This is the time of year many people have joined a gym, vowing to regain the shape of their youth even if they have to stop eating Pringles and Mountain Dew for a while. But a gym membership isn’t for everyone. It costs money, it takes time, it hurts, and for many people, it isn’t fun.
If losing weight and getting in better shape is your goal — versus becoming competitive on the body-building circuit — all you have to do is move more and eat less. We know — that’s easier said than done. But living in the DMV can make it the process less painful, because we have so many great spots to walk.
Mall walking took off in small-town America because there weren’t any other places for people to exercise in cold or bad weather. But here, we have choices that can improve our bodies and our minds simultaneously. (This doesn’t work in New York, because there are too many people, so you have to walk too slowly to burn any real calories.)
Where can you walk?
The Smithsonian — This behemoth encompasses 19 museums offering literally miles of open floors and corridors for walking. At first, you may be tempted to look at what they have on display, but set yourself some ground rules. Choose one museum and walk the same path for, say, a week. Allow yourself time at the beginning or end of the walk to look carefully at some of the artifacts. But the rest of the time, you must blow right by them at top speed.
We are conditioned to think that we should take all opportunities to absorb every drop of cultural education bestowed on us, but especially in D.C., this is an unrealistic goal. You can’t gape at the Lincoln Memorial every time you cross the bridge. And besides, you LIVE here, so if you really wanted to look at it carefully, you could just go down on Saturday and do that.
Alter your path through the Smithsonian for as long as it takes you to cover all the ground and familiarize yourself with the exhibits. Your heart rate will be slower, your blood pressure will drop and your pants will fit better. Then they’ll change the exhibits, and you’ll have to do it all again.
Rock Creek Park — This 1,754-acre green space in our nation’s capital is the perfect spot to walk off any frustrations — and those extra pounds! You can choose from among many established trails, from flat to challenging.
Although it may be cold, when you dress properly and keep moving, temperature should not be a problem. Snow and ice on the trails might, but luckily this is not that common here.
Walking in Rock Creek Park can bring you a peace you can only get from being in nature. And you may even catch sight of some wildlife!
Arlington Cemetery is 624 acres of hallowed ground reserved for the earthly remains of those who fought for and served our country.
Since it is outdoors, you get the benefit of fresh air and perhaps sunshine, but walking in a cemetery is no walk in the park. Some may find it depressing to look out over the seemingly endless stretches of white gravestones marking the ends of lives cut too short too soon. Others may feel pride for the manner in which we commemorate our lost soldiers. Some may see the cemetery as a tangible lesson upon which we can look and learn from. It may be a somber walk, but it comes with touches of pride, resolve and strength infused.
Monuments — Most major cities have parks and museums, and they might have a few monuments too, but D.C. is king of monuments. There are literally dozens, some with exalted status (the Washington Monument) and others doomed to a vaguely anonymous existence (guys on horses with hard-to-pronounce names that fought in wars many people can’t remember anymore).
Check out this map from the National Park Service for D.C. monuments, and plan some walking routes.
Even if you don’t end up losing any weight, you can always look back on each excursion and remember how much fun it was and how much you learned. No one ever says, “Aw, I remember that afternoon in February I used the elliptical at Planet Fitness for 40 minutes! That was awesome!”
And don’t stop for a donut on your way back to the car.