Make it Work

I find autumn / winter hard for walking. Trying to fit in being a mother, and full time work, is hard enough – but doing it in drastically less daylight and potentially worse weather just complicates matters.

But, I’m determined to get back into the habit – somehow.  I’m realistic that I likely won’t get as many gorgeous bush walks.  They take time to get to, and I’m not surefooted enough or experienced enough (yet!) to feel comfortable doing them in the dark.

My main options for walking at the moment are to:

  • Go in the morning before I leave for work – before sunrise most days in autumn / winter.
  • Go in the evening after the other half is home to look after children – always after dark in autumn / winter
  • Go in the early evening with all the kids, and likely dog, in tow.  Likely get daylight, but might not equal that much success in actually walking.
  • Sneak a quick walk in between leaving work and arriving home.

Today I did the last option – stopped at a park near home and did a quick circle.

Parrs Park is my ‘local’ park.  I love it because it has both paved and gravel trails, and can do a short loop around the fields, or a slightly longer loop around the fields and out into the creek area, with less people and more open spaces.  I also love it as a main walking partner of mine is now my year old golden retriever, and the area out the back by the stream is an off-lead dog area.  Thus it’s great for both of us getting exercise!

I had a maximum of 30 minutes and did one extended loop – from the playground, around the sports fields, and around the dog area.  No time for more than that – but still achieved around 3,500 steps and approximately 2.5 km.

IMG_5111

I love the fall colours at this time of year.  So much of New Zealand – or at least Auckland – stays green year round, but the changing colour of the leaves completely makes the season for me. IMG_5115

 

The dog park area – with a looping gravel path, plenty of trees and foliage to sniff, and large open spaces to run and chase toys. IMG_5121

 

Restarting with a new vision

Possibly not so much a ‘new’ vision as a refined one.

Things have changed significantly in my life.  I’ve started studying, finished studying, started teaching.  I now have four children ages nearly 10 and under, as well as a full time job.

Things are pretty crazy.

Mental health is largely improved.  I know enough to know it won’t ever be perfect – I’m not even sure there is such a thing as ‘perfect’ mental health.  Maybe if there is, those are the truly crazy people.

However, walking is still a goal – and a goal that I’ve been largely neglecting.

Photography is still a goal as well – and another one I’ve been neglecting.

Right now, it all feels in the “too hard” basket.  I don’t have a reason to do things.  Just doing them for the sake of doing them feels too forced, and possibly too easy to simply give up on.  It’s only me, after all – I’ve been breaking promises to myself all my life.

For the past two weeks, more or less, though, I’ve been sugar free.  This is not a necessity – it’s not a doctor’s order or a sudden wake-up call.  It’s something I do because I know, from my past experiences, that I am addicted to sugar.  I also know that when I give up sugar, and am “clean” from it – I function better, feel better, generally just AM better.

Oh, but that withdrawal period.  It, just by itself, is enough to easily keep on consuming all the sugar.  Why change, when it’s so much easier to keep on keeping on?

This is part of the reason for re-starting the blog as well.  It’s possible no one is reading, or will read, any more.  It’s possible that no one reads blogs really at all anymore.  It’s possible blogs are just the equivalent of used pieces of paper, being caught on the wind and blowing aimlessly, unnoticed by anyone.

But, at the end of the day, it’s me.  It’s about me, it’s by me, and it’s for my own benefit, damn it.  If no one wants to read – that doesn’t effect me. If I give up on myself – THAT effects me.

Almost every time I go walking, I end up feeling better than I did before I started.  Surely that alone is reason enough?

I am reason enough.

This Doesn’t Feel Like Progress.

Time has been short lately, in part because my wonderful au pair is on a well-deserved holiday… making it a lot harder to get out and about, and always with a kid or more in tow.

Instead, I bought a running-friendly pushchair, inspired by my friend (and blogger) Sarah to try both walking more with the kid(s) and also seeing if running (a bit – in fits and bursts, as that’s all I can do at the moment) would completely kill me.

Seems that maybe it did, though.

To be honest, I did okay for a bit – I went for a walk/jog two days in the past week, once with baby in pushchair and once on my own after hubby was home, and didn’t have any lasting damage.  Did have the same foot issues as mentioned earlier here, but I’m kind of used to those.

Then on Friday I went for another walk / jog, with the boy in the pushchair, after dropping off the three year old at kindy, along Opanuku Stream walkway and cycleway.  After walking several hundred meters as a ‘warm up’, I tried a jog.  I’d forgotton at first that I was wearing my everyday shoes, and not my trainers (which aren’t running specific, but are ‘general purpose’ sports shoes).  My everyday shoes (for lack of a better term) are actually quite good for walking, so although I prefer wearing my trainers, it’s not enough to stop me.  Although apparently, it is enough to stop me from jogging.  Right away when I attempted jogging I noticed it hurt my knees – both, but one more specifically.  So I stopped.  Although I’m apparently a slow learner, and I started again later on, and had much the same experience.  I still managed to walk 3.5 km, and enjoyed it – though I haven’t really got photos to show off.

Today, though, I am completely feeling it.  Not in muscle soreness, which I figure is part of the process.  (“Good pain!” as my friend Alcina would exclaim.)  My knees, however, have completely gone on strike.  It hurts to walk, it especially hurts to go down (or up, but moreso down) stairs.  They hurt when not weight bearing, but they hurt much more when weight bearing.  I googled it (as you do) and came up with Runner’s Knee.  I’m honestly not much of a runner, but apparently I’ve already adopted one of their complaints.

So, I still can’t run more than a minute or so without feeling like I am completely dying… but I’m already benched with injury.  In typical fat-girl influenced by highly dumb and damaging “fitspiration” posts, I’m also now feeling guilty for both being injured, and for not just “pushing through it”.  (There’s a lot of crap feelings etc behind that though, and I’m not going to fully go into it here).

Needless to say… I’m not walking today.

Discouragement

obstaclesdemotivator

For the past wee while I’ve been working on dealing with discouragement.  A lot of it surrounds education and career prospects, but that’s not really what I’m getting into here.

I’ve noticed that when I get bad news, or am feeling particularly bad, I start to feel like I’m just bursting to get out of my own skin.  Perhaps it’s flight or fight response, in a sort of modern day and delayed way.  I’m not brimming with adrenaline so much, but I just feel like I need to do something.  At my worst, I feel like I just need to run away.  Or like I could start driving, and just go – drive until the end of the road, or until I can’t drive anymore.  (A notion which held a lot more appeal in the USA I must say, where one can spend hours ‘running’ on the interstate network without feeling like they are anywhere).  Although the appeal of all the above still holds strong, these days, I find I need to walk.

If you’d told me a a year ago that I’d best deal with upsetting news by going out and walking for an hour or more, I’d have thought you were crazy.  I’ve always thought of myself as someone who doesn’t like exercise.  To a large extent, it’s still true.  I don’t like running, or sweating copious amounts, and I don’t think I’ll ever naturally be a gym bunny.  But there’s something about the constant, slow, steady repetition of walking that is soothing to the soul.  Maybe it’s a semi literal walking away from my problems.  Maybe it’s the plodding nature of my walks.  Maybe it’s just the fact of doing some action even if it doesn’t directly address whatever crisis or problem is presenting.

I haven’t done any bushwalks for awhile.  To a large extent, I’ve been busy doing lots of other things.  But there’s also the fact that I just haven’t felt up to the preparation and planning and allotted time that a bushwalk takes.  Time that, for the most part, is enjoyable, and heightens the sense of anticipation of the walk in a lot of cases.  But it’s still time, and mental effort, and neither is something I’ve felt in abundant supply of lately.

Instead, I’ve grabbed walks wherever I could find them, focusing much less on what and where and much more so on just walking. 

Sometimes this is on specific walking trails.

IMG_6782

Sometimes it’s along footpaths in the suburbs.

IMG_6786

Sometimes it’s just where I happen to be.

IMG_3553

Wherever it is, it’s always healing.  It doesn’t fix any actual problems.  It provides a clearer headspace though, a chance to breathe and think things over – or – escape things entirely.

Plus, I usually find interesting things I wouldn’t notice otherwise, that make me smile.

IMG_6795 IMG_3544

When in Doubt….

… go to Piha.

I knew I had a busy day planned today, so I headed out to Piha first thing in the morning, as the sun was still climbing up to peek over the mountains,and through the clouds.

IMG_6659 IMG_6660 IMG_6662 IMG_6664 IMG_6696 IMG_6706

 

And, my favorite one from this morning – completely sums up Auckland’s weather – at least two seasons in one day.

IMG_6711

 

And, for the record’s sake, at Piha I walked 3.4km or approximately 7,000 steps.  But at Piha, it’s never about the walking.  It’s the soul of the place.

 

For the sake of getting out there

At the start of today, I knew I did not have a lot of time to fit a walk in. 

However, from my past experience – read: yesterday – I also knew that I didn’t want break what little momentum I had going, and miss a day, albeit for a very valid and understandable reason.  

I decided to try to tackle Arataki Nature Trail, not surprisingly (given the name) starting at Arataki Visitor Centre. Despite the closeness, and the fact I’d literally walked right past it a few times when visiting the centre, and the fact it’s designed as someone of an introduction to walking in the Waitakeres… I hadn’t done this trail.  Possibly because it seemed so… deliberate, almost to the point of being artificial.  The plant ID markers along the way certainly help to remind you that you’re not in the middle of nowhere, and although the track quality is excellent, it’s also wide and noticeably man-made.  

Arataki

 

The other reason, which I find harder to admit to myself but yet is no less valid, is the people. 

I don’t really like walking a well-travelled path, particularly a “touristy” path. 

Now, I have nothing against tourists.  Indeed, tourism is a large and needed industry for New Zealand, and my wee corner of New Zealand is not exempt from that.  But a lot of the time I go on my walks to get away.  From people, from society, from modern life, from myself.  Obviously I’m not going and getting lost in the wilderness for days on end, so there are some limits to how ‘away’ I can truly be.  But walking a path and passing lots of different groups of people also walking the path almost puts me off.  Particularly when the people on the path don’t seem to have the same reverent, quiet, introspective attitude that I usually have – and of course, most people don’t.  One way or another, I find it hard to settle into a meditative and peaceful frame of mind if jarred by a group of backpackers chattering back and forth, or the echoes of voices bouncing around the mountains / woods, or trying to figure out exactly what European language the group in front of me is conversing in.   All the people, tourists or not, are very valid users of the parks and tracks.  And in fact, the ones flouting the rules (most commonly with dogs) are almost always the locals, not the tourists.  But large numbers of people in general on the tracks that I’m on at any given time is something I don’t particularly seek out, as I find it harder to get into the zone so to speak.  It’s also perhaps why I will choose bush walks or out of the way tracks in the mountains somewhere, that require forward planning and driving to get to, rather than just wandering around our (admittedly walking-unfriendly) neighborhood, or going to the nearest place with proper footpaths for a walk – which is still closer than the nearest bush walk. 

This being summer, and school holidays…. people are everywhere.  Particularly at visitor centres designed to show off everything the Waitakere Ranges have to offer. 

IMG_6560

 

As it was, I was short enough of time that I only did the Lower Loop section of the Arataki Nature Trail – quite a short walk for me, only 1.2km in total length and a leisurely 30 minutes (including photo stops etc).  (And yet, I still met three different groups on the trail in that time). On the upside… I have a reason to come back and revisit the trail, if only to do the whole thing.  Further, I got out there – I did a walk, on a day I was fairly convinced I didn’t have any time to go for a walk.  It wasn’t long, and my daily step count is still pretty abysmal, but I made an effort.  Effort, in this case, is everything, especially for the mentality of building up the habit. 

I don’t remember it being this hard

After my walk yesterday, I was a little surprised how sore, tired, and generally achy I was.  The walk I did really was quite easy after all.  Sure, it wasn’t completely flat, but little around here is.  But the grades were gentle, the track tame and well maintained, and I didn’t even clock 10,000 steps yesterday – maxing out just a smidgen over 8,000 steps.  Compared to what I was doing just a couple weeks ago, that’s child’s play.

Following on from that, I found it hard to drag myself out for a walk today.  Conditions were perfect – sunny with a light breeze, some humidity but not enough to feel like you’re drowning with every breath.  In general, today was a glorious sunny summer Auckland day.

I did, however, push myself out the door to fulfill a nagging (but desired!) task.  I wanted to pop by the Arataki Visitor centre and get a proper map, as to date I’ve been primarily working off of the free, but somewhat incomplete, brochures with key tracks given a brief description, others merely noted on the map, and still others either on an adjoining map / brochure, or not at all.  New as I am to outdoor pursuits, I hadn’t actually realised there’d be a wider, comprehensive maps with all the tracks on it – but of course there is!  It’s not available for free, but it’s not expensive either and it’s well worth the money.   I knew it’d be available at Arataki Visitor Centre.  Although I’ve visited Arataki several times, I’ve never stopped to talk to the rangers there (I’m shy, I don’t like approaching people, even people there for that specific purpose)  nor had I ever really looked at the items for sale. Maybe simply because I’m not a tourist, I’d written off that part of the visitor centre as “tourist fodder”.   (For anyone wanting tourist fodder, there certainly is some – though what they do have is kept appropriate to the location, mostly locally made, and quite nice really.  Which I found out today, when I bothered to look.)  Arataki Visitor Centre closes at 5pm, however, and that’s often about the same time I’m only just heading out the door to contemplate a walk, as the weather starts getting slightly more bearable after the heat of the day.  (I’m not just a wimp on hills, I also don’t cope too well in the heat.)

I did make it there in time today – and found the “Recreational Area Map” right away, and it is indeed exactly what I’ve been after.  (So much so, that I’m tempted to go and get another one, so I have one in my car and/or bag, and one at home for route contemplating when not actively on the go.)  Right next to the maps, they had a proper book – Walking the Waitakere Ranges – which, being as that’s exactly what I’m doing, I also bought without hesitation. I’m always interested in other people’s experience of the tracks, both to get a feel of what I might be getting into beforehand, but also to compare my experiences to theirs once I’ve finished.

Having got out the door (which is usually the hardest part), I figured I may as well go for an actual walk now – I’m even armed with map and book! Inspired by yesterday’s walk and the tease of meeting up with Auckland City Walk, I decided to head directly to Auckland City Walk today, and possibly take the Fence Line track as far as the Dam (but not tackle the entire Montana Trail).   About halfway through my drive from the Visitor Centre to the start of the walk, I realised – I’d taken the car I haven’t been using much for these, and it no longer had my spare bottles of water in it.  Neither, for that matter, did my bag, as I’d drunk the one in there during yesterday’s walk.  So much for my motto of always being prepared with water and a snack.  Maybe I wouldn’t do the Fence Line track offshoot, after all.

Now I was faced with doing a walk I’ve already done (and been a touch ambivalent about at the time), ill prepared to make it a long journey with offshoots, when I was feeling more obligated than eager to walk in the first place.  Not the best frame of mind to start a walk in.  But, I was mostly there – might as well just do it.  Even a shortish walk is more than I would have done if I’d just stayed home.

Auckland City Walk2

Auckland City Walk, take 2, actually ended up being quite a bit different than my first experience.  This is now the second time I’ve repeated a track, and during my walk today I had a realisation.  To borrow a phrase from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, I’m calling it my First Splendid Truth of Walking.  The experience of the walk is only half due to the track itself – the other half is what I bring, mentally and physically, on any given day.  This time, I started from the other end of the loop (not quite a contradiction – the loop technically both starts and ends on Falls Road, but 100m or so apart) and thus went the other way around.  The way I went this time I think is the more common way – the main parking lot is at the very end of the road, whilst last time I parked in a parking bay near the other entrance to the track.  Although it’s not much of a difference, the 100m or so is on a hill, so ending at the “bottom” means a brief uphill walk at the very end, and I hate ending on a steady uphill section.   Starting at the bottom entrance to the track means that although the route is still pretty much the same, I’d finish on a downhill instead of an uphill, which sounds ever so much more appealing.

My experience of the track this time was nearly entirely different than previously.  For one thing, due to the direction I was traveling in, I completely missed the off-shoot to the Cascade Falls last time.

IMG_6480

I was more than keen to do a small off-shoot, and I always like seeing waterfalls, so there was little question about whether I’d take the detour.

What I hadn’t realised when I went in search of the falls, however, is that the Cascade Falls are also known as the “Hidden Falls”.  I dutifully followed the track all the way to the end, and met pile of large and imposing boulders, next to the stream.  I could hear the roar of the falls, and what I assumed was people swimming in the pool at the bottom, but I could see nothing of the sort – just the giant cliffs on either side, one of which the falls tumble down.  When I got home and looked up the Cascade Falls, I found out what I suspected at the time – to actually get a glimpse of the waterfall, one has to climb the rocks, which are permanently slippery.  I’ve mentioned in other posts that I’m not terribly surefooted, and I’m also not very confident.  Today, I contented myself with hearing the falls, if not seeing.  However, for the views of the cliffs and rocks alone, the brief detour was well worth it.

IMG_6489 IMG_6490

Throughout the whole walk, and especially the end – by which time my feet hurt, and I was glistening with sweat, despite it being an “easy” track – I found myself marveling at how much harder the walk was this time, compared to my memories of last time.   I’d only stopped my daily walks for about two weeks, maybe three if you factor in the hit-and-miss period shortly before my ‘holiday’.  Now, though, I’m left feeling more unfit that when I first started walking regularly.  Both yesterday, and today, I’ve only just barely walked 8,000 steps – which is shy of my 10,000 step goal, and also well under what I had been in the habit of walking, before my break.  Now though, even 8,000 steps feels like a marathon.  I’m amazed at how quickly the fitness went away.  My husband, who used to regularly cycle commute, assures me that after the first week or so I’ll be right back into it.  I certainly hope so – at this point, it’d be all to easy to give up, and put the whole project into the ‘too hard basket’.  Mind you, I have no intention of actually doing so – but I can feel the temptation, and it’s strong.