“Any day you had gym class was a weird school day. It started off normal. You had English, social studies, geometry, then suddenly you’re in Lord of the Flies for 40 minutes. You’re hanging from a rope, you have hardly any clothes on, teachers are yelling at you, kids are throwing dodge balls at you and snapping towels—you’re trying to survive. And then it’s science, language, and history. Now that is a weird day.” ~ Jerry Seinfeld
“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
I have sneakers, I know I do. I have scores of shoes, but my sneakers are likely shoved in the dusty back corner of the closet—with the pointy elfish-green flats and the deep purple suede pumps. This is where bad shoes go to die.
Poor, neglected tennis shoes—it’s not them, it’s me. I hate exercise. I hate getting sweaty and having to take another shower. I hate workout clothes (calling them clothes is a stretch, pardon the pun). Most of all, I hate the boredom—as well as the interruption to an otherwise perfectly nice month.
But there’s plenty to like about exercise, or about having done it. So I’ve started a regimen that doesn’t derail a good hair day. I go on what I call walks of interest.
For about twelve days a year—six in the fall and another half-dozen or so in spring—Atlanta’s weather is pretty, and by pretty I mean not scorching hot. Right now, autumn’s ripe, so a motivation factor of, out of ten, a two to about a seven or eight begs me to get up from my desk and move muscles.
I know I have muscles.
Leaving my yoga pants in the drawer (with the store tag still on), I head out in my street clothes, a skirt and blouse or a dress with a cardigan, tights and comfy lace-up ankle boots. This is my uniform, the clothes that make me feel like I’m having an actual day, like an office worker or, say, a lawyer or prosthodontist (someone with steady employment). Only I guess I present more like a nerdy barista or a librarian. Or maybe a museum docent. Anyways, my duds and I drive to a spot that has stuff to, you know, look at. And then we walk.
Sometimes I choose a rural route, strolling by cow pastures and horse farms. I don’t have to go far for this—less than five minutes or so, and I can bring the dog along. With a hound at my side and a rust-colored sweater around my shoulders, I pretend I’m British. (Do you think C.S. Lewis, a great walker, wore Under Armour as he traipsed the English countryside?) Never mind the distinctly Southern smells coming from rows of chicken houses or the litter in the ditches—boxed wine and Coors Light cans and KFC bags.
Today was agreeable, a mere seventy degrees and sunny, so I wanted the afternoon’s walk of interest to be especially delicious. I was in the area, so I hit Canton Street and some of its tributaries, an older section of Roswell with restaurants and boutiques and sweet little houses turned beauty salon or pet biscuit bakery. During my 45-minute jaunt I saw a man with a bulldog on a leash and a baguette tucked under his arm—probably to go with his supper—perhaps a lovely stew. He’ll sop up the juices with the crusty bread, I imagined. I also noticed: a fellow, wearing a tweed sports jacket and wool cap, smoking and having an espresso at a sidewalk table; a foursome of beautiful women who looked delighted to have gathered, sipping wine and speaking and laughing in a tongue I’m pretty sure was Hindi; and an unruly perennial garden, tucked behind the pie shop. (A whole shop for pie—coconut cream and chocolate pecan and a spiced apple pie so epic it’s a foot high if it’s an inch.)
It is good, once in a while, to be a tourist in one’s own town, don’t you think?
As I amble along, appreciating my corner of the planet, my mind wanders. Today, I made like I lived in a city like New York, where women stay thin by simply leaving their house in the morning. Walking with a purpose—to work or to pick up milk or meet a friend— must be one of the great pleasures of life in Manhattan. You might discover a hole in the wall that serves gorgeous Italian pasta—or a darling coffeehouse. From a cab, you can’t experience the city’s nooks and crannies—roasted chestnut vendors and iron-laced brownstone steps and the violinist playing for pocket change. Thus entertained, women in New York get to log miles effortlessly while looking terrifically chic.
Not that I’m nearly that glamorous, or that the pet biscuit bakery window is as magical as the window display at Stuart Weitzman.
Now that I think about it, walks of interest are mainly what the spouse and I do on vacations. After a leisurely breakfast we get all dandy-fied and walk—the busy market streets of Seattle or the quiet roads of a small town in Maine—until lunch (if second breakfast doesn’t come first). Then there’s more walking, a nap, and a walk to dinner. I’d argue we get a decent sense of a place via aimless exploration. Besides, how else but on foot are you going to uncover the best restaurants?
Today, after my Canton Street walk of interest, I was parched. I had exercised! I went to the café, the one with the tweed jacket guy, and ordered hot, black tea. And—there might have been an almond croissant.