Walking Lessons in De Rust

Tough to believe, but it’s been a month since the sunrise walks began.

What started out as a struggle to wake up at 5 AM and take to the streets has now become a highly anticipated day-starting event that sets the mood and productivity for the rest of the day… and which I’ve only missed once (due to zombification).

It dawned (yes, yes…) on me that there are lessons for the taking on these 5 – 6km morning walks, which can be applied to everyday life. Make of them what you will:

1. Habits can be changed

Waking up at 5 AM is not fun. I don’t think it was ever meant to be fun, especially now that the sun is rising later and the darkness is lingering for longer. However, it’s easier. With a little acceptance and responsibility, anything difficult can be made easier – especially habits.

I’ve also learnt that 5 AM is not the enemy. The enemy is when I don’t go to bed early enough to make waking up at 5 AM easier. So, after a month of conviction with great reward, my propensity for being a night owl has changed. A good habit, if any, to alter.

2. Smile through the hard parts

De Rust village is positioned on the side of a hill. This means spectacular vantage points from balconies and backyards. This also means steep inclines and challenging hills (especially at 5:30 AM).

Evie and I have progressed from seemingly avoiding the steepest hills when we first started out, to now actively seeking them out and ensuring we include the Four Big Ones on our daily outing. As incline-fit as we’ve become over the last few weeks, I still have to catch my breath near the tops of the inclines; but what really helps is grinning and shaking my head: You chose this. YOU COULD BE SLEEPING RIGHT NOW! (Haha, but not really, I LOVE the walks!)

But just as the inclines get tough, we crest the top – smiling – and then the burning hamstrings and deep breathing is over. The lesson: smile through the hard parts. They don’t last forever.

When I say “incline”, it’s like the hill has its own little horizon: just look at that drop-off in the street:

incline

That’s Evie 🙂 She’s awesome.

3. It’s always better together

Part of my motivation for wanting to move to De Rust was the easy safety of the village. I used to walk in my suburb in Joburg, but it didn’t always yield the most pleasant experiences, and taking the dogs walking with me always ended up in either me or them getting super irritated with each other. Not great vibes.

I had committed to morning walks when we first arrived, but the doubt started creeping in: this place is tiny… there’s only so many times you can walk the 3.6km of available village roads… what if you get fit, but bored? Why even start anyway? (Hence reading on the treadmill in the middle of winter…)

And then one day, a coffee meeting turned into the brilliant suggestion of the sunrise walks. And here we are, four weeks later.

walking-buddy

So the lesson is: if you struggle to commit to something, find someone who wants the same thing and enjoy it together.

Earlier this week, we pondered how even though we’ve walked the same streets (and in different configurations), there are always new things to see, and everything looks different depending on the time of day, and the mood in general. Context can overlay a variety of masks on familiar content…

And besides: tuned-in, funny, interesting and supportive companionship is the best antidote to any risk of boredom ❤

4. Look for the novelty

Habits are a wonderful thing. Every day we wake up early and are out walking by 5:30 AM. The walks last just over an hour and we vary our route, but it always consists of a configuration of the same 4-ish km of roads (most of which we cover twice to get good mileage out of them). Every day at more or less the same time, we go and stand at the top of the hill and I take a photograph (okay, about 18 photographs…) of the sunrise.

Surely it’s the same over and over? Nope. Every day the conditions vary: the sunrise is different (95% of the time), and it’s possible to detect even the slightest change in temperature, or whether the air is signalling that rain is on its way. Some mornings the bees are out, or a neighbourhood cat will (scare the bejeezus out of me and) stroll across our path for a greeting full of purring and stroking. On a muggy morning, perspiration will gather and trickle down my lower back (I detest sweating and the first time this happened I thought it was a spider..).

sunrise-242

And some mornings, we get the opportunity to make new friends:

chatty

The lesson: no matter what you’re given to work with, look for the new. What haven’t you seen yet?

sunrise-ostriches

5. Appreciate where you are

I don’t think this one needs any explanation.

Gratitude walks with me, in my shoes, breathing in the same air and looking through new eyes every day.

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