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Observations From a 20K Day

Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, and I’d planned to do just that. There shall be no hiking or waterfall chasing for you, I told myself. But when you believe that we aren’t built to be sedentary beings, eventually those rigid thoughts of who we ought to be evolve into action. I wrapped my mind around 20,000 steps as a goal for the day, no matter what. What is the first rule with any goal? Putting ourselves in the best position to achieve that goal.

The path to a 20K day really began a few years back, when I decided I was going to buy a push mower and walk the lawn instead of driving around on it. Would it be nice to sit on a cushy seat with a cup holder? Of course! But my work has me sitting entirely too much already. Mowing, trimming and leaf blowing the yard easily knocks off 4000 steps in roughly an hour. Is that the equivalent of hiking a 4000 foot mountain? Of course not, but it’s a starting point for an active lifestyle, and a head-start towards my activity goal for the day.

I’ve hit 20K just doing yard work, but a change of scenery was in order. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon there were many choices available, but I opted for the local rail trail. As with beaches, I favor the rail trail when few people venture onto it, during snow or light rain, in the early morning or dead of winter. The rail trail in the middle of the day during peak season is an entirely different experience.

A rail trail is popular because you’re safely removed from automobile traffic, but there are other hazards to consider. As on a highway, one must skate one’s lane and be predictable to avoid collisions. Hoards of cyclists, joggers and walkers descend on the trail, making it near impossible to be on a spot where there isn’t someone in your line of sight. e-bike Andretti’s zip past at breakneck speed, and clumps of independent teenagers on bicycles ride towards you shoulder-to-shoulder leaving you the choice of standing your ground or stepping aside (there’s magic in the moment they realize that you’ve—responsibly—put the choice back on them).

In the off-season on this rail trail, I would immerse myself in the nature around me. There’s surely a lot more to witness when sharing the path with hundreds of people on a long walk. Inevitably, you begin to people watch. Humans are quirky. Fashion on the path runs from traditional breathable fabrics to bold statements of individuality. Of all the travelers, the e-bikers seemed to be the most outlandish, fully kitted with fishing poles or picnic baskets, small dogs poking out of backpacks, and fat tires announcing they’re about to pass you from 100 meters away. It was an impressive display, and reminded me of the parade of custom golf carts seen at 55 plus developments and campgrounds around the country. But I was here for walking, not powered transportation. There’s relative simplicity on a rail trail: you walk one direction for as long as you want, then you turn around and walk back.

The thing about goal-setting is that we know the obstacles before we begin, but we don’t always account for them in our bold declaration that we’re going to do this thing. The only things that get in the way of completing a good goal are available time, resources (like health) and willpower. Hitting fitness goals usually comes down to simply beginning and not stopping until we’ve met our objective. On a day of rest I decided to hit 20K, not exactly a bold number but high enough that it required my time and attention. It also served as a reminder that I’m not ready to retire to an e-bike and backpack dog just yet. There’s still so much to do.

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