Ashley and I have been figuring out how the dog should be walked, in order to get her enough exercise that she isn’t a pest, and to make sure that she doesn’t have “accidents” in the house. Here’s how things seem to be shaping up:

  • First walk: As soon as we get up we go out for a peeing and pooping walk. This walk is usually very short, as the dog is happy to come right back in again when it’s cold and dark outside.
  • Second walk: After I’ve had a cup or two of coffee, Ashley is ready to go out again to Check All the Things. At first she just needed to check the patio. Then she needed to check the courtyard outside the patio. Now she wants to check the nearby courtyards and sidewalks as well.
  • Third walk: After breakfast (for her and us), and after it’s light outside, we go for our Long Walk of the Morning. This walk is often three miles or more, and often involves leaving Winfield Village and walking in nearby neighborhoods. Its goal is to give the dog enough exercise that she’s happy to doze for an hour or two after we get in.
  • Fourth walk: If our main meal of the day is late, I want to take the dog out for another short walk before we sit down to eat, so she can pee again.
  • Fifth walk: After our main meal of the day, we go out for another walk. Again, this walk is for peeing and pooping if necessary.
  • Sixth walk: Ashley’s main meal of the comes at 3:00 PM, so I can take her for another walk ahead of cocktail hour. The intention is for this to be her Long Walk of the Afternoon, although there’s not really enough time for as long a walk as would be necessary to get her to be calm during cocktail hour. So this is still a work in progress.
  • Seventh walk: Just before bedtime, I take Ashley out for another walk so she can pee, so she doesn’t need to pee during the night. This walk tends to be quite short, as Ashley is as ready to go to bed as we are.

The Fourth Walk doesn’t always happen, if she doesn’t seem to need to go out before our main meal of the day, so some days we’re already down to six walks per day. (We were doing about eight walks per day for the first several weeks, as anything less led to peeing or pooping in the house.)

Photo of Ashley
Ashley during today’s Long Walk of the Afternoon

Longer term, I’m hoping to get down to about four walks: First walk, Long walk of the morning, Long walk of the afternoon, and Just before bedtime.

Wish me luck.

Although we’re doing slightly fewer walks, we’re probably walking longer distances—I’m averaging a full 8 miles per day last week and this week.

I started practicing tai chi in 2009 with a beginner course at OLLI (the OSHER Lifelong Learning Institute). I’d always been attracted to tai chi. I liked the way it looked—the slow, controlled movement. I was also interested in it as a martial art, and I liked the idea of “moving meditation.” Despite all that interest, I had not anticipated how transformative the practice would turn out to be.

Me doing Lazy about Tying Coat
Lazy about Tying Coat

Before I added the tai chi practice to my life, I was all about figuring out the “right” amount of exercise—and in particular, the minimum amount of running, lifting, walking, bicycling, stretching, etc. to become and remain fit enough to be healthy, comfortable, and capable of doing the things I wanted to be able to do.

Pretty quickly after I took up the practice, I found I was no longer worried about that. I found that my body actually knew what the right amount was, and that all I needed to do was move when I felt like moving—and make sure that my movement was diverse.

Because diversity was the key, I did a lot more than just tai chi. I continued running. I dabbled in parkour. I stepped up my lifting practice (and then shifted to mostly bodyweight training when the pandemic made gyms unavailable, and then continued with it because it seemed to work better). I went down a “natural movement” rabbit hole. I walked a lot.

In about 2012 or 2013 my tai chi instructor asked if anyone wanted to “assistant teach” the beginners class with him. I volunteered, and then did so. After six months or so he asked me to take over the evening class that he was teaching for people who couldn’t come to the early classes. I gradually started filling in for him on other classes as well.

In 2015 I formally took over as the tai chi instructor at the Savoy Rec Center. I really enjoyed teaching tai chi, although I found the constraints (having to show up at every class) a bit. . . constraining.

I did some tweaking around the edges (in particular, combining the Wednesday and Friday classes into a single Thursday class, so I could have a three-day weekend), which helped, but only so much.

Then a few weeks ago, the Rec Center wanted me to sign a new contract which would have required me to buy a new insurance policy, naming the Village of Savoy as an “additional insured.” I’m sure I could have done that—there are companies that sell insurance specifically for martial arts and fitness instructors. But as soon as I got set to research such policies, I realized that I really didn’t want to.

Instead, I wanted to retire.

I’d retired from my regular job years before, in 2007. And of course teaching tai chi four or five hours a week was in no way a career. The first few years I was teaching, I found the money I earned a nice supplement to our other retirement income. But with various improvements to our financial situation over the last few years, the money became pretty irrelevant, and the time constraints more. . . constraining. Especially with my parents facing various health challenges, I want to be able to go visit either one if that seems necessary, which has been difficult if I want to honor my obligation to my students.

So a few weeks ago I told the Rec Center and my students that I was retiring from teaching tai chi. My last classes were yesterday.

I’m sad not to be teaching my students any more, but delighted at losing the set of related constraints.

For years now, my students have been gathering in the park (Morrissey Park in Champaign, Illinois) during nice weather for informal group practice sessions, and I expect we’ll keep doing that. At any rate, I plan to be there, starting in the spring, practicing my tai chi. You are welcome to join us.