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Walking in Circles

Last night I glanced at my watch and recognized that the walk streak was in peril.  I did the math, adding the drive times ahead of me, my son’s college basketball game I planned to watch, and the number of steps I had to do to get there.  I pulled into the parking lot of a small college in Massachusetts, glanced around and thought this was it; streak over.  I had to walk 2 miles to get over the hump, or 4000 steps.  It was a bitingly cold evening and the sun was setting.  What to do?  Walk around the campus as it got dark?  Possible, but this wasn’t a campus to wander around in the dark.  Safe, but completely foreign to me.  I told myself to stop thinking about it and just get out there, left the warmth of the car and walked down the hill looking for a path.  And there was the outdoor track, sprinkled in snow but mostly clear.  One gate was left unlocked, inviting runners and walkers to take a spin but getting no takers until I came along.  Floodlights remained cold and dark, as if to say “Why bother?  What kind of fool would be on this frozen track tonight?”  Hey there dark floodlights, I’m your fool!

Did I mention the biting cold?  Yes?  Did I mention I was wearing business casual clothing with a light coat on and dress shoes?  No?  Well, that was the athletic attire for the two mile spin around the track in the darkening sky, shoehorned between work and a basketball game.  Take a lap, complain to myself about not bringing running shoes.  Take another lap, feel the cold seep inside the thin coat I wore.  Repeat.  But then something funny happened; I stopped caring about the cold and started checking the progress of my steps.  On a track there’s no mystery: 400 meters any way you look at it, repeat eight times and you get to 2 miles, which is what I needed to get over the top.  So I stopped whining to myself and got it done, and felt better for having done so.  The darkening sky was beautiful with the full “wolf” moon rising to mock my discomfort, and I smiled and mocked myself too.

The thing about 10,000 steps is that it isn’t all that much in the big scheme of things.  I recognize it’s the bare minimum and more must be done to be truly fit.  But it’s a promise I made to myself to keep the streak alive for as long as possible, and I’m tired of breaking promises to myself.  So the track workout checked the box for another day – 33 and counting – and I got into the warmth of the gym and watched real athletes compete at a high level.  I used to be on of them, rowing instead of basketball, but an extremely fit, disciplined college athlete.  Then a few decades slip by, work, kids, commitments…  and habits slide with promises unkept, but you forgive yourself and move on.  If my hour on the track in dress shoes told me anything, it’s that I’m less tolerant of excuses I make to myself.  10,000 steps is one small habit on a stack of small habits I’ve been tracking.  Instead of thinking about resolutions and big  transformation, I’m thinking small daily habits and keeping the streak alive another day.  It seems to be getting me where I’d like to go, even if it seems like I’m walking in circles.

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