On walkable cities

Charlotte is trying. Charlotte’s been converting four-lane roads to two-lane roads with bike lanes and sidewalks. They are doing this in order not to miss out on some government spending. I am happy with this. In doing some research to attempt to find information about this, I came across a blog post about walking to work and about why more women aren’t cyclists.

Both of these posts hit home with me. I work from home so my “walk” is literally down the hall. However, I prefer walking to driving any day. When I stayed 3 weeks in Greenville after my nephew was born, I didn’t have a car. No problem! I stayed at my aunt’s house, 2.5 miles away from my sister’s, and I was glad to have to run there every day. I needed the exercise – my marathon training began during that time. Whenever I visit a new city, I’m always looking for places I can walk.

Unfortunately for me, I live in the suburbs. This means few sidewalks. And it also means that drivers are unaccustomed to looking for pedestrians. I run to the gym often – it’s 6 miles. It’s a decent run, but there are a few parts of the run that leave my heart racing, and not due to cardio. And about half of the run is no sidewalks, so I’m left running on the shoulder of the road, ready to leap out of the way into the grass whenever a driver decides he’d rather hit me with a mirror than share the lane. I leap out of the road a lot.

I’ve been in Athens visiting Chris, and one of my favorite parts of being here is the lack of driving. He lives downtown, so we walk everywhere. Once a week he goes to the store, sometimes twice if he forgets something (this week it was toilet paper; I had to remind him that having a female guest will dwindle his supply more quickly …)

I’ve often wanted to wear my Garmin watch when I’m out just walking around. If I didn’t think it would lose satellites, how great would it be to wear it out bar hopping? Including dancing? I bet we burn so many calories without even realizing it. Of course, drinking beer probably offsets it …

 Well, yesterday we didn’t go out bar hopping, but I thought I’d show what a day in Athens looks like when walking instead of driving.

5:30 a.m. – Chris wakes me up to go to the apartment gym. It’s the least crowded early in the morning and he wants to use the elliptical because his shins have been hurting – no running. After coffee and a few moments to wake up, we arrive at the gym at 6. I clock 3.3 miles on the elliptical at a level 12 hill climb program – burning 485 calories.

6:30 a.m. – Back in the apartment. Chris gets ready and goes to work. I do some work and lounge around. Kim messages me to see if she can drop a book off at Chris’ apartment for me. It’s a beginner’s guide to triathlons and she wants to pass it along to me. I’m still sweaty from the morning workout and about to take a shower, so I ask her if I can come pick it up from her office later on. Knowing I don’t have a car, I figure it’s a great excuse to get some exercise. I spend the day doing more work and writing a blog post.

3:30 p.m. – I’m feeling sleepy, not surprising since I’m not used to getting up so early. I think about taking a nap but decide I don’t really have time for that, so instead I do a Jillian Michaels-inspired workout. This involves strength, cardio and abs in a circuit session. A great full-body workout. It takes 30 minutes and I log about 251 calories.

4 p.m. – Quick shower because I’m a girly girl and don’t want to be sweaty even if I am getting ready to go work out some more. I have been told by Chris that Kim’s work is “nowhere near” his work and is the opposite direction of downtown. I look up Google walking directions and it’s 1.5 miles away, a 27-minute walk. The directions from her work to Chris’ work is 19 minutes. I leave by 4:20, which will put me at Chris’ work at 5:10. Even if it’s the opposite direction, who cares?

Except, her work isn’t the “opposite direction” of downtown. It’s on the “other side” of downtown. So I walk the wrong way. Yes, I had looked up directions, but I am directionally challenged. When it says “Walk West on East Broad Street” I say, “huh?” Since Chris had told me opposite direction, I was confident walking the opposite direction of downtown on East Broad. Luckily I have an iPhone and after a while I decide to check my route – I’m walking into the ghetto so that’s not so fun. Aaaaaand, I see that I’ve walked into the ghetto for no reason. I quickly turn around and walk correctly to her work after a text to Chris that I’m going to be late.

Here’s my route, including the wrong way directions, showing me walking from his apartment to Kim’s work, then toward Chris’ work (he met me along the way.), then to the UGA track.

This errand-running workout earned me 4.11 miles of walking and 309 calories.

6 p.m.  – At the UGA track, Chris and I run a 1-mile warmup, then 4×400 interval runs. Total of 3 miles and 326 calories. (And no, he should not have run. His shins hurt so bad at the end I thought he might cry.)

track run

6:30 p.m. – Walk back to his apartment. 2.15 miles and 162 calories.

Total for a day’s work: 12.56 miles and 1,533 calories (a day’s worth of food!) . Okay, so 3 workouts in one day isn’t typical. But I loved that I could walk to pick up a book. I loved that I could walk to the track to run. I love that the Greenway is in walking distance. And there are sidewalks the entire way. And crosswalks everywhere. And people know to look out for pedestrians.

This shows me that Charlotte has a long way to go. And this is further proof that I’d be happier in the city, not the suburbs.

So, the only question left is this: How big of a dork would I be to wear my Garmin watch out bar hopping/dancing tomorrow night? Think it would work if I hid it in my purse?