The Art of Grace: On Walking

092816-unsplash“Walking is man’s best medicine.”
(Hippocrates)

I love walking.

Well, I actually call it hiking because that sounds more masculine. It is the cornerstone of My Philosophy for Lifelong Exercise. Hiking is part of my year round exercise program. In the summer months I team up 3-4 days per week of hiking with a couple of paddle boarding sessions. In the winter, I partner it with two or three sessions a week of resistance training in the gym.

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I walk for charity too. This past Saturday, I completed a 28.3-mile hike along the Foothills Trail. Dozens of other Make-A-Wish volunteers like me started in the morning darkness of the mountains of North Carolina, crossed into South Carolina and ended outside the town of Lavonia, Georgia in the late afternoon. Our event is called the Trailblaze Challenge. My goal is to raise money to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich their lives with hope, strength and joy. There are still 42 days remaining to reach my personal goal of raising $28,300. To help me help the Wish Kids and Share in the Power of a Wish® – donate here!

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I even write about walking. My Walk Around the World: Wearing a Fitbit is about how wearing a Fitbit tracker helps me lead a healthier, more active life. You Have Permission to Stop Running is about how hiking became important to me after suffering a back injury in my forties. And My Philosophy for Lifelong Exercise lays out the philosophy I have developed and practice every day to use exercise like fuel to energize every aspect of my life.

Yes, I love walking. So when I stumbled upon the most awesome writing on walking while reading The Art of Grace: On Moving Well Through Life, I contacted the author, a lovely woman named Sarah Kaufman, to ask permission to post the excerpt directly from her book so I could share it with you. I’m delighted to report that she said yes! So here it is:

… if you watch people walk, most of us sink into our hips. To counterbalance a sagging core, our shoulders, neck, and head jut forward. This is not graceful. If you are pulled down, sinking into your hips, you cannot also be pulled up.

Your midsection is your source of propulsion, and if you collapse there, you’re crushing all your power. There should be a comfortable tension in the torso: it lifts the abdomen and hips against gravity, while it also helps relax and ease the shoulders down slightly, so you don’t look like you’ve got a coat hanger stuffed under your skin. Think of the front and back planes of the body as sandwiching your middle, with that satiny little corset hug.

Walking ought to be a pleasure. It is perhaps the most primal and profound expression of grace that we have. Walking carries us through life; it carries us into the world, sending our bodies out to explore and contemplate and interact with other people and feed our nervous systems and our souls. Ease in doing it radiates throughout your whole body and your spirit. This is your grace, the buoyancy to which you are entitled. Walk as much as you can.

I thought of these words often during my long hike for Make-A-Wish. I tried keeping a comfortable tension in my torso and relaxing my shoulders. I reminded myself that walking is a pleasure. I affirmed that each step (and there were nearly 60,000 of them) was my primal and profound expression of grace. I focused on maintaining an ease and buoyancy in my gait throughout the entire day.

Sarah’s beautiful words on walking have given me a deeper framework for understanding the power, the benefits, and yes, the grace of walking. I intend to walk as much as I can in the time I have left on this planet, and thanks to Sarah’s beautiful words, I love walking even more than I did before.

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