Time for a Shoulder Season Stroll

I typically consider this time of year Pie Season. It’s a precursor to Training Season, during which time I carb-load for several weeks on pie, stale Halloween candy discards and homemade eggnog. Some of the more ambitious skiers in our circles may take pre-ski classes where they bounce around on their knees. I just try to gain enough weight to make walking bouncy. It’s easier than one might think.

Shoulder season in the fall is different than its spring counterpart. Days are still growing shorter and the ominous promise of Seasonal Affective Disorder and Post Holiday Blues have many of us dismal even before winter has begun. Which is why this season is so deserving of our attentions and intentions.

It is also why I pitch the merits of nourishment, self-care, and the time-tested tradition of an old-fashioned stroll. When all else goes to hibernation, when leaves disintegrate to add nutrients to soil, when short days and long nights leave a sleepy suggestion of rest, perhaps we should heed our own natural inclinations.

While these differ for everyone, there appears to be a predisposition to squash soups, naps and knitting. Some seek indoor satisfaction on the courts or in the weight room. I argue it is the best time to embrace the simple practice of walking. Outdoors—because studies show nature exposure in particular improves our health.

The art of the post-meal walk, long perfected by the Germans as a digestive necessity perhaps because they wrapped up their meal with a shot of Fernet-Branca, and the contemplative amble through nature have all but disappeared. Great minds of generations have used walking to solve problems and theorize their way to historical impact. Perhaps we, too, are all great minds sorely in need of a walk not narrated by a podcast or a pop song.

The benefits of walking are myriad, although perhaps docile for the outdoors person accustomed to varieties of sport that threaten to blow up their heart or adrenal glands. (Neither are actually possible, though it may feel like it from time to time.) Even to the active athlete, walking is a joint-friendly, peaceful way to nurture longevity, reduce blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, increase creativity, increase endorphins, support cardiac health, improve digestion, and more.

What is not always understood about walking is how restorative it is in the process of achieving everything listed above. It does not require the kind of motivation a high-intensity workout requires, or even the creative layering to consider when sweating heavily in cold temperatures. One needn’t even sweat at all. There’s no need for a special wardrobe or equipment, barring common sense weather and lighting precautions.

Merely bundle up, step outside, and let your feet wander and mind wonder. You might discover this is your favorite season of all.

Ammi Midstokke lives in the mountains of North Idaho and loves walking in the woods year-round.

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