All or Nothing Thinking or the ONLY way to walk

All or Nothing thinking is when you evaluate your life in extreme terms: It’s either perfect or a disaster. You can only do it one way or not at all. It’s distorted thinking and I’ve been known to practice it.

I love how I feel once I begin moving so it’s weird to think I spent years barely giving myself a ten minute walk alone.

I walked everywhere when I was young. Spent hours outside. My body, heart and soul resonate deeply with walks. I also used to cycle everywhere, cycling wasn’t exercise, it was my means of getting around. The muscle memory is dormant in my legs, but it’s still there.

When I got pregnant the first time, I curbed my walking, literally.

My first reason was valid.

We had terrible ice and snow and I could slip. From that point the reasons and excuses tumbled. Then I was a new Mom, time was short and I was tired. My walks were short with the buggy because of nappy changes, food needs, naps, schedule (all valid) Everything else came first.

I let it fall away. If I couldn’t get a good walk I wouldn’t go at all.

I had decided that if I couldn’t get at least 45 minute walk it wasn’t worth it (sound familiar?) And so, I didn’t. I was still in the working world so I got some movement for a while….. Then I was pregnant again and home.

It took almost nine years before I chose to make it my priority. As a person who identified so strongly with walking and cycling I was doing nothing to show that I cared about it. I had spent the last eight years, crouched beside small people, pushing, encouraging or carrying them. My partner mentioned he couldn’t remember the last time I went for a walk, even the less than five minute walk to the shops. ‘I’ll drive because I have so much to pick up’, I reasoned.

At the beginning of last year I began walking for me, with my partner. Still thinking it had to be a GOOD walk.

Together, we carved out the time, when the kids were at school, and walked together.

It had been so long that my partner, who’s walked to work for at least the last ten years, could hear something in my footsteps sound a bit off. I had been hunched over my little people for so long I needed to re-learn my stride. Re-learn WALKING!! That was a big lesson in humility for me. Kindness, patience and acceptance meant that those walks were slow and I consciously had to correct my posture and stride over and over until it became unconscious again.

I had decided, again (and if I decide it’s real right?) that if I didn’t get an hour it wasn’t worth it. But the hour became more than an hour, with getting to the prom and returning (and I could only walk on the prom because it was the nicest place to walk!!!)

This kind of thinking slowed my progress.

A couple of months in, once or twice we got a 2 1/2 hour walk and I was thrilled. An adult human companion, my legs stretched, hips wide open, and the time to talk, walk, meander through topics. I was in heaven. THIS was the ideal. This is what I needed to make time for. THIS was the only way to go.

This was my Everest. The only way to walk. So why bother doing anything else?

THIS wasn’t feasible in the long term.

My thinking restricted my movement again.

Then the pandemic.

It highlighted to me how important it was to get outside, to move every day. My stress and uncertainty needed a space to breath in and walks were the answer.

My body was remembering how good walking felt.

I remembered.

Perks included fresh air, the sky, looking at new things, nature, observing other people, getting lost in my head, podcasts, MY music, room for my thoughts, a moment to call a friend. So much was opened up to me. I was allowing a new rhythm to form.

As I add in other wants and needs to take care of myself I have noticed walking fall away once in a while. When that happens, my mental health is weaker, I’m prone to stinkin’ thinkin’. I have lighter sleeps, I’m more agitated. My body has lost the place it expresses my pent up energy.

Now, I give myself room and grace for change.

I want daily meditation, and to do at least a one minute plank everyday. I also want walks. I want to develop my coaching business and put the work into that. I also want walks. I want to show up, be present and listen to my children……. WALKS.

Today, I walk around my block. It was right outside my door ALL ALONG!

It’s not my Everest, not the best view, not an hour.

It does give me fresh air. It refreshes my thinking.

My block is such that I go downhill and uphill, so I’ve begun running one leg of the walk as an experiment. My calves love the uphill because I was born on my tip-toes. It takes about twenty minutes. I can even do it twice or three times in a day if I want. I’m reminded that I’m flexible and if I want more things to happen I have to bend.

I will get my Everest again. Because I love it and it’s important to me.

I will value it and take joy in it when it happens. Right now I have this.

It’s not All, it’s not Nothing. It gives me more of something I want and I really enjoy it.

Best of all, I’m sleeping like a rock.

If you want to learn more about All or Nothing thinking I really enjoyed this article in Psychology Today by Toni Bernhard J.D. that outlines it in a way I find easy to understand.