Thoughts of Love & Hope – entry #4

May 15, 2020

For much of my adult life, I have been a daily swimmer. I am not really a fast swimmer, but on a good day I can swim two miles faster than I can walk the same distance. Even with my computerized prosthesis (my C-Leg), my walking speed is fairly slow.

Because my beloved pool is closed, I’ve been using walking as my base form of exercise. I typically walk in Francis Park in the early morning, right after the sun comes up. Francis is close to my house and usually not very crowded, with plenty of space for physical distancing. Steep hills are tough for me, but Francis has manageable inclines and well-maintained sidewalks with very few cracks, which lessens my chances of tripping and falling.

Early on during the Covid-19 crisis, I decided to challenge myself for a month to try to increase my walking speed. I thought that the creation of a goal – and the work involved in achieving it – would bring me some contentment during an anxious time.

I did what I could to meet my goal: got plenty of sleep, loaded up energizing music (for me) on my phone, listened to motivational podcasts that encouraged me to “keep going,” tracked my walking miles-per-hour rate daily. And I walked as fast as I possibly could, head down, determined.

After maintaining these efforts for four weeks, I analyzed my walking speed results: no change in my average walking speed. Some days I walked at a rate that was a tenth of a mile per hour faster, other days two-tenths slower, but nothing consistent.

I returned to the park after that last day of the four weeks, having tried without success. As I started walking that day without worrying about speed, I realized a few things. I felt relieved that I was walking at a pace that felt comfortable, not rushed. My knee, which had been hurting during my fast walks, felt fine. I said hello to a lot more people than I had when I was concerned about my speed. I noticed a fairy garden that some children had built, totally unseen during my “speed walking.” Not needing motivation and energy, I turned off my music and the podcasts.

The silence gave me time to think and reflect, and within that reflection time, I discovered some truths. My desire to go faster was really because everyone else was going faster. There is absolutely no reason that I need to be able to move faster than I already do. And by slowing down, I became more connected to other people, more aware of my surroundings, more reflective and thoughtful.

So, the St. Louis region is entering Phase 1 of our reopening after sheltering-in-place for the last several weeks. And yes, my walking speed story is my metaphor (simplistic, imperfect, and not very eloquent) for the opening up of our region. We can take it slowly, and we should.

Ironically, one of the motivational songs on my “speed walking” set starts with Simon and Garfunkel singing, “Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last.”

Walking in Francis Park

The fairy garden that I came across