Soul-Sustaining Scenery Versus the Treadmill


These are scenes from yesterday morning’s walk. A fresh snowfall, crisp air, and heavy boots to work up a sweat … what a lovely way to start the day 🙂 .

I’ve never been much of an “exerciser”. My pre-children attempts at exercise were sporadic, at best, and my post-children years have been even more dismal. I’ve watched as others (my husband and my sister-in-law, for example) have consistently managed to find the time for regular exercise, but I’ve always put other obligations (children and home) first, completely discounting and disregarding — disdaining even! — the whole don-your-own-oxygen-mask-first-before-attempting-to-help-others approach to self-care and health.

So after a lifetime of neglect, it shouldn’t really have come as any surprise when, about three years ago, I began feeling distinctly creaky in the hip area.

Slightly panicked and knowing I had to finally do something, but reluctant to be spending an hour in the basement on the treadmill, I decided to try going for a long walk after dropping our youngest off at school in the morning. But while I managed some mornings, it was still sporadic; I was letting the day and its obligations dictate the exercise, rather than scheduling the day around the walking. I was still letting myself be somewhat of a martyr to my family and my home. I was still putting my physical and mental health in the backseat, and it wasn’t until Deborah advised that I should view my walking as a prescription for health that I managed to completely turn my way-of-thinking around.

Our daughter sent us this very funny (and OH, SO TRUE!) video a few days ago, which completely fits with the theme of this post. If you haven’t already seen it, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did (but FYI, there is one partially beeped out f-word):



14 thoughts on “Soul-Sustaining Scenery Versus the Treadmill

  1. What beautiful pictures! I loved the video too. I actually was reading an article the other day that walking outdoors is actually can reduce the need for low-dose anti-depressants and can minimize ADHD symptoms in children. I’m not a doctor and I haven’t read the studies, but I know that for myself, a good long walk outdoors really can make the difference in my mood. I will say though – if it’s -20, I’m using my rowing machine 🙂


    1. Thank you, Kate! There are indeed many studies showing that exercise (indoors or outdoors!) can be just as effective as anti-depressants for many people; it wouldn’t surprise me if the outdoor exercise was proven to be even better! It’s amazing what nature/greenery/fresh air and sunshine can do for our overall well-being, isn’t it?! (And it’s so important for our children!) I even find the colour green to be particularly uplifting, especially what I term “the sweet green of spring” (that particular shade of new leaves in springtime) and I seem to feel better (less anxious) when I have splashes of that colour inside my home (in houseplants, say, or in items of decor).

      I don’t know if it’s pure stubbornness, or an overwhelming dislike of basements, but I will pretty much brave ANY temperature! I’ve walked wearing two pairs of long johns under my sweats, and with only my eyes peeking out from between my scarf and my hat 🙂 .


  2. I also love your photos! I am feeling very envious of your snow. I love a good long walk, too. I, too, have found it difficult to fit regular exercise in, even though I made the connection to my health some time ago. Sometimes I just can’t do that and do what my kids need. I did join a gym, and that made a huge difference for me. I take classes. Ibthinkni need the structure. Wish we lived near each other and could walk together.


    1. I’ve been trying really hard to walk five days a week, but I still end up deferring to kids and home on the weekends. I tell myself 5/7 is good enough for now, but I can definitely see ways 7/7 would be possible. Sometimes I feel like I could do SO MUCH better at all this if only I could make myself get up just a little bit earlier in the morning; despite the fact that I’ve often “resolved” to get up and go down to the basement at the same time my husband does, I simply never have. I think it’s fantastic that you joined a gym and are taking classes. I’ve often considered both those options (we have both a gym and a yoga studio within walking distance), because I’m quite certain my cardio isn’t as good as it should be, and my overall muscle mass could definitely use some work (the often-touted fact (?) that our muscles begin to deteriorate after the age of 40 is very worrisome to me, a person with precious little muscle mass to begin with!) … but I have never been able to work myself up to doing either.

      Since this past September, about half of my walks are now done in the company of a friend — a mom whose two boys are the exact age my boys are (and indeed our older sons are very good friends). Aside from the benefits of exercise and being out in nature, it’s also been wonderful to be able to bounce things off each other (concerns about the boys/school/life-in-general…). (But I do have to say that when my older son found out I was walking with his friend’s mom, he became quite “concerned” about what we were talking about! The weather, I told him 😉 ). I wish too, that we lived nearer to each other, Rita. I would love to go walking and talking with you!


      1. I think it’s easier when you have someone else depending on you. I haven’t tried to do that yet because I know I’m not dependable. Between kids and migraines, I just can’t stick to a firm schedule. I’ve realized that exercise for its own sake is not a huge motivator for me. I just don’t enjoy it that much. If I could couple it with spending time with a friend, I know that would get me moving more often.


      2. I know exactly what you mean with “exercise for its own sake is not a huge motivator”. My husband and older two kids LOVE to exercise…they’re all about the kilometres and the heart rate zones and the runner’s highs and the spandex and the bike computers, and while they all prefer to perform their exercise (whatever form they happen to be doing that day) in the great outdoors, they will happily head to the treadmill or the stationary bike when it’s pouring rain. But I won’t. I will walk in the rain, under an umbrella, or if it’s really bad I’ll simply miss out that day, but I have yet to head to the basement for my daily dose of “exercise for its own sake”. (But…I do feel that if I could only get myself into the habit — if I could just motivate myself to get up early for a week and join my husband — then once the habit was formed, I too might get to the point where I’d enjoy it the way they all do).

        When I first started my walks I was really motivated by Jules (Pancakes and French Fries), who was, at the time, documenting her daily walks on her blog. It seemed easier to compare myself to her (another “regular mom”) than to my own über-exercising family, and on the days when I couldn’t walk because I deemed painting the trim more important, I didn’t feel bad for standing-up a friend. That being said, when I first started, I told my friend in Edmonton, and she got inspired too, and for a while we “reported” our walking to each other, and encouraged each other remotely. Perhaps there’s a person whom you *know* would like to get into the exercise habit, but who would exercise independently and could therefore be an un-let-downable “virtual buddy” of sorts? Just a thought … 🙂


      3. Fitbit! I got one for Christmas last year. You can add friends and see their step totals. My daughter got one for Christmas as well. And even though she lives all the way on the other side of the the country, when I see her step count creeping up, it DOES motivate me to walk that day if I was starting to talk myself out of it or to go just a little bit farther.


      4. That’s fantastic, Kathy, that you and your daughter are motivating each other even from a distance! I love that we now have access to all this great technology that allows us to communicate more easily with each other, as well as to encourage each other to do good things 🙂 . Two Christmases ago, my husband bought me a Fitbit, and although I could see how it would be helpful and a great motivator, I knew I would be bothered by having it around my wrist all the time (I am a VERY weird woman…jewelry and what-not bothers me to no end; beyond my wedding band and a medic-alert bracelet and small hoop earrings which have been in my ears for at least a dozen years, I don’t wear jewelry!) — so the Fitbit was actually returned to the store. But because the idea of tracking my walks really appealed to me, my husband loaded an app called Runkeeper onto my phone. This allows me to track my walks via GPS, and because my husband and two older kids also use Runkeeper we can see each other’s activities and motivate each other. The app allows you to track a wide variety of activities (not just walking or running) and my husband and daughter (in particular) can get QUITE competitive with each other! My husband will say, Oh look, K- went to the gym this morning and then went for a run, and now she’s also gone for a bike ride! and that will motivate him to do even more as well! They also use something called Strava, which is a site which allows you to upload your runs or bike rides and which then ranks you amongst all the other people who are also running or riding in the same area. (Which is WAY too competitive for me, but they really enjoy this kind of thing!)


  3. Oh, that mock ad is hilarious! “Golf is not nature.” “Nothing in nature is clickable.” Spot on.

    Your photos are beautiful, too. For scenery that beautiful I might put on two pairs of long johns!

    I am an uber-morning-person, so I get up crazy early and go swimming. Twice in the last few months I’ve glimpsed a coyote on my neighborhood streets as I drove to the gym — which is so cool that it actually becomes a bit of a motivator!

    But lately I suspect that a half-hour of vigorous exercise first thing in the morning doesn’t cut it if the entire rest of my day is sedentary (it usually is). I wish there were more opportunities for “purposeful walking” around here, but my neighborhood is very suburban feeling. It’s kind of bringing me down to contemplate (and causing me to rant even more frequently than usual about Dutch paradise, etc. Oops!).


    1. Ah, I envy you your early morning swimming habit! I’m assuming you’re leaving early enough that your husband is still home with your daughter, and then when you return he can go off to work? (Or perhaps he too works from home?). I confess it’s always been the “logistics” of practices like yours which have seemed to be insurmountable roadblocks to me. (To be honest, I suspect I’ve used my husband’s frequent business travelling as an easy excuse for not being able to figure out how to exercise while having kids dependent on me). The really sad thing is, I already AM a morning person, and I wouldn’t actually even have to wake up ANY earlier than I already do in order to put in a good 45 minutes on the treadmill downstairs … if only I would wake up and immediately go exercise, rather than wake up and sit there enjoying a cup of coffee!

      There does seem to be a good body of evidence that is showing that a sedentary lifestyle, even when accompanied by a good dose of daily exercise, can be harmful. But “they” also seem to be saying that the fix isn’t really too difficult — it might simply be a matter of getting up and moving around every once in a while, as advised in this article: . Rita also had a great post a while back about the standing desk she rigged up at work: .

      We really are very lucky, living here, in that there is quite a bit of opportunity for “purposeful walking”. Just this afternoon I walked to the grocery store to pick up a few things and ended up logging a fairly vigorous 40 minute walk, which was really a very nice thing to do on a Saturday afternoon! But I too contemplate the “Dutch paradise” … because while I CAN walk to the grocery store (and the drug store and the library and the elementary school) it’s not at all like walking along a canal in Amsterdam.

      (And yes, all the little written “disclaimers” on the mock ad cracked me up too, especially the dig about golf! 🙂 ).


      1. Yeah, the gym opens at 5 so I am in the water by 5:05* and showered and home by a few minutes after 6. I don’t have to wake my daughter up until 6:45-7, so if I’m motivated, I can even get a half-hour of novel writing in while the house is quiet (I have not been motivated lately, I confess).

        (*I like to get there right when it opens because while I don’t mind swimming circles if there are 3+ people to a lane, I don’t like ASKING to swim circles — oh, the weird things that drive us!)

        THANK YOU for those links about getting up & moving if you work at a desk. I have been using a productivity method lately that involves 25-minute work periods interspersed with 5-minute breaks etc. — I am going to try to make sure I get up and move around and stretch during my break periods, rather than checking Facebook, etc. I suspect that will be better for my brain/productivity anyhow!

        Yeah, nothing does quite compare to an Amsterdam canal walk, does it?


      2. Oh, I SO *get* the “I must get there early so as to avoid X scenario” way-of-thinking — that is me, exactly 🙂 .

        I’m feeling very awed/humbled/inspired by your early-morning self-discipline, Sarah. And I hope it’s okay for me to say I’m rooting for you to find your motivation in the writing department again… When we lived in Minnesota I did a lot of writing in the early morning, before the kids were up and about … and then we moved here, and — for way too many reasons (which probably don’t belong in a comment!) — it all went to pot 😦 .

        And YES … Stretching > Facebook 🙂


  4. Hey, well done Marian! Getting started is the hardest part. The next hardest part is keeping it up. But then the thing about Nature is that your membership isn’t going to lapse if you don’t go there for a while, it will still be there waiting for you and all for free.

    Some of my walks are about getting from A to B, often to do the shopping or go to my volunteer job or something. But I’ve also added in some ‘wandering around aimlessly exploring my neighbourhood’ when there’s nowhere I need to be. Which I’ve found fascinating. It’s not always beautiful or even always interesting, but I have ‘discovered’ all sorts of nooks and crannies and surprises that despite living here for over 20 years I didn’t know where there.
    Funny how me inspiring you to get going inspired me to get going too! I love how that happens.
    Talking of which, the sun is shining suddenly, my lunch is eaten, and I need to get going.


    1. “…the thing about Nature is that your membership isn’t going to lapse if you don’t go there for a while, it will still be there waiting for you and all for free.” I love this, Deborah 🙂 .

      Sometimes, when the wind is just a bit too wicked coming off the lake, I will veer off my “regular” route and go in randomly amongst the streets and houses in my neighbourhood. I always find this fascinating too — I love seeing how other people live, so am always peering at their houses and gardens 🙂 .

      I think sometimes that rather a LOT of our dispensed advice is of the “I talk a good talk but am not necessarily walking the walk myself” variety…so it’s always a bonus when our own inspired words come fully around back to us and we end up helping ourselves!


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