Urban Streetscape As Cognitive Function

This week has brought with it a series of aches, pains, and other symptoms that in some cases might be and in one case is related to my daily, evening walks. For the time being, I’ve been seeing them as an artifact of nearing or reaching my resource limits.

To get around to the thing I want to talk about here, I’m going to lay out each day’s walk and what, if any, symptoms made an appearance that day.

As noted before my walks come in a couple of different flavors and routes. There’s a wide, easterly loop through the residential part of my neighborhood that’s just over a mile, and a narrow, westerly loop that’s just under a mile. Then there’s a tight, short easterly residential loop that sometimes gets tacked on to either long loop which brings the total to just under a mile and a half.

Typically, my “exercise” pace makes a mile in seventeen minutes and change. If I have to limit myself to a stroll, it’s closer to twenty-one minutes. On most days, I land at something just over eighteen minutes.

So, anywhere from about a mile to just under a mile and a half, at either an exercise, stroll, or “middling” pace.


Friday

  • I took the eastern long loop, walking one mile for about 21 minutes.
  • During the walk, I could feel my developmental coordination disorder.
  • Average heart rate during the walk: 110 BPM.

Saturday

  • I took the western long loop and a side trip to the grocery store, walking one and a half miles for about 31 minutes.
  • Average heart rate during the walk: 111 BPM.
  • Later, upon standing up my lower back went out, with a very momentary but sharp twinge.

Sunday

  • I took the western long loop, walking just over one mile for about 20 minutes.
  • Average heart rate during the walk: 112 BPM.
  • About an hour later, I had to stand up very slowly because I could tell my back was threatening.

Monday

  • I took the eastern long loop and a side trip to the grocery store, walking just over one mile for about 20 minutes.
  • Average heart rate during the walk: 111 BPM.
  • I ended the workout tracking on my way out of the store, because I’d become light-headed, dizzy, and felt weak in the legs, and so slow-walking the last few blocks home.
  • Upon reaching home, I had to take the steps up from the sidewalk and up to my front door slowly and using the handrail.

Tuesday

  • Upon waking, I had left shoulder blade pain.
  • I took the eastern long loop, walking just over one mile for about 24 minutes.
  • Average heart rate during the walk: 106 BPM.

Wednesday

  • My watch recorded an outlier heart rate of 143 BPM almost exactly two minutes before I started my walk, when I would have been getting my keys and my Airpods, which I’m almost certain was a sensor misread.
  • I took just short of the western long loop, turning back early, walking under a mile for about 18 minutes.
  • Average heart rate during the walk: 106 BPM.
  • I was drowsy by 8:30 PM.

Thursday

  • Wrenched feeling in my right flank overnight.
  • Woke to my body feeling worn down, which remained true in late afternoon.
  • I took just short of the western long loop, turning back early, walking just under one mile for about 20 minutes.
  • Average heart rate during the walk: 103 BPM.
  • By the end, I felt light-headed and weak in the arms.

Friday

  • Did not get out of bed until 12:45 PM.
  • Woke to a stich in my side and mid-back ache.
  • I did the western long loop and a side trip to the grocery store, walking between one and one and a half miles for about 27 minutes.
  • Average heart rate during the walk: 116 BPM.
  • My back felt a bit tweaked when going to bed.

The only other relevant things are that my days other look mostly the same: I awake around 10:00 AM or 10:30 AM, and get out of bed anywhere from around 11:00 AM to after 12:00 PM, depending on how my resource levels feel. My meals are all the same, as seen on my homepage.

My diet these days consists of cold cereal for breakfast, except for a weekly brunch out; turkey, provolone, olive oil mayo, and iceberg lettuce on sourdough for lunch; brown rice, diced chiQin, broccoli, sweet corn, and arrabbiata sauce for dinner; a cup of coffee and a shortbread cookie for dessert; apple oatmeal crumble bars between meals; and an Arnold Palmer and Cheez-It crackers for a snack.

The only variations this week were that on Tuesday I stopped at Burgerville to try their seasonal Oktoberfest Cheeseburger, and on Thursday the outside world was a string of sensory problems ranging from barking dogs to leaf blowers to gamer neighbors who don’t believe in headphones.

For the first five of the above days, and this is typical, I also got out to a coffeeshop that’s about six block way to read a book over a latte, but then it got too warm out for me to do so because bright and warm sun can debilitate me quickly.


At any rate, the real reason I lay all that out was because I wanted to mention something I realized I was doing on the last three of the above days, when I took the western loop.

As mentioned, the eastern route is a wide loop. It feels more expansive and more distant, whereas the western route is a tight loop along a single street. What I realized was that after the various symptoms this week, at the end I was choosing the western route because of its geography.

Cognitively, I was outsourcing some of the work I needed to do to monitor how I was doing on the walk. The eastern route feels so much longer and so much further afield that if I started to wear out or my body break down, I’d at bit feel stranded and at sea.

Walking west into downtown St. Johns, each and every intersection served as a natural “check-in” point to see how I was doing, and whether or not I should be turning around and heading back home.

I find this sort of cognitive outsourcing fascinating, and I’ve mentioned it here more than once in other contexts, typically when it comes to the smartphone increasing my capacity to live independently.

It wasn’t until last night that I realized this is a use to which I’d been putting the very geography and urban streetscape of the western loop, but there’s no doubt: it was serving as a prompt to monitor my health.

Referring posts