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Share the road

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

I walk alone. Well … when it comes to exercise, my morning routine normally includes some light stretching and a walk around my neighborhood. Although I am quite the social butterfly, I enjoy my lone walks. It is especially nice during the summer months, because I no longer have to compete with the school buses or the high traffic in the community. The lessened noise level is conducive to hearing and seeing things I have never noticed before. My awareness is heightened. One morning, I must have counted seven rabbits that were out in the grass, enjoying the morning dew as I walked.

When you become a consistent walker, certain things surrounding your routine become commonplace. There are some surprises (like the rabbits). But for the most part, I know what I am going to see and also know who I am going to see. At the hour that I walk, there are four pretty dedicated neighbors who share the road with me: a male walker, a male jogger, a female dog walker and an older, female cyclist. I would have to say that these four neighbors are much more seasoned in their exercise routine than I am. Earlier in the year, when I walked later in the day, I noticed them walking or riding around the neighborhood before I started walking. To them, I am a rookie. They likely don’t miss me if I decide to sleep in and skip my walk. Yet, I find myself looking for them every morning. Their presence and consistency motivate me to get up, stretch and hit the road.

On Monday, I was headed up the hill when I realized I had not met any of my usual exercising neighbors. I started to wonder, “Where are they?” Then I heard a squeaky wheel just as I was formulating a pout. It was the turning wheel of the silver-haired cyclist who came up behind me and passed me, pushing her bicycle up a very steep hill that I was struggling to climb. She smiled as she said, “Good morning.” I smiled back with a chuckle as I thought, “I was just thinking about her and she appeared.”

I don’t know any of the names of the exercising neighbors. They have no idea that their consistent appearance during my exercise routine is serving a purpose other than keeping them physically fit. They are helping me press towards my goals. Especially that cyclist. I think about how strong she is that she rides that bicycle every day up that hill. That hill is tough to walk, and she pedals the entire way, passing me. I wonder how many years she has been making that daily ride. I want to be that disciplined and that strong. She is my example of what it looks like to show up for yourself every day.

In the same way that my exercising neighbors are helping me without knowing it, there is someone watching me. There is someone watching you. When I meet these exercising influencers, we often change sides on the sidewalk or open up space between us so that we don’t run into each other. What this says to me is “I am making room for you … don’t stop, keep walking. Let’s share this journey.” We all need someone to walk ahead of us. They demonstrate to us what is possible if we keep heading in the direction of consistency.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.