I wanted to see the cherry blossoms. I’ve lived within an hour of Washington DC my entire life and I’d never seen the world famous cherry trees in full bloom. I’d seen the pictures. Surely, you’ve seen them too. The Jefferson Memorial framed by these beautiful pink and white blossoms.
More than 3,000 cherry trees ring the Tidal Basin in front of the Jefferson Memorial. These trees were a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912. Most of the year these are unimpressive short trees, but for a few weeks every spring they dress up and become the star of the show. This is when all those pictures are taken.
The weather determines when the trees will blossom. Some years it’s early. Some years it’s late. We really don’t know when the trees will reach peak bloom until just a few days before it happens. And, that’s probably why I’d never seen the cherry blossoms in person.
Spring in DC and Maryland tends to be windy, wet, and cool. I’m not a fan of any of those conditions. Since I don’t want to fight the terrible DC weekday traffic to see some flowers, I’m only willing to go on the weekends. But, since there are only a couple weekends when the blooms are really popping it’s rare when I have the available time AND the weather is nice enough. I know. Excuses. But, that’s why I had never seen them.
But, I wanted to.
It was a Sunday morning in March. The trees along the Tidal Basin were blooming and I was seeing pictures. It was cloudy, breezy, and cool. Not terrible, but not great. Which also meant, I assumed, the crowds would be less than if it was going to be warm and sunny.
So, I made a decision. We were going to skip church and finally head into DC and see the world famous cherry blossoms in person. The enthusiasm among my family was underwhelming. Five people in the house and only my 11 year old daughter, Emma, said she’d go.
Within minutes we were both in the car heading towards Washington DC. Because I’ve spent so much time in downtown DC, I know how to navigate this very confusing city and where to park (cheaply). About an hour after we left the house we were there. I parked almost three miles away and we started walking.
On the way something happened that made this a walk Emma and I will never forget.
There are lots of different ways to get exercise. It’s not a stretch to say most people don’t like most of the fitness options available. They’re too hard, not enjoyable, or feel awkward because some skill is needed. And, then the results we desperately want take too long.
I’m on a mission to reshape the way we think about walking. It’s more than just a way to get from here to there. Walking is exercise, whether we realize it or not. Every step you take is an investment in your health.
But, walking has so much more to offer than just improved fitness. Research indicates walking also improves our brain health, makes us more creative, and can lower stress. Where do I sign?
But, there’s more.
Walking also creates opportunities for relationship building and making memories. I have plenty of both from walks I’ve taken. My wife, Ava, and I walk together a lot and enjoy great conversation. We talk about the future, make plans, and solve problems. Our marriage is stronger because of the walks we take.
Some of my favorite travel memories involve walking. There was the long walk from the Empire State Building all the way down to Lower Manhattan. Usually I make that trek in the subway, but on one trip I decided to walk instead. I saw parts of the New York I’d never seen before. And, three separate people stopped and asked me for directions. I must have looked like a native New Yorker!
I was in Chicago for a few days one summer with a radio group. We had a morning meet and greet with some of the singers we play on our station. After that, we went to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Instead piling into the minivan with everyone else, a colleague and I decided to walk the two miles. We got to experience what it’s like for people in the neighborhood to walk to Wrigley Field. It was a fantastic experience.
I’ll also never forget the walk I took in Italy. I was with a tour group that visited the Vatican in Rome. In the Sistine Chapel I took the picture no ever takes.
Once we were finished at the Vatican, the group had “free time” to shop and enjoy the area before getting on the bus to head back to the hotel more than three miles away. I decided to walk back instead.
I got to enjoy parts of Rome that weren’t part of our tour. There was the big monument to an Italian king that many thinks resembles a large typewriter. It’s got some great views of the city.
I enjoyed a pizza lunch at a neighborhood restaurant before walking along the River Tiber back to the hotel.
Walking for fitness has a circular benefit. The more you walk, the more you want to walk. In other words, as your fitness level increases and at the same time you’re looking for opportunities to walk more, you find even more opportunities for memories.
None of these memories would have happened if I had taken the subway, hopped in the minivan, or ridden the tour bus back to the hotel. They also wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t willing and able to think outside the expected normal way to do things.
THE WALK TO SEE THE CHERRY BLOSSOMS
There was a time when Emma and I would have driven to the subway station and ridden the subway to the closest station near the Jefferson Memorial so we didn’t have to walk far to see the cherry blossoms.
Oh wait. There is no subway station really close to the Jefferson Memorial. The closest is actually a mile away. Hmmm. Maybe that’s why I never saw the cherry blossoms. It was too inconvenient. Too far to walk.
I have a new perspective now. One mile is no big deal. It’s barely a blip. Emma and I parked almost three miles away. We would easily walk at least 10,000 steps just to see the cherry blossoms.
As we were heading towards the Jefferson Memorial I noticed a crowd ahead. I parked a few blocks north of the White House and we were heading in the direction. The crowd, I realized, was on Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s a street that’s normally open to foot traffic so you can see the south side of the White House. But, on this morning it was closed. The Secret Service had cleared everyone off the street and was not letting anyone pass.
You see, that’s what they do when the president and his family are walking to church. We got there in time to President Obama, Michelle, and their daughters walk across Pennsylvania Avenue as he waved to us.
I don’t care what your politics are, seeing the president and his family will make any walk memorable. After that excitement, Emma and I continued towards the Tidal Basin.
The blossoms were out and so were the people so we took a couple pictures and started walking back to the car. Guess what happened?
We saw the president again. He and his family were returning from church to the White House and we arrived at Pennsylvania Avenue just in time.
One walk…two opportunities to see the president and his family. How often does that happen?
I’m convinced walking is the best exercise available. It is effective, sustainable, flexible, and fun. And, sometimes it’s fun enough to create a lasting memory. When was the last time that ever happened in a gym.
START THE FUN TODAY
If you’re ready to make exercise a fun part of your lifestyle I recommend The 30 Day Fitness Challenge. Whether you’re just getting started, or you want to increase your fitness momentum, this challenge will help.
The 30 Day Fitness Challenge will guide you through setting the perfect Fitbit goal for you. Perfect means, not too big to fail, but not too small to be meaningless. The perfect Fitbit goal is one that pushes you a couple days a week.
The 30 Day Fitness Challenge also includes a contract you can make with yourself and a daily Win Tracker to chart your progress.
If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the Fitbit Inspire HR. This is the Fitbit I use to track my 20,000 steps a day. The Inspire HR also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.
(By the way…if you use the link above to but a Fitbit Inspire HR this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)
Lastly, this blog is designed to help you embrace walking as a fitness activity. It’s sustainable, flexible, effective, and fun. Every week I post new articles with stories and helpful suggestions to Win at Fitness.
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