Most fitness magazines will tell you that walking is one of the best forms of exercise. We’ve all seen the headlines promising slimmer thighs and lower cholesterol, if only we would take to the trails and walk. Of course those are admirable goals, but I’ve never been inspired or encouraged by them. After reading one or two of these fitness magazines they all begin to sound the same to me, and I often find myself feeling defeated before I even begin.
Why I started walking
What captivates me are the emotional benefits walking brings. I’m not sure why, but I took to walking long distances as a teenager, and it became a regular part of my life. With my Walkman and water bottle in hand, I headed to the local track about 20 minutes away. Once my feet hit the track, it felt like I entered another world. I would press play and turn up the volume on my Walkman – for you younger moms that’s the equivalent of an mp3 player or an iPod. (Most days I would listen to Tupac or The Notorious B.I.G. Sorry, mom!) The miles rolled by as I escaped into my music and breathed in the crisp air of a fall day, or felt the sweat pouring off my forehead in the sweltering summer heat. Not for one second did it ever feel like I was, well, exercising. I never dreaded it. All of this wasn’t so I could fit into a pair of size 6 jeans. I just loved walking outside, with the sun shining down on me and the thumping rhythm of Tupac’s “California Love” playing in my ears.
Passing It On
These days, I still love to walk. It looks a little different, though. Some days it’s my time alone to think or pray. Other times, I walk with family or a close friend. It’s amazing how many problems two women can solve over the course of a 3-mile walk! My kids have been indoctrinated, as well, and they have participated in their fair share of walking adventures. They call them our “nature walks.” They generally start with a cheerful attitude, although the longer we walk the more this tends to fade. Our walks have taken us around our beloved hometown, Ringgold, and around some well-known spots in Chattanooga. It’s a great way for them to burn energy, which makes it easier for me to maintain at least some order. Our walks also help me feel a lot calmer and optimistic about my role as a mom.
My Go-To Walking Spots
For my family, walking has been an easy way to keep us all active without spending a lot of money. This time of year, the cooler fall temperatures and colorful foliage make walking even more inviting. Here are a few of our tried and true family favorites.
- The Wolftever Creek Greenway: The trails here are paved and wide enough to accommodate a stroller and multiple kids. (We visited this location just this past weekend; the trees are absolutely gorgeous! This would also make a great spot for an impromptu family picture.) The trails begin at the Imagination Station Playground–awesome playground for all ages.
- Lula Lake & Lula Falls: The trails at Lula Lake are open to the public the first and last Saturday of each month from 9-5. It’s FREE to hike there, although donations are encouraged. You may also want to sign up for a guided hike led by one of their volunteer guides. We learned tons about the plant life and the history of the region as we hiked the trails. The bonus is the waterfall at the end. Simply breathtaking!
- Enterprise Park: Located next to the Volkswagen of Chattanooga manufacturing plant, this spot has lots of amenities. There is a visitor center at the park entrance with bathrooms, water fountains, and a “Gatorade stand” as my youngest likes to call it. The vending machines come in handy in case you forget to pack drinks. Enterprise Park offers miles of shaded walking and biking trails. There is also a small lake and picnic areas as well.
- Downtown Ringgold Nature Trails: These are found in the heart of Ringgold across from the Little General’s Park. We enjoy walking here because we often run into family friends. There’s a creek that runs alongside the trail, which is ideal for skipping rocks. (Thanks to their dad, my kids are slightly obsessed with this!)
- Walnut Street Bridge: I’ve been going to this bridge since I was a kid, but it never grows old. It’s a two for one deal: an excellent view and the perfect place to walk. My kids love crossing the bridge and then heading to Coolidge Park to play in the water fountains or turn cartwheels on the lawn. Of course, there are lots of shops off Frazier Avenue to poke around in, too. That might work better, though, when the kids aren’t along for the ride.