A Little Dog Helps Restart a Healthy Habit

A Little Dog Helps Restart a Healthy Habit

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One of the reasons I adopted a little dog last year was to motivate myself to walk more. I bought a new pair of running shoes that made walking much more comfortable. Don’t be misled. I’m definitely not a runner. But my rheumatologist once suggested that running shoes had the best support and impact cushioning, which would encourage me to walk farther and longer while experiencing less trauma to my body.

(Photo by Christine Lynch)

And so it began. Sammy and I started slowly. After months of only walking to the corner and back, we finally made it around the block. When that became easily doable, we graduated to walking around two blocks.

Fast-forward nine months, and we were clocking a mile and a half each day. The Stepz app on my phone confirmed that amount daily. I felt more relaxed and had more energy than I’d had in a long time.

Initially, a friend walked with Sammy and me. This made the effort nearly painless for me because conversation is distracting. If anything, I needed to ensure I didn’t overdo it. If I did, I paid for it the next day either with sore ankles, knees, and hips or with a muscle spasm in my back. So, I quickly became adept at measuring the distance I’d walked.

When my walking companion was no longer available, Sammy and I walked alone. The motivation then was the weather. We’d had an unusually cold winter here in Southern California, and to feel of the sun’s warmth on my skin was my reward for the effort it took to get myself up and out of the house.

Happily, the more days I walked the easier it became. I actually looked forward to our daily outings. I guess the “habit” phenomenon had kicked in. My daily walks seemed to verify that if you do something for a few weeks, they become a habit.

And then the weather went back to being cold. Even worse, a biting wind began to blow. I’ve always hated the wind. Although the sun was shining, it took many layers of clothing and a hat on my head for me to brave going outside. I no longer looked forward to our walks.

Cold wind was my excuse the first couple of days. Next, IBS made it difficult to leave the house. Then fatigue set in. Every day I had a different reason not to walk, and now I’ve only walked twice in the last seven days. Today’s excuse was a needed trip to the grocery store. Had I still been in the habit of walking every day, I could have accomplished both. But, sadly, I had let myself off the hook too many times.

Tomorrow, however, is a new day. I’ll be attending a social event that begins in the late morning, so perhaps I can get up a little early and walk a short distance before I leave. It’s disappointing to be starting over, but I know that in another few weeks, walking will be a habit again. And, besides, a hopeful little dog is urging me toward the door.


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