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Since moving the business to Bend, I’ve led a walk up Pilot Butte each Tuesday at 8 am. As of this writing, that adds up to 40 weeks. I would have thought that this walking routine, using the same trail, walking at the same time of day, would perhaps get old after a while. Besides, I’ve taken walks up Pilot Butte in between the scheduled group walks–sometimes by myself, sometimes with friends–at various times of day and days of the week.

But I’m not sick of it.

The Butte has become a barometer: a measure of how I’m feeling, both physically and mentally, each time I walk there. I can gauge the time it takes to get to the top and how much work it feels like I’m doing. It’s like doing the same general warm-up before your workout, it’s a time to check in with my body. If it’s a struggle to get up there, I know something’s going on. If I breeze up to the top no problem, I know all is well.

Even though you may walk the same trail over and over again, things change.

Most notably, the weather changes. Most of the year it’s pretty cool. During winter, temperatures can drop well below freezing. During summer, they can rise into the 80’s. Sometimes the wind blows. It snows. It rains. It’s cloudy. Or sunny. The air feels different every time. The sun changes position in the sky as summer turns to winter. It’s not the same walk every time.

The character of the trail changes. Flowers bloom and then die. Shrubs grow thick leaves, then lose  them. Birds migrate through. The trail can be covered in dry gravel, wet mud, or snow and ice. During summer, tourists and locals alike flock to this popular hike. In the winter, sometimes, you can get the trail to yourself.

My group changes. Sometimes it’s just me. Other times, I walk with a couple of regulars. Or, someone new joins the group. Different people bring different stories and walking paces to the Butte. Sometimes we just want to rally and get to the top as quickly as possible. Other times, we enjoy a gentler pace so that everyone can comfortably attain the summit.

The bonus movement changes. We always do some cartwheels at the top. Sometimes there are also handstands, planks, squats, or some funky move we’re working on. You can also incorporate movement stops along your walk like this to shake things up.

My gear changes. I like to vary my footwear on this hike. Some days it’s sandals, other days it’s barefoot shoes and often it’s trail running shoes. Some day I’ll go completely barefoot. I can also choose to carry a pack and load it up with weight to add some more training challenge.

The same old walking routine easily becomes not the same old walking routine through choices of my own and changes in the environment.

So if you feel like you’re in a rut, taking the same walking route every day, take time to observe all the differences from day to day. What new sights, smells and sounds do you notice? Can you find something along your walk that wasn’t there the last time? Do you recognize some of the same people walking at the same time you do? How do the plants change through the seasons? How does your personal experience differ this time compared to the last time?

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Personal trainer, student of movement, and outdoor explorer in the Pacific Northwest

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