Walking Mindfully makes my heart sing. What makes your heart sing?

It has been over 6 months since Mark Pattenden inspired me to #MoveMoreInMarch so I thought it was time to update you.  I pledged to walk 100 miles in March – a goal which I achieved – and I have to say that I haven’t stopped walking since! It has become my favourite Saturday pastime. I walk with my friend Pauline Roberts, who is an amateur photographer, and we walk ‘mindfully’ – often in companionable silence – as we immerse ourselves in the beauty of our surroundings.

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Walking the beautiful Cotswold Canals

When I started walking in March, I ensured I ‘made time’ to walk every day, regardless of the weather and I have to confess that I haven’t done that for a while.  I much prefer to walk at the weekend, where we have slowly increased the distance we walk to a maximum of around 10 miles.  As I mentioned before we do walk ‘mindfully’ so we do not walk with the sole intent of reaching our destination in good time, nor do we engage in non-stop conversation which might absorb our consciousness to the point that we ignore our surroundings… instead we take our time, noticing beautiful things around us such as the shy robins who momentarily flash their red-breasts at us, confirming we are on the right path just as we are beginning to doubt ourselves, flirtatious butterflies who tease us with their colourful wings before folding them in as we try to photograph them, preening swans who sometimes pluck out a feather for us to take home, busy bees who play hide and seek amongst scented flowers blissfully unaware of us observing them, darting dragonflies with wondrous neon colours, ancient trees which reveal their hidden faces to us, babbling brooks which gently polish sparkling stones, blue skies brimming with glorious cloud formations…  and so much more.

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Pauline and I have both chosen to book time off work – a day here and there – to enable us to walk twice a week and we have been blessed with beautiful weather… at least on most of the days we have walked. There have been occasions when we have walked in rain, wind and hail and as the winter approaches, I am sure we will have many more wet-weather walks.  Will this stop us walking? No… but we might need to invest in some waterproof clothing!

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15 minutes after the heavens opened on us, the visibility started to clear

I was curious to find out how many miles I had walked over the last six months.  I felt it would fall far short of the 100 miles which I managed in March.  I am fortunate in that I have a Fit-bit which helpfully produces a weekly summary, so I transferred this information onto a spreadsheet and was surprised and delighted to discover that in 6 months (1st March to 31st August) I had walked 580 miles, which is not far short of 100 miles a month. Whilst that may not sound like much to the ‘more active’ readers of this blog post, it is a huge improvement on the amount of walking I had achieved previously.  My fitness level has definitely improved – I am actually able to walk and talk now, if I choose to – and although I have not lost any weight, my shape has definitely changed.

I have a lot to thank Mark Pattenden for.  We have been friends on social media for some years now and as I mentioned previously, it was Mark’s inspirational Facebook posts which motivated me to move more and I have seen many beautiful things over the last six months which have made my heart sing. 

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Spot the angel and the sniper…

In fact, I have started uploading some of the film clips I have taken during my walks to YouTube so that I can replay them and embrace the feel-good factor that they induce.   Mark and I are both volunteer fundraisers and in the past we have both (independently) created fundraising initiatives for several charities. Mark inspires people of all abilities and a few months ago I nominated him for the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award, for his voluntary work.  I was delighted when he was recently presented with the 754th Points of Light Award by the CEO of Archery GB – oh, have I mentioned that Mark is aiming to represent GB in Archery, at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo? As with all volunteer fundraisers, Mark has dedicated a huge chunk of his life to helping charities – now Mark is looking for support himself.  His goal is to raise enough funding to ensure he can continue training 6 days a week to fulfill his Paralympic dream.  I have donated to his crowdfunding page – I hope you might be inspired enough to do the same.

In the meantime I will continue with my weekend walks and brace myself for the colder weather.  I might just have to invest in a waterproof camera, unless someone knows how to take photos/videos with an iPhone in the rain WITHOUT ruining the phone?  Please comment below if you have any top tips.  

I believe it’s really important to do something in life which makes your heart sing.  It’s a key factor in self-care, which has been found to decrease stress, increase energy, improve well-being and evoke feelings of happiness.  

What do you do that makes your heart sing?

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#MoveMoreInMarch Is this pledge changing my mentality? Already?

Since starting my pledge to #MoveMoreInMarch, I had managed to walk 35.11 miles by the end of Thursday 9th March – an average of 3.9 miles a day – so I was well on track to achieving my pledged 100 miles (an average of 3.23 miles a day).

However, I woke up on Friday feeling overwhelmingly tired. It happens sometimes.  I saw clients in the morning, but by lunchtime my energy hadn’t returned.  I worked through the afternoon, hoping that the exhaustion would pass – it didn’t.  By the time I went to bed, I had managed a paltry 1.12miles or 2,639 steps.  I felt very frustrated, but interestingly – looking at my ‘Step history’ – I walked less than this distance on 10 separate days in February and didn’t feel frustrated about it then. Is this pledge changing my mentality? Already? When I went to bed last night I decided not to set my alarm and to sleep as long as my body needed, which was just over eight and a half hours and I woke far less tired than the previous day.

I texted my friend Pauline (a local amateur photographer) who had planned to go to Gloucester Docks today, to take some photos.  I decided I would walk to meet her and we arranged to walk to the Docks together.  As I left the house, I checked my Fitbit… only to notice the flat-battery symbol! How frustrating.  I grabbed the charger from the car, thinking I could charge it at Pauline’s prior to walking to the Docks.  I was about half-way into my journey when I realised I had picked up the phone charger instead of the Fitbit charger!

Thankfully, my Fitbit didn’t die before I arrived at Pauline’s.  She photographed the ‘miles’ and the ‘steps’ displayed, and from that point we were dependent on her tracker.  After a quick visit to the pharmacy for some blister plasters (I had made the mistake of wearing new trainers and very thin socks) we popped into the closest sports shop for some ‘padded’ socks, which I duly put on, before we continued to the Docks. 

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We detoured to Gloucester Quays Shopping Outlet, where we both bought proper ‘walking shoes’ (I confess that my heels were so sore that I wore my new walking shoes out of the shop!) before moving on to the Docks to take photos. 

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Arriving back at Pauline’s we noted how far we had walked.  To my surprise, despite the flat battery, my Fitbit was able to display my miles and I already knew how many miles my walk home would be, from walking to Pauline’s from my house in the morning.  To my delight, when I arrived home, my Fitbit managed to display the total miles I had walked today and sync with my iPad!  To say I’m impressed with the performance of my Fitbit is an understatement.

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It’s surprising how much you notice when you walk.  I spotted my first honey bee and my first bumble bee, both feasting on fragrant mahonia. In fact, walking through Barnwood Arboretum on the way home, my senses were seduced by the scent of the blossom.  It really is a beautiful time of year and it makes me think just how much I would be missing, if I hadn’t pledged to #MoveMoreInMarch. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, why not try it?

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