1. Nothing, and I mean nothing calms you down when you’re anxious, depressed, or upset as much as a good fast walk. You leave the house a raging bull, and come back a placid cow. (Uh . . . now that I think about it . . . feel free to substitute a more appealing metaphor.)
2. When you walk somewhere instead of driving, you don’t have to deal with traffic or look for a parking place. This one is huge for me. Huge. I live on the west side of Los Angeles. There is always traffic and there is never enough parking, which means anyone who drives to a social event shows up late and tense. But we walkers? We’re on time and mellow. Possibly a bit sweaty. Maybe don’t hug us.
3. It’s the perfect excuse never to wear grown-up clothing. Look, we all know that soft cotton sweatpants and t-shirts are a hell of a lot cozier than shirts and pants with zippers, collars, buttons and all that fancy folderol. But it feels wrong to go about your daily business dressed like a toddler . . . unless, that is, you’re exercising. If you walk everywhere, you’re technically always exercising or about to exercise and can wear sneakers and elastic waists without apology.
4. So many podcasts. I started listening to podcasts during my walks a couple of years ago, and trust me when I tell you that I am way more interesting to sit next to at a dinner party than I used to be (that bar was, admittedly, pretty low). Thanks to podcasts, I have tons of interesting anecdotes and bits of information about almost any subject under the sun — even sports (if you knew me, you’d know how amazing that is and if you knew me, I’d have already talked your ear off about how basketball players make more free throws if they throw underhanded than the usual way, but they won’t do it because they think it’s uncool, a fact I learned from—you guessed it—a podcast).
5. You have an excuse to buy an expensive sun hat. Sun hats make you look like Ingrid Bergman. Crap. You’ve never even heard of Ingrid Bergman, have you? God, I’m old.
6. You start to get recognized. Before I was walking miles every day, I didn’t know any of my neighbors and they didn’t know me. But lately people have been hailing me as I walk by their houses and saying stuff like, “Hey, I keep seeing you out here–you walk a lot.” It’s nice to be recognized, even though I suspect the reason they notice me now is because I look like a total lunatic in my big Ingrid Bergman sunhat. They’re probably all warning their kids to stay away from ol’ lady LaZebnik. (Or, more realistically, ol’ lady LaBeznick—no one gets our name right.)
7. You know how sometimes you go out with your family and everyone’s in a pissy mood and you just want to get away from them but you all came in one car so there’s no escape? You have no idea how delightful it is at these moments to just wave your hand and say, “You guys go ahead. I’m walking.” Let them battle it out in the cramped backseat of the Prius—you’ll be floating home on your own peaceful island, listening to the soothing tones of Phoebe Judge or Nate DiMeo. Walk slowly. Enjoy the sights and the cool breeze. Linger under a tree. No need to rush back to those soul-sucking maniacs–also known as the people you love most in the world.
8. You will rule on FitBit. I’ve been steadily beating the pants off my FitBit friends for the last year or so by walking everywhere I can. It drives some of these competitive, athletic types crazy–they’re out there playing tennis and going to the gym and entering 5Ks, and all I’m doing is walking to Starbucks, but I’m still coming out on top of the weekly step count. I’ve never won at anything my whole life but I totally rule at FitBit steps.
9. Did I mention the whole “long walks will calm you down and restore your sanity” thing? Yeah, I did, at the beginning of this list. But it bears repeating because it is the real reason I plaster myself with a gallon of sunscreen every day and walk and walk and walk. I’m a wildly anxious person and pretty much the only thing that tamps the anxiety down to a manageable level is a walk that’s so long and brisk it leaves the demons far behind. Well, the only healthful thing that tamps down the anxiety . . . Which reminds me–
10. If you walk to a bar or restaurant, you never have to worry about driving home drunk. This one is self-explanatory.
“Sun hats make you look like Ingrid Bergman. Crap. You’ve never even heard of Ingrid Bergman, have you? God, I’m old.”
“No need to rush back to those soul-sucking maniacs–also known as the people you love most in the world.”