By the spring of 2021, the pandemic had settled around me like a thick wool blanket. Between my asthma and weight, I hadn’t felt like taking chances, and had spent the winter in near-total isolation. Like many, I lived largely on screens and online, as wailing sirens raced through the city streets, soundtracking our lives to the melody of what we had lost, and might still lose.
The solitude was lonely but also enjoyable, to a point. None of my friends lived in my immediate neighborhood, and I wasn’t in a “bubble” with anyone, so I suddenly had the time to go deeper into my meditation practice and center myself around some long-needed self-healing work. I read, I cocooned, I meditated. I talked to my cats, to friends on zoom, and to the veggies and herbs I was growing on every available windowsill. When I’d drawn my lot in life, I’d gotten asthma, yes, but also an apartment with south facing windows to live in during Covid. It seemed fair enough.
Taking The First Step
In the spring, after crawling out from under my blanket of winter solitude, putting away my sweaters and scarves and happily pulling out my lighter spring clothes, I knew it was time to start talking to people IRL again (but wasn’t yet comfortable leaving my own neighborhood), so I joined a community garden. Suddenly there were all these people, and meetings, and communal workdays, oh my!
I also wanted to move my body more after my dormant winter, so I started taking frequent walks alone. On one beautiful early spring day, I ran into one of the other gardeners, a vivacious woman I’d met on my first day there. She was also taking a walk, but—unlike me, in my black skirt, black leggings, black shirt, black bag, black ankle booties (you get the idea)—she actually looked like she was out exercising, clad in yoga pants, a brightly patterned, curve-hugging shirt, and sneakers. We chatted for a few minutes and discovered that we’d both started walking a lot after the long winter. And then we found that we had other things in common, like families that were extremely extra and had loud opinions about us, our appearance, and our lives. Twenty minutes later, after chatting and laughing together on the sidewalk, Walking Club was born.
“I was also surprised by how good it felt to move my body every day at the same time. I soon came to crave it.”
Making Moves Together
The premise was simple: every day, at 6:30 p.m., we would meet up and walk. And we’d do it in company.
We invited local friends and other garden members, figuring we’d all be close enough for a central meeting point. Ten others were up for it. And that was that. Monday through Thursday at 6:30 pm, anyone who wanted to walk would just show up, and we’d walk. So simple! And so excellent. My new friend and I provided the lightest of containers to hold the group together, with email reminders and weather notices, and that was all it needed. All through the summer and into the fall, anywhere between two and ten of us would show up, wait five minutes for stragglers, and then… walk! And talk of course. It was low-key, low pressure, free, fun, and healthy.
I was also surprised by how good it felt to move my body every day at the same time. I soon came to crave it. After a day on my computer, 6:00 would roll around, and my muscles would start buzzing, like: “Get up! It’s time to go! Yay!” I’ll admit that I transitioned to wearing sneakers, even though I don’t have any that are black. They were white. And when those wore out and I got a new pair, bright blue. Sacrifices were made. But it was worth it to be super comfortable! Besides, I look hot in midnight blue, and I was actually getting good near-daily exercise and didn’t want to cheat myself with a shoe choice that couldn’t keep up. The dresses though? They stayed. And why not?! My style is mine, and the great thing about walking for exercise is that I don’t need a specific wardrobe for it.
We walked most nights after work, and it was a nice way to transition back into our personal lives. Honestly, better than happy hour! Our walks lasted anywhere from an hour to the more rare two and a half-hour treks. We walked to parks, other parts of town, and did a lot of dog-scoping. We did occasionally stop for a bite to eat or a drink afterward, we even walked to see some art and music, but the main thing, and the focus, was always the simple act of walking in company.
The season ended in early November with a group dinner, that yep, we walked to. It was honestly a little too cold by then. But despite the additional layers it required—my black minis with biker shorts had become skater skirts, then midis, and finally long black maxi dresses with leggings, and my (black, but you knew that) jackets had come back out of summer storage—we just weren’t ready to end the season until we truly had to. Finally though, winter settled over us again.
But just as every night becomes day (and every rose has its thorn, sorry, I’m so sorry), winter once again gave way to spring, and we just had our first walk of 2022. It felt great to be back! We were even joined by some new people from the neighborhood. And for me, the sense of local community and easy socializing that the walking club provides is, by far, the best thing that has come out of the pandemic. I look at the photo of our group dinner, at all the smiling faces, and I feel more at home in my community than I ever have before. And for real, the endorphin buzz after a nice brisk walk doesn’t hurt.