Here’s the thing. I HATE to exercise. However, I LOVE to walk. In recent years I’ve been pretty good about walking on the weekends, or in the evening after work — but only during the months when it’s light out until, say 7:30 PM or later. This doesn’t take me far enough through the year. What did the pandemic change?  At the office, the idea of coming back sweaty or having to bring the right shoes is just too complicated to sustain. Working from home, I have more flexibility to find time for my walk during the day versus only in the evening.

I’ve never been a great reader (we’ll set aside the irony that a huge part of my day job turned out to be reading and editing). And reading for pleasure typically makes me fall asleep. So, the advent of Audible and podcasts have been an incredible development for me. 

The pandemic has allowed me to develop the habit of reliably devoting about 5-10 hours each week to walking, listening, and sometimes talking. I have found that listening to podcasts or books, or catching up with dear friends and family does these things for me:

Makes the time go super-fast

Some people love to listen to music. I like music, but following a story makes the time go so much faster for me. 

Makes me look forward to the walk

I covet having the time to myself. I will admit that my sweet husband, who craves time with me, sometimes wants to tag along on my walks. I’ll admit I’m always torn between spending that quality time with him and giving up the “me” time to get engrossed in my current listen or to have a high-quality conversation with a friend or relative who lives elsewhere.

Expands my universe

I’m a big fan of memoirs. They make me feel like I’m doing triple-duty by getting exercise, staying entertained, and expanding my universe by hearing how others have moved through the world, and learning about worlds I know nothing about. So far during the pandemic, I’ve listened to 22 books. In case you’re looking for suggestions, here are my top 10 (in alphabetical order by author):

  • Open – Andre Agassi
  • Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir – Alan Cumming
  • Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins
  • The Ride of a Lifetime – Bob Iger
  • Stories I Only Tell My Friends – Rob Lowe
  • Here’s the Story – Maureen McCormick
  • Born a Crime – Trevor Noah
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
  • Hillbilly Elegy – JD Vance
  • Educated – Tara Westover

And these are some of my favorite podcasts:

  • The Moth
  • How I Built This with Guy Raz
  • This American Life
  • S-Town
  • The Michelle Obama Podcast

Helps me to do some of my best thinking 

Because I am not also checking email or focusing on the latest task at hand, my walks — even while I’m listening or talking — help me to work through big questions and develop new perspectives.  It’s nearly impossible to find time for this kind of thinking during other parts of the day, but during my walks, things become clear to me at a much higher level.

Let’s me stay truly connected

Many of my fondest peeps live in other cities. You can’t stay truly connected with an ad hoc 5-10 minutes here or there. When I’m in the office with employees or at home with the family, it can be difficult to find an uninterrupted space to catch up with dear friends and family. A 60-90 minute walk is the perfect opportunity, and doing so usually leaves me with a sense of satisfaction and belonging I don’t get otherwise.

Oh, also, I’ve lost a few pounds. Even though my family has incorporated its fair share of comfort foods into our pandemic routine: pizza, ice cream, baked goods, etc. This is….well, the icing on the cake!