Cheryl and I started tracking the distance we walked, hiked, biked, and kayaked back in December of 2012 using a program called Endomondo. This tracks our location via GPS whenever we exercise. It's not a step counter, so it doesn't capture incidental walking, like the steps we make while we're at work or out shopping. It only tracks when we turn it on while deliberately going outside and exercising. (You can also manually input distance walked on a treadmill or stationary bike, but, except for once or twice when we first started using the program, we never do that.)
This morning, I checked our stats. Cheryl has now logged 5022 miles. I've logged 5296. If we'd been traveling in a straight line west, we'd have paddled past Hawaii by now. Heading east, I'd have already walked passed Moscow.
Look, if we can do this, almost anyone can. Cheryl and I aren't exactly elite athletes. Cheryl especially has faced some extreme challenges that knock most people off their feet, spending most of last year being treated for cancer with chemotherapy and radiation. To top it off, Cheryl has osteoarthritis in her left, meaning she has to wear a knee brace to walk or hike.
We also don't have magical access to some vast pool of free time. I work two jobs, a full time job during the day, and my career as a writer in the evenings. I run a book club and am a board member with the Orange County Friends of the Library. Cheryl has a full time job and is an active member of her church. We have time to watch TV, an hour or two most nights. But in the evenings before sitting down to watch TV, we get in a walk or a ride. On Saturdays, rain or shine, we make sure we set aside at least a couple of hours for a hike or a bike ride or kayaking.
It all adds up. The more you do, the more you want to do. Once you get used to biking ten miles, you'll want to start biking fifteen. When you see how much of the hidden world is revealed with a two mile hike, you'll start wondering what you might see with a five mile hike.
Once you get outside and off road, you'll realize that most of the world is out of sight of your car windows. There are mountaintops you'll only reach on foot. There are beautiful rivers winding through flooded forests you'll only witness via kayak. Biking has taken us along old rail trails where we see relics of a lost past as we travel through tunnels and fly across gorges on iron bridges. Even if you could reach a lot of these places by car, you'd miss the full experience sitting in an air conditioned box. On our ride yesterday, we kept close watch of the sky, because the wind smelled of oncoming rain. Climbing a hill, we breathed air perfumed with wisteria long before we actually saw the vines draping from trees along the trail. The day was hot and humid, the air thick, which made it all the more glorious when we passed through an old railway tunnel and felt the cool air flowing from it. And you don't really understand just how great water tastes until you've biked ten miles under a hot sun.
We draw inspiration from the people we see on these trails with us. Yesterday on the greenway, we passed a young man in a wheel chair. On the American Tobacco trail, we've seen old women with walkers over a mile from the nearest trailhead. We get passed by people on bikes who have to be at least ten years older than us. We've even once seen a blind biker (he was accompanied by what I can only describe as a seeing eye rider peddling in front of him).
This is your planet. That's your body you're inside. Use them! You'll be surprised by what you'll discover.