Here’s a list of things I’d rather do than go for a walk:
- Get a job as the guy who picks up dead animal carcasses off the sides of freeways.
- Eat celery (it’s gross and you know it).
- Watch documentaries on Netflix (I know some of you LOVE doing this, but that’s because you’re weird ).
- Sing a solo at church.
- Participate in the annual shin-kicking contest in Gloucestershire, England (oh, it’s for real – look it up).
Here’s an example of how much I hate walking.
Last week I took my car to the mechanic and was told it would be two hours for them to fix it. Ten minutes into waiting, I searched online and found that there was a Dunkin Donuts .7 miles away.
I almost HIRED AN UBER to save me from walking .7 miles to Dunkin Donuts.
I kid you not.
I almost hired an Uber driver to save me from walking 15 minutes.
That’s how much I hate walking.
Walk To Be Like Jesus
Here’s the thing: I love hiking.
We hike the Appalachian Trail with Meadow, our red golden retriever, almost every weekend we have free.
It’s no exaggeration to say we’ve hiked all over the country and many places around the world.
This summer our family hiked the back-country trails of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming (for the fifth time).
In my last article, I mentioned that in 2019 a few friends and I hiked The Jesus Trail in Israel.
It’s no understatement to say that I LOVE hiking. Always have.
But I find the idea of going outside and walking for the sake of walking quite boring.
My wife, Lisa, however, LOVES her daily walks. She gets agitated when she can’t go. Invites friends to walk with her. Plans it. Looks forward to it. Enjoys it.
Walking, to my wife, is something that sustains her.
I began this series of essays by saying that if you took the four gospels and removed all of Jesus’ teachings and miracles – the remaining 5% that’s left is not merely throw away.
I believe that in that remaining 5% God was modeling for us what it looks like for a human being to flourish.
Walking, daily, is important.
It’s backed by science, and it’s modeled by Jesus.
And if we want to be more like Jesus, we not only have to obey what he taught, we have to mimic how he lived.
We need to start walking.
Even if we hate it.
Let me give some practical challenges for how you can insert walking into the flow of your daily, weekly, monthly, and annual calendar.
As I said, I hate walking. But I also believe that as a Christ-follower I should walk every day to become more like Jesus.
In fact, Henry David Thoreau believed so much in walking every day, that he said in his essay entitled Walking,
“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”
Hey Henry, that’s nice and everything, but the rest of us have jobs and real lives and don’t live in a cabin in the woods.
We don’t have four hours a day to saunter about.
But my hunch is we can all make small changes.
Here are three things I’ve done to help make daily walking more natural (and enjoyable).
First, I bought a dog that needs a lot of exercise every day or she starts to chew stuff around the house.
Most days I walk because I don’t want my house destroyed, rather than walking to be like Jesus. But I needed the motivation, and it works for me.
Second, I have decided I will walk 2 miles a day. My wife laughs when I tell her that. She walks 4-5 miles a day. I needed to set a goal that I knew I’d hit. Enough that it would get my heart rate going (and wear Meadow down a bit), but short enough that I won’t quit after a few days.
Third, I have begun using 4 words when I talk to myself: “I am a walker.”
In James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, he talks about creating “identity-based” habits. He talks about deciding the type of person you want to be first, then prove it to yourself with small, consistent wins.
By telling myself, “I am a walker,” I’m creating an identity for myself. And then by walking just 2 miles a day (roughly 35-40 minutes), I get a small win under my belt to prove it to myself.
To keep track of my progress, I created a chart on a whiteboard in my home office, where I write the number of miles I walk each day.
That’s my daily process, but what would it look like for you?
Maybe you can count steps? Keep track of your iPhone using the Map My Walk app?
Whatever process you create, make it identity-based, and make it easy to follow.
Weekly and Monthly Adventures
Jesus went on daily walks to places like the market and the synagogue.
But then he also went on adventures where he looked at his disciples and said, “Let’s get out of here and head over to Tyre and Sidon.”
As long as I can remember, we’ve been going on weekly adventures as a family. Sometimes they’re nearby our house, like when Lisa and I hiked Evansburg State Park a few weeks ago.
Sometimes they’re 2 hours away in the Poconos. Earlier this week I had an afternoon off and looked at Meadow and said, “Let’s get outta here.”
We drove 90 minutes to the “Shades of Death Trail” just north of a quaint Pennsylvania town called Jim Thorpe. The trail name sounds ominous, but it was beautiful. A meandering creek, waterfall, miles from civilization.
It was exhilarating. Just what I needed to recharge.
The challenge I have for you is to make time each weekend to take 3-4 hours to trek somewhere interesting.
Can you make time for that?
Admittedly, it became quite a challenge when our girls traveled all over the planet with basketball, soccer, and lacrosse. You might have similar types of challenges.
But hiking the Appalachian Trail, or around a lake, was a great antidote for our girls spending too much time on their phones. Not only do you get terrible cell service in the back country, but you catch the nature bug.
Our girls grew up thinking that exploring somewhere most weekends was normal. They’d throw on their little hiking boots and off we’d go.
Now they can’t envision a family get-together if it’s not in the mountains or in nature.
Download the AllTrails app on your phone, make a list of the top 30 trails in your region, and make it a goal to hike them all within a year.
While you may not be able to make time for one each week, you can surely get your calendars in sync and make time for a big adventure each month.
Right now, Lisa and I are making plans to hike the spiritual pilgrimage trail called The Camino de Santiago in the Summer of 2021.
We’ll start out in St. Jean Pied-du-Port, France, trek across the Pyrenees Mountains, cross over into Spain, and then walk through towns like Pamplona (to run with the bulls) to the ancient pilgrim city of Santiago Compostela.
I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.
Lisa and I are not wealthy, but over the years we’ve become quite proficient in how to travel to amazing places on a shoestring.
Like the time we flew to Iceland for $99 each, roundtrip. We hiked and explored the whole southern part of the island and its beautiful waterfalls. It was such a rewarding adventure.
Or just recently, when we drove to the Smoky Mountains. Lisa has always said that the most beautiful places in the world are in our own country, and in many respects, I agree with her. The Smokies do not disappoint.
I’d like to challenge you to rethink the traditional “go on vacation to a beach and relax” philosophy.
I want you to take grand, affordable, enriching vacations, to places that will challenge and inspire you. Like the time we took our girls to El Salvador to spend time with missionaries, hike the volcano peaks, and meet people from the local indigenous tribes.
Challenge the “get away from it all and relax” line you’ve been sold by travel agencies and instead plan annual adventures.
Come back having exercised more and weighing less than when you left.
Planning outdoors-oriented vacations are always cheaper (if you plan them right) and create more memories for everyone.
Do you have to go on eco-tourism vacations to be more like Jesus?
Of course not.
But you do have to walk.
So, the simple question is: what’s your plan?