When my ex-husband and I moved to L.A.—right around when those dinosaurs down the block took a permanent bath in the primordial ooze—we shared a car, which meant that one of us was usually walking somewhere. Back then, I thought nothing of walking two miles to our favorite bar, three miles to class, or four miles to the movies. It seemed a good enough way to justify a treat during my profoundly underemployed existence, and hey, you can eat as much as you want when you're literally walking your ass off.
At a certain point, though, we acquired a second vehicle—and with it, I'm sorry to say, the lazy, disconnected ways of the isolated and/or entitled Angeleno. As I moved from my failed screenwriting career to my thriving office-monkey career, driving felt like compensation for the degradation of suffering through honest employment (cf. entitlement, above). And then when my commercial acting career took off, having my own car was a necessity. The greenie types can squawk all they want about buses and bicycles; during those five-auditions-per-day years of the boom times, neither people-powered nor mass transpo was a realistic option.
Fast-forward a dozen or so years. But for the rare and delightful exception, my acting career is largely behind me, and along with it, the need to hustle my ass hither and yon at a moment's notice—and along with both of these and menopause, my midsection was becoming a upper-middle section. Clearly, the time had come for an adjustment.
My friend Alissa is a renowned Walker in L.A., and had been cheerfully forging the path, as it were, ahead of me. She'd become so adept at navigating the city sans car that she'd gotten rid of hers years before. And in between writing interesting articles about design, architecture, and her late, lamented gelato, she managed to put together a piece on how to reorient yourself to a car-centric town on your own power. Her breakthrough moment was drawing a two-mile radius around her house on a map, and seeing how much stuff fell within that radius—everything she needed, including a Target! She pledged to walk, bike, or take transit within that two-mile radius, and her life was forever changed. (And I do mean her life—her whole career ended up taking a new and exciting direction once her feet hit the ground.)
After hearing Alissa talk about it, our other friend, Heather, did a similar writeup of her walking experience. Clearly, my time had come.
* * * * *
Things that make walking AWESOME:
- You can skip the gym. I was doing this already, but now I don't feel guilty about it. At some point, I will have to fold in some strength training, but for now, I just lift the grocery bags a lot or buy the occasional overly large melon.
- You save a LOT of money you can spend on other stuff. I fill up my tank once a month now. Gas near my house is running $4/gallon. 'Nuff said.
- You arrive at your destinations calm yet energized. Maybe this happens to super-mellow people who drive, too, like driving monks, but it never happened to me. I generally arrive anxious and enraged, as I am the polar opposite of a driving monk. Except for the haircut.
- You get to see a lot more stuff and take a lot more photos. My sister is fond of shopping carts gone rogue. My pedestrian travels afford me many opportunities to bomb her inbox with stray carts.
- You instantly become both fascinating and impressive. I'm so used to walking 2, 3, and 4 miles—each way—that I forget it's an exotic thing. Yet it's still a safe topic for polite discussion, and far more interesting than traffic, weather, and sports.
* * * * *
Two more things before I go.
First, shoes—as in, having good ones is exceedingly important. I actually began my walking odyssey last spring, but I was walking in whatever hipster sneakers or civilian boots I had handy. These are fine for short jaunts, but for serious walking, they should be considered as dangerous as high heels. I ended up with weird leg pains and swelling that I was sure meant imminent death. One very expensive trip to the vascular surgeon ruled that out, thank God. But it was the few consultations I had with my cousin Karen, an alignment expert, that set me right. She did a diagnostic long-distance, and prescribed a series of exercises and relatively inexpensive accessories to help correct what I'd thrown off with overzealousness and ill-fitting shoes.
I'm now on my third pair of these Altra "Zero-Drop" beauties. If it is not immediately obvious, I am using the word "beauties" ironically, because merry christmas, them is some ugly-looking shoes. If it is not also obvious by the rollover, that is an Amazon affiliate link, because these run $100 a pop, and I burn through a pair every two months. I am also a convert to toe socks, although not so anyone can see. It just feels nice, each toe having its own snuggly socklet, and I find there's less chafing and sweating.
Second, and finally, competition: it makes capitalism and me run. Er, walk. Even when I was just competing with myself, walking with the Fitbit and seeing how many steps I'd accrued really incentivized me.
Now that I have a handful of friends on my leaderboard, I'm even more motivated, because I'LL BE DAMNED IF I'LL LET MIKE MONTEIRO BEAT ME.
In case you did not see the very obvious hovers, all the item links are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you click on them and then buy something—anything...even a potato chip at Amazon, I will get some money. Rest assured that it will not be much (especially if you buy a potato chip), and that it will all go toward the next pair of Altras.