Last December, I made an ambitious New Year’s resolution: In 2016 I would walk 2,000 miles on an “imaginary trail.” I made this resolution publicly with trepidation, knowing that there were numerous reasons that could cause me to humiliate myself by failing to walk an average of 5.5 miles a day, seven days a week for an entire year.
I was concerned that snow, rain and extreme hot or cold weather could keep me inside for extended periods. I worried that I would twist an ankle, requiring me to stay off my feet. I travel a lot, and it’s hard to rack up mileage in the aisle of a plane on a transcontinental flight. Most of all, I was afraid that I would simply grow weary of the burden of hitting that daily target and have trouble motivating myself to walk.
But there was no reason for all that angst. I’m proud to report that I beat my goal and will finish the year with about 2,200 miles logged on my Fitbit—an average of 6 miles per day, or the approximate distance from Washington, D.C., to Utah. And you know what? It really wasn’t that hard.
Here’s how I did it:
1I made it a daily routine.
For the last year, on most week days, I walked 2 miles on the way to work in the morning, a mile at lunch and another 2 miles going home. As this became an ingrained habit, not only did I not have to force myself to get up and do it, but I didn’t feel quite right when I didn’t. Walking became part of my everyday routine—and eventually felt as natural as brushing my teeth and taking vitamins.
2I suited up.
As I walked through the seasons, I became more sophisticated about my clothing. In the dead of winter, I learned how to layer so I could be warm at the outset but could shed a layer if necessary. In the middle of the summer, I packed office clothes in my backpack while wearing shorts and a T-shirt. In spring and fall, I learned the value of a knee-length raincoat and—not surprisingly—that a 2-mile walk in new penny loafers was not preferable to a walk in shoes designed for walking. And spending this much time as a pedestrian in an urban area convinced me of the importance of wearing a blinking light while walking along city streets with fast-moving traffic after dark.
3I was resourceful.
Travel wasn’t as big an impediment to walking as I feared. I tried to build time into every trip for a walk on a local trail. I have fond memories of long walks on the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Hank Aaron Trail in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the Historic Battlefield Trail in Brownsville, Texas. While not nearly as scenic, I also found that airports can be great places to walk during a flight delay or a long layover.
What's Next in 2017?
After successfully achieving my resolution, the question became, “Will you make the same resolution in 2017?” And the answer is: “No.”
While I have enjoyed the daily routine during the week, there were times over the weekend when I would have preferred to be out doing something else active rather than walking to hit my mileage number.
And as a result, I’m making a different resolution this year: I will burn at least 2,500 calories per day on at least 90 percent of the days in 2017. This resolution will permit me to continue my walking routine during the work week, and provide the flexibility to get my physical activity during the weekend from biking, yoga, raking leaves, shoveling snow or things I haven’t yet imagined. I will let you know how I’ve done next December.
No matter what your 2017 resolution may be, I hope my 2,000-mile walking journey has helped inspire you—and given you some helpful tips—to meet or beat your active lifestyle goal this year.
Best of luck, happy New Year and happy trails!