There is no better time for early-morning walks than this time of year. Each morning the sun rises a smidgen sooner, and there is something so satisfying about standing in the bathroom at 5:20 a.m., brushing my teeth in the faint glow of the sky starting to illuminate without the need to flip on the light. The sun is my beacon, and as soon as it starts to rise, I feel like an anxious kid who needs to get outside an plaaaaay already.
I have been sleeping past my normal wake time this week and thus haven’t had a chance to fit in a walk with all of my other morning prep rituals, but yesterday (and today) I was up in time. However, once I was up and stretching and preparing my lunch and stirring the coconut milk creamer in my coffee, I decided to switch things up and leave the house for work 30 minutes early and stop at a nearby park, to do my walk immediately before going into the office. That way, instead of going right from sitting in my car to sitting at my desk, I could come into the office fresh from a sunny walk!
Yesterday morning was just the epitome of a beautiful spring day. Temps in the low 60s, white puffy clouds among a bright blue sky, birds chirping, planes descending into the nearby airport, and cows (regular one, not those punkish Scottish Highland ones) from the adjacent farm mooing. A quick 20-minute walk in surroundings like that–plus my coffee and a bowl of Kashi Go Lean with fresh strawberries at my desk–was a great way to start the work day. (Note: I did the same routine today but it was overcast and not as Disney-esque. And I needed a jacket.)
Speaking of walking, I recently realized that I am obsessed with watching other people walk. Like, really watch them walk. I don’t know if it’s the dancer in me, the fact that I practice yoga and understand the art of good posture, or that I have so many issues myself with my feet and hips, but when I’m walking around the mall or downtown or behind someone at work on their way to the bathroom, my eyes immediately zone into their feet, hips, and back, and not in a “Wowee-wow-wow, look at those Shakira hips!” way but in a “Wow, those high heels are making your ankles collapse in, and your shoulders are all hunched up by your ears! You’re going to be in so much pain when you get older!” way (says the wise, knowledgeable 30-year-old).
Maybe in my former lifetime I was a salesperson at a specialty running store and watched people’s gaits for a living and determined whether they were pronators, supinators, or neutrals. But seriously, I love looking at feet. (I recently declared to my husband that I should have been a podiatrist…to which I responded, “Ahh, nevermind. Then I’d have to clip old people’s toenails.”)
I was horrified last weekend when we were walking through town and I noticed a woman in front of us wearing those damn Shape-Ups. With each step she took, the woman’s ankles were completely rolling in. It was so significant that even my husband, who doesn’t care in the least about other people’s biomechanics, noticed. Just another reason why I think Shape-Ups are the Devil’s sneakers.
All the time, I see people running with the most awkward strides and foot motions, and I feel the need to comment (to myself, of course. Or my husband). One time we passed a guy with a knee jutting out, his foot all floppy, and his torso all loosey-goosey. “How is it that he’s not in physical therapy every day?!” I asked incredulously. “Just wait!”
On the flip side, my heart flutters when I see someone with perfect posture and balance. Take the famous yoga teacher Angela Farmer:
She was a presenter when I was at Kripalu; I didn’t take any of her classes, but just passing her in the hallway was satisfying enough for me. Angela was as poised as a Greek goddess, her body practically floating down the corridors. Even the way she lifted her hands at the cafeteria buffet was a dance, each finger curling and extending with the most graceful act of mindfulness. It wasn’t pretentious either—not the least bit of “holier than thou” attitude. It was pure elegance and total body awareness. I never once spoke with her, but man, I totally want to be like Angela when I grow up!
I try hard to maintain a steady posture and stance when walking (forget sitting…I turn into a slumped sack of potatoes when proofreading),
to the point where several people have asked me “Are you a dancer?” in non-dance settings, including on the weight floor at the gym and in a pizza shop when I was 13. I had always taken pride in being asked that, even as recently as last year, when I wasn’t taking technique classes anymore but I guess still maintained that “look.” So I was devastated when, after I first busted my hip last year, my yoga teacher watched me walk across the room and told me I have a limp. ?!&$*&@&!! Now *I* was the one with the goofy-looking gait! And then, during my physical therapy sessions, my PT noticed that I tended to walk with my hips shifted to one side. Who am I?!?!?
It is reassuring, then, that one of my coworkers in the marketing department, who works specifically with PT textbooks and several on gait analysis, told me that no one has a perfect gait (except maybe Angela Farmer). There are a million factors that contribute to gait (toes, ankles, knees, hips, core, shoulders, so on and so forth) and when just one is “off,” there goes the picture-perfect anatomical model who walks with everything in line. What that means is that even in my dancing heyday I was never perfect, I’m not perfect now, and I never will be. Even so, that won’t stop me from being overly curious and fascinated with other people’s bodies and the way they carry them. And I’ll never stop hating Shape-Ups.