How To Return From a Walk Refreshed
Author: Sierra Klotz, Physical Therapist & Athletic Trainer
Thanks for reading this second week of the Covid-19 Blog Series! Are you starting to get bored with your daily walks? Do you seek out a way to let go of your stress and anxiety but your walks just aren’t doing it? Perhaps it is time to turn them up a notch. These tips will help enliven your senses and can also be used while hiking, jogging or even sitting still.
- Start out by noticing what you hear around you. This time of year, many of the migratory birds are returning, so chances are there will be many bird songs. You may also hear the sound of snow crunching under your feet or a river flowing over the
rocks. We are often very focused on what we see, but it may take some extra effort to concentrate on the sounds around you. This will help the stressful thoughts flow by.
- Once you are ready to move on from sounds, maybe after 10-15 minutes, tune into body sensations. This may be the feel of your feet on the soft ground or a leaf crunching underfoot. It could be the wind blowing against your face or rain landing on your head. Try to be open to all sensations, even those that have previously been uncomfortable. If you truly have pain in your body, it may be wise to see an expert such as a Licensed Physical Therapist or Athletic Trainer. I, and many other healthcare practitioners are doing on-line telehealth consultations. You can schedule this through Fit2Excel at 802-871-5423. As you climb a hill, feel which muscles are working. This not only helps to strengthen the muscles and keep your balance, bringing conscious awareness to each muscle group, but it also lets you take the time to actually feel how strong you are! You may be surprised to feel your abdominals and shoulder muscles also working while you climb up and down that steep hill.
- Now, bring attention to sight. Most of us are constantly scanning in front of us while hiking or walking outdoors. Instead of constantly shifting your attention, see how it feels to focus on one tree for a few minutes. Notice the moss or pattern of the bark or how the sun reflects off of it. There are many intricate patterns in trees that many of us don’t notice. I have been hiking recently looking for the Chaga mushroom on Birch Trees, which makes me notice these birch trees in a whole different way. It can be very stimulating for the eyes and calming for the mind to take the time to focus on a tree or a rock or a section of the river for a few minutes at a time.
4. Now, bring attention to all the smells around you. Now in Spring, the smell of the mud or manure if you are near a farm, can be quite strong. The trees often also give off their own unique odor. If you are having a hard time smelling anything, try leaning up against a tree for a couple moments. I have personally felt my nose awaken and able to smell everything much more clearly after this. You can also hold a handful of dirt closer to your nose and try to smell it. If you still cannot smell anything, take out the coffee grounds when you get home and make sure that you can smell those. They are actually finding that Anosmia, or lack of smell is a symptom of covid-19, so be sure to self-isolate and contact your healthcare provider if you have no sense of smell and start to feel sick. The sense of smell is typically the one we are the least aware of and the least skilled at bringing attention to, so do not worry if it takes a little while. It is deeply rewarding when you can smell the pine trees, mud under our feet or snow melting and it will help rekindle your desire to return to the outdoors!