Morning Constitutional

Here I am referring to the original use of this phrase, "a morning walk". 

The New Oxford English Dictionary defines "constitutional" as 

noun (dated): a walk, typically one taken regularly to maintain or restore good health.

I used to be a runner. I didn't start running until I was 39 and at that time I started because I was joining friends in my first ever marathon training program. I had never run more than 1/2 a mile by choice at that point.

Quickly in the program I got up to 5 miles and then 7 and then 8 and during this time I developed severe shin splints. At least that's what I thought they were. Turns out, after an 11 mile limping run, I had actually gone from shin splints to fractured tibia. Apparently I have a high tolerance for pain. 

I took a few months to recuperate and continued over the next three years to run and be plagued by injuries. But I did enjoy it. I went on to run several half marathons in San Francisco as well as a number of smaller 6K and 10 K races. 

Two years ago I developed severe swelling and fluid on my knee. Later we learned this was from my auto-immune disease and potentially also Lyme disease. 

So I became a walker. 

I ADORE walking. At first I struggled with how much TIME it took to cover the same ground as I used to do (3-4 miles) in the mornings before taking the kids to school. But once I got used to it, and discovered audiobooks, it changed my life.

I walk the kids to school most mornings (just under a mile one way) and then I continue walking for another 30 to 45 minutes up and down hills, taking photos, listening to great stories, greeting dogs and saying, "Good Morning!" to passing walkers and runners. Some days my disease makes me too tired to get out there and I hate those days. Walking makes me feel good, even if sometimes I'm feeling shaky and weak while I'm doing it. It gets my blood moving. I gives me fresh air and quality alone time. I get a LOT of books read on my walks. Since the end of August, I've re-read (by listening) the entire 8 books of the Outlander series, all six books of The Mortal Instruments Series, the first four books of The Lost Kingdom Series, and the most recent book, Lamentation, by one of my favorite authors C.J. Sansom. 

Walking also allows me something that running did not. The ability to go slow enough to stop and literally smell the roses. I take lots of photos on my walks and they often become the inspirations for dye projects and knitting designs. 

My husband and I met in a Buddhist meditation group. Each Tuesday night we met as a group and sat for two twenty minute sessions with a five minutes walking meditation in the middle to stretch our legs. Walking mediation can be a powerful thing, especially if done barefoot in the forest or field. Feeling the connection with the earth and the energy moving up from the earth and down from the body is a beautiful thing.

Try it sometime yourself. Find a field or forest path where you feel safe going barefoot. Remove shoes and socks and allow your feet to really feel everything under them, each blade of grass, each leaf, every speck of soil and mud. Feel grounded and steady.

Begin to take very slow, measured steps, focusing on what you are feeling, not just in your feet but all around you. Continue in your slow, measured pace and stay in the moment. Try not to let your thoughts wonder. Just stay with your present experience. At some point you will feel it's time to stop. I usually like to take a few minutes to sit and reflect before I don my socks and shoes and head back. Connecting with nature and the earth this way is really powerful and it's a great way to recharge your batteries. 

Do you have a favorite practice in the morning? What can you not live without doing every morning?