Owning a dog that needs two hours of exercise every day to keep from nervously chewing the sofa cushions means I am forced to get out, rain or shine. I’m not even talking about the weather, but about my mood. During my last month in Florida, going through bouts of depression, Darwin’s daily walks became my meditation, at the end of which I couldn’t help but feel the elevated levels of endorphins brought on by our time moving.
Getting enough exercise daily made the difference between a happy, well behaved dog who slept peacefully all night, and a hyper, anxious, insomniac dog. It also drove a lot of my decisions to find new activities to do with Darwin, to keep myself from being worn out by the monotony of walks around the same neighborhood streets day after day.
Now we adventure daily, from short walks around the block, to 10 mile runs, or 100 mile backpacking trips. Darwin’s joy at being out, walking and sniffing the interesting smells of our route, is infectious. The exercise we get lightens the day, leaving us both with the euphoric sensation of worn out muscles. It unblocks the mind when I’m staring at a seemingly unsolvable problem, and alleviates hours of hard work over a computer screen. Between classes I can often be found working problems out on challenging bouldering routes. I’ve found the meditative state and focus required to climb without falling serves as a reset button, and as I solve the route’s problems, the solution to other problems I’m working on begins to clarify through the shrouded mists in my mind.
The routes I climb, and the hikes I take, are all accomplished one step, or move, at a time. The hardest part is often taking that first step, and that has been made easier by Darwin pulling on his leash to go forward. The same is true with my goals in life. The pull I felt was to give Darwin and myself a great life, and taking the steps to get there – earning my degree, seeking a career in the Athletic and Outdoor Industry – was easier because of that pull.