Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Daily Walk Highlights COVID Lockdown

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, December 14 / 20

Zack Gross

In these days of limited mobility and sociability, your daily walk can become one of life’s highlights!  Taking a regular walk in our rural area used to be something we aspired to, but didn’t accomplish on a consistent basis.  Then, a combination of doctor’s orders as part of heart surgery rehabilitation and opportunity (time on our hands) during COVID, meant taking a daily walk (or two) was mandatory!

As senior people with not a lot of technological moxie, we were surprised when our adult children pointed out that the heart symbol on our iPhones was an app to report on the number of steps we take every day and the number of staircase we ascend.  Thus, we were now able to track our steps and, given the foibles of humanity, not only push ourselves to walk further to pile up more steps, but also to compete with one another for most steps each day.

Our first efforts were from our house to the local Canada Post outlet and back.  That is 2500 steps.  As my health improved, we pushed it, going to the shores of our lake two blocks away.  Thus, we achieved a round trip of about 3600 steps.  Then, we added heading north from the lake shore up the highway, for a couple blocks and then more.  As summer wore on and then into autumn, we added a lakefront walk, and going up and down different streets, until we were averaging 10,000 or even 12,000 steps per day.

After all, we had the time to do this, even as I continued to work part-time from home.  And one of the highlights became our physically distanced but socially satisfying visits with other walkers and neighbours along our path.  We are the friendly walkers who wave at every passing car and truck (unless they come too close or drive by too quickly) and we are the friendly talkers, who have met a neighbourhood filled with retirees, hospital workers, professors, artists, government workers, fishers and many others.

Thus, our walks have not only added more and more steps as we build our endurance, but have also become more time consuming as we chat with many that we meet.  The man who is always in his driveway working on his old Datsun.  The couple who use walking poles to propel themselves along racking up distances we will never match.  The lady who professes to walk ten miles per day and always has something sour to say.  The artistic lady who lost a silver bracelet and gave us a route to follow in the hope we’d come upon it.  The couple who sold their home, had it moved off their property and are now building a new one on the site (we take a photo every day).  The friendly guy who walks his three dogs along our route (just a few of the many dogs we encounter).

Our topics of discussion range from US politics to the weather, and from the pandemic to who has the best system for on-line Christmas shopping.  If we sense that we are straying onto dangerous ground conversationally, we back up and find something more neutral.  Photography is another appropriate topic as my wife carries her camera everywhere and gets great shots of birds, trees, ice and construction.  One man, however, wondered if we were spies, taking photos of our neighbours’ yards and then reporting infractions to the municipal authorities.  Who knew?!

Back to our competitiveness.  Although we are a couple who have survived 45 official years together, we are not above a little contention.  Thus, it is not unheard of, after our walk is over, for one of us to walk round and round our house to bump up our numbers against the other person’s total.  My complaint is that, as my wife’s stride is shorter than mine, even when we walk the exact same route together, she gets a 10% bonus in the number of steps taken.

Our final, and maybe our greatest, challenge is that on long walks after two cups of coffee in the morning, at least one of us inevitably needs a washroom when we are still far from home.  As there is a community centre located about half way through our usual journey, I am considering running for its Board of Directors, in the hope that I would get a key and then have access to their facilities.

Ultimately, a silver lining for us in COVID lockdown has been the opportunity to learn the physical and mental health benefits of long walks, the beauty of our local area, and the friendliness of our neighbours in the face of our shared challenge to survive well during the pandemic. 

Zack Gross is Board Chair of
The Marquis Project, a Brandon-Westman international development and education organization. When not walking, he continues working at global issues from his home office.

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