There’s a phenomenon in this country of people using shopping malls to get their daily exercise. They don’t shop, they simply walk the full indoor perimeter of the mall — around and around. I don’t know if this is done for exercise in other places in the world or not.
The first time I walked the Westgate mall, some years ago, I was sure it would feel really weird. Going around and around inside the mall? Wouldn’t that be totally boring and even a little embarrassing? But winter in Wisconsin makes it difficult to walk outside — the freezing temperatures and the snow and ice are all hazards. The mall would offer me an opportunity to continue my walks year-round in a safe place.
So one day I did it. I drove out to Westgate mall, put on my walking shoes and gave it a try. I remember coming home that day and telling Ed, “That wasn’t so bad.” In point of fact, the whole time spent there was full of people and things to observe and time for thinking while I walked.
Early in my mall walking, I took my pedometer along to measure the distances. One full circuit around the mall turned out to be about a half a mile. So I decided to walk all the way around four times, giving me a total of two miles every time I went.
When I started having significant pain in my left knee a couple years ago, I was forced to give up the walking — both inside and outside. Now, however, since my knee replacement last Spring, I have been trying to gradually resume my walking, and, just a couple weeks ago, I went back to the mall for the first time. It felt so good to be there — getting back to that regular routine in my everyday life was surprisingly comforting. It was fun once again to look in the windows of the shops, to see a few familiar walkers and others who were new to me, to glance into the Nails ‘U Love at the customers getting their manicures, to see the people eating pizza at the tables in Rocky Rococo’s Pizza place, to glance at the books for sale at the Madison Public Library outlet.
To me, being once again in this mall walking routine means that I have recovered from my knee surgery and made further progress toward “getting back to normal.” Returning to a once regular daily routine after injury or disability strongly represents a return to health in our minds. Everyday occupations are what we use as markers of our progress and well-being — around the house, around the neighborhood, and around other familiar spaces in our lives, including the malls of our world.