices as they stopped and talked to me on my way home.
When I moved to Idaho, I felt the same kind of camaraderie on the trail that I did in Missouri. I have friends in both Missouri and Idaho that I met on the trail. Every time I go for a walk in Idaho, it's like a new adventure, and I discover something new. If I walk in a familiar place, I love seeing familiar faces. Countless times, other trail-goers and I have stopped to observe deer, beaver, birds, or other wildlife...or simply to exchange pleasantries. I love hearing the water flowing beside me in the Boise River, and I love seeing people rafting, floating, kayaking, fishing, or swimming nearby. Even if I am not on the river boating or swimming, it reminds me of times when I kayaked across and swam in lakes or played along the water's edge, whether it was a lake, river, or ocean.
Most of all, I know that whatever kind of day I'm having, if I go for a walk on the trail, I'm going to feel good when I get there and when I'm done. I know that moving my body releases hormones that make me feel better, but it's more than that. I can walk on the trail, and I feel accepted, included, a sense of belonging, and like my true self. I don't have to be anything or anyone but me when I am out walking. I can walk as long as I want (sunlight permitting), and I can walk as fast or as slow as I want. I gratefully get to spend time marveling at the trees and the ecosystems, and the amazing peacefulness that exists within a city. I'm out creating memories that I wouldn't have made in my day-to-day life, and those very memories were the ones I thought of when I had COVID myself. Those same memories also help me keep moving, from the day I wandered across a bald eagle habitat, to the day three deer were playing in the woods across the river, or to the day I noticed the beautiful archway the trees made above the trail. Every day, there is something new and special about my walk...even if that something special is making it through the heat and getting home to a nice cold glass of water.