I Walked 6 Miles a Day to Cope With Stress — Here's What Happened After 2 Weeks
Before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, I was going to CrossFit Monday through Friday and teaching yoga every Sunday. I went from working out six days a week to not feeling motivated to exercise at all. I was too upset about everything, and forcing myself to do home workouts felt, well, forced. That, coupled with prepping meals and snacks for my kids all day long and having the time to cook elaborate vegan meals and decadent desserts (hello, stress baking!) every day, made me gain a little weight. I know this is normal and I wasn't upset about it — I just didn't feel like me. My energy was low, and I just felt drained and dull, not like my usual vibrant, strong, and confident self. So to get back on track to feel a little bit more like myself, I set a goal.
Why I Committed to Walking 6 Miles a Day
It's been six weeks of social distancing where I live, having the kids out of school and trying to juggle homeschooling while working from home — eek! Emotionally, it was really overwhelming, so the first two weeks I didn't do much of anything movement-wise. Weeks three and four, I still didn't feel like pushing myself to do burpees or push-ups, but I did aim to walk three miles a day, which was about 7,000 steps.
The past two weeks I was finally feeling more inspired to exercise at home. Working out three or four times a week is what I felt ready for, and since walking felt so good, I decided to commit to six miles a day. It was something I knew I could get done every day since I hooked my old treadmill up to my standing desk. Plus, I was going on one or two walks a day with my family.
How Long Did It Take to Get in 6 Miles?
Walking six miles, which is roughly 15,000 steps, took me about two to three hours, depending on how I broke it down. A few days in the past two weeks I ran a few miles, which made it take less time, but mostly I just got the distance in throughout the day. When I woke up early to work, I'd aim to get about 1.5 to two miles on my treadmill desk. I walked very slowly while typing, so it took about an hour. Later in the morning, I'd go for a 30-minute walk with the kids, then I'd work more in the afternoon to get another few miles. If I hadn't reached my six miles by dinner, I'd head outside with the family for a before-bed neighborhood stroll.
Was It Enjoyable or a Chore?
Having this little challenge with myself was motivating! I used my FitBit Versa 2 to keep track of my distance, and monitoring my daily miles was the little push I needed to stay active.
It has actually felt really good to slow things down and step away from my super-intense CrossFit workouts. I can focus on just breathing, enjoying the company of my family, and waving to the neighbors (from at least six feet away!). A few times, I headed outside alone or with my dogs, and the solitude of listening to inspiring podcasts or having long talks with friends was so nurturing for my soul. It never felt like a chore, but rather like a gift I could give to myself. Some days I even felt inspired to do more than six miles!
Did Walking 6 Miles Help Me Lose Weight?
It's only been two weeks, but I already feel leaner having dropped a few pounds. But more importantly, I feel stronger, more energized, and more like myself. I realized that I was using snacking as a coping mechanism when I was feeling stressed, upset, or worried, and heading outside for a quick walk actually made me feel better than reaching for handfuls of nuts or squares of dark chocolate. The fresh air, moving my body, and breathing deeply helped settle my feelings. Spending time with my kids on outdoor walks, pointing out the signs of spring, and stumbling upon the sweet surprises neighbors left outside made me feel especially grateful and hopeful — this was my favorite benefit of walking.
Setting this goal and sticking to it has also strengthened me mentally. Instead of being upset that my life has been turned upside down, I'm appreciating the opportunity to slow down and take notice of the important things in life. I have more patience and kindness toward my kids when they refuse to do their schoolwork, or are being too loud for me to do my own work. Overall, I just feel less reactive, more in control of my emotions, and happier.
Will I Keep Going?
Yes! I'm loving my daily walks and appreciate all the rewards it has offered me. The knee and plantar fasciitis pain I've had for the past year has just about gone away. I also feel more calm, I'm sleeping better, and love the motivation this daily challenge is bringing to my life. I accept that it's OK if I don't feel like doing an intense, sweaty CrossFit workout at home. But instead of doing nothing and feeling unaccomplished, I can always just take a walk and feel like I did something positive for myself.
Walking is something simple I can do that keeps me healthy, both mentally and physically. Coming from a running background, I never really appreciated that walking could be so valuable. But after reaping all the benefits of walking six miles a day for two weeks straight, I can't help but be inspired to keep going.