In the winter semester of my first year at university, I took a course called Intro to Sound. Our very first assignment was to go on a walk, on our own, and listen. Being new to Montreal, I was excited to explore, so I tied up my oversized boots, buttoned my second-hand maroon suede jacket and stepped out into the night. Crunch-crunch-crunch. I listened to the snow pack down with the weight of each step; I listened to the hiss of taxis slowing down to find their address. There were some dogs, some people exiting a movie theatre, the wind, and other noises of the night. I remember it so clearly; it’s probably one of the few clear memories I have from that year.

Over the course of my adult life, I have joined several gyms, always with earnest hope and intention that I’ll become one of those perfect ponytail, taught-body gym girls. As each year progresses, I realize more and more that going to the gym isn’t really me. Who I am is a coffee sipping, dripping, city walker. I walk a lot; I walk far! But not as far as I thought.

A few weeks ago, based on recommendations of a few trusted friends who are non-gym people like me, I went to the new TELUS store at Toronto Eaton Centre and got a Fitbit fitted to my wrist. I wavered between two colours. “What do you think? Black or plum?” I’m sure Scott the Learning Centre Expert (who I met, but minutes prior) would know what suited me best. “Definitely plum,” he said with absolute certainty. I trusted him.

Still dealing with a post-baby body that isn’t quite the same as it used to be, I was getting the Fitbit to track my steps, but oh-my-god this fashionable tech device does so much more than that! Scott and I took a seat at one of the meeting tables nestled in the TELUS store for our one-on-one training session (available for all TELUS customers for free, by the way); while we waited for the app to download on to my phone and the Fitbit to charge, he used his Fitbit to show me all the miraculous things it can do. Not only did I learn how to use it, but I also learned what Scott eats for breakfast (the man makes a great smoothie!), and how he exceeds 10,000 steps, even on days when he’s mostly working in-store.

Did you know that the Fitbit will track if you aren’t drinking enough water? It will compare the calorie count on your take-out lunch (you knew the burger combo was a bad idea!). It will show you EXACTLY how well, or in my case, how incredibly poorly, you are sleeping, IN DAILY REPORTS THAT COME IN GRAPH FORM. Safe to say, my tutorial with Scott was life-changing.

Before I started tracking my steps, I always thought that I walked A LOT, but because I work from home and I’m not roaming office floors heading to photocopy this, or get a sign-off on that, or walking to get to the bus, I’m actually not taking as many steps as I thought. I go for coffee, pick up my son from daycare and choose to walk to any meetings outside of the home, but that isn’t always adding up to the Fitbit recommended 10,000 step minimum. So I’ve been stepping out, pushing my daily steps to meet or exceed that minimum. As a result, I’ve noticed a decrease in stress and an increase in mindfulness. Oh, and the fitness part too. My butt. 🙂

On a regular busy day, I’ll simply try to take more steps by choosing to walk to destinations, or stepping out for a mid-afternoon walk around the block. However, the Fitbit has also motivated me to block time in my schedule to go for walks, with the intention of increasing my heart rate and clearing my head.

Here are six Toronto walks that offer lots of sights and sounds for any time of year. I hope you find them as peaceful, meditative and rich in life as I do. And, you know, work that butt too.

Cedarvale Park

Grab a coffee in Forest Hill Village and walk west, past Bathurst, following the trail into Cedarvale Park. I think these photos will convince you that this is a beautiful stretch of green in the heart of midtown Toronto.

Hike along The Don River 

This walk is as short or as long as you want it to be. Pack a picnic and hike all the way from Danforth to Lawrence Avenue. And bring a camera; I have seen deer!

Alexandra Muir Gardens

Since I had my first kiss in this park, it will always hold a special place in my heart. In the heart of Lawrence Park, this path will take you through manicured gardens, alongside a creek, under Mount Pleasant, into the large open spaces and back trails of Sherwood Park.

High Park

Everyone loves High Park. If you have a little one, take them to the zoo, and when they get sleepy, put them down for a stroller nap while you wind your way around the pond and take in the breathtaking seasonal colours. (If you want to cheat a bit, you can finish your walk with a slice of pie at the Grenadier Cafe. Just don’t tell your Fitbit.)

Forest Hill North

Check out beautiful real estate while you walk along this well-trodden path that runs adjacent to Chaplin Crescent. Enter off of Avenue Road and Chaplin and walk west.

But truthfully, my favourite city walks are city walks. I often go from Bay and Bloor to Dundas and Ossington, and the myriad of paths one can take can last a lifetime.

 Get outside, walk, listen, think, breathe, work your body, and enjoy.