The twilight walk: exercise for those who prefer the shadows.

For a couple of weeks now, more days than not, I’ve been doing something a little different. About an hour before sunset, I leash up my dog, grab my purse and keys, and drive ten minutes to a particular neighborhood in White Bear Lake. Then I walk. And look at things.


I know I could just head out my front door on foot and go, but I don’t enjoy the sprawling lawns of the neighborhood surrounding me as much as I do the village gardens, snugged up next to each other.

It’s not really exercise, because:

  • I don’t change into anything resembling workout wear.
  • I don’t walk for any set time.
  • I pause, stop, even sit down whenever I feel like it.
  • I neither break a sweat nor raise my heart rate.
  • I’m not miserable.

See, to me, real exercise has always been something one does at the gym or in front of a blaring TV. It’s loud, and bright, and unbearably upbeat. If you know me, you know that’s not my favorite kind of environment. If you read this blog, you probably don’t care for it much either.

Even so, I’ve been thinking lately that I have to start going to the gym again. These 10-18 hour days of sitting in an office chair – hunched over a keyboard until my back locks up and my mousing wrist gets hot –  are turning me into an old woman. But I keep putting that off, because the process is such a chore. I’ve been off that horse for a while, and climbing back on doesn’t appeal.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t spent much time resolving to go back. Ever since I quit the job at the hotel, I’ve been so focused on writing that I’ve been neglecting my body. In fact, I wasn’t even thinking about my health when I started the walks … I just felt bad for my dog, who was cutting short his own (purely utilitarian) daytime walks because of the heat and humidity. Guilt and concern made me take him out one cool evening.

Now we go because that first pity-walk made me remember that I need to unkink. So it IS exercise, even if it’s no fitness walk. It’s just as good for my mind and soul as it is for my body. I already feel a little better physically. And I’m remembering how good it feels to actually move around.

Yesterday, I skipped the walk. I watched Dexter with Ogre, then worked on the mostly-invisible blog revisions some more. By the time I was finally ready to quit for the day, it was so late that my normal walk might have gotten me arrested for casing the neighborhood. I was a pretty much one big knot of tight muscles. I wasted a minute or two shaming myself for not taking my opportunity to walk. 

Then I spent 10-15 stretching out. I used some of the yoga poses I remembered from classes I’ve taken, and I made up some by paying attention to what my shoulders and lower back were telling me to do.

Before I started my twilight walks, I wouldn’t have thought to stretch out. I might have climbed into a hot bath, but I would most likely have just gone to bed, hoping sleep would fix me before it was time to sit down at the keyboard again.

So, in its own way then, this twilight walk has been the best kind of exercise. Not only will I do it happily, it has energized me enough to take another step in the right direction.

In case all this talk of feeling better hasn’t been enough to send you out the door, here’s a sampling of the kinds of things I see.

It’s worth the drive to go to a place that feeds your soul.