10 tips for walking in the age of social distancing. Yes, that’s a thing.

I'm a runner, but walking outside is my lifeline right now. In the midst of COVID19, walk-talk therapist Jen Udler says there’s a way to do it safely.

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Public sign informing that beaches are closed except for exercising and walking dogs

Nearly every state stay-at-home order permits walking and exercising outside and that’s a good thing.

Getting outside and moving around is more essential than ever, and like many of you, I’m walking more than ever. Even guys who run or work out in the gym or participate in fitness classes are using walking as a form of exercise, some of them, like my husband, for the first time. Although I’ve been going into work for the past several weeks, this week, I’m trying out teleworking, and I’m exhausted. I don’t know whether it’s figuring out the tech side of working from home when everyone else is at home or the temptation to just sit in front of the computer, especially when all of your meetings are teleconferences or WebX or Teams meetings. But one thing is for sure, working from home, or just being home, day after day, is physically and mentally draining.

Yet a great source of stress relief for me has been participating in Zoom happy hours and catch ups with friends and family nearly every day. I’m not the only person who’s noted the irony of how much we’re relying on social media for engagement and keeping connected when only a few months ago we were talking about how worried we were for millennials and teens and even kids who would be so addicted to their phones that they would have little time, or desire, for making and sustaining “real” connections.

But for most of my socializing, then, I’m still sitting in front of a screen.

So I’ve thought a lot about my interview with therapist Jen Udler for my Washington Post article on walk-talk therapy. As I’m on my daily walks with my family and we’re talking through whatever’s on our mind, I’m reminded of the how much better both walking and talking can make us feel and how important both are for getting through this unthinkable crisis. If you don’t have someone to walk with, you can Zoom or Facetime your walks, too.

I’m a runner, but walking outside is my lifeline right now. Yet there’s a way to do it safely. After many recent walks, walk-talk therapist Jen Udler says she’s noticed some confusion about what to do when we encounter fellow walkers. How do we keep our allotted 6-10 feet distance without inconveniencing each other too much? Here are Jen’s general guidelines (not strict traffic rules), much like courteous social skills.

10 new rules for social distancing while walking

By Jen Udler, Positive Strides Therapy


  1. Be more aware than usual of those around you.
  2. If you see someone walking toward you stay as far to your right as possible. Try to look ahead, and see if you need to cross a street to avoid a run in.
  3. If the path is less than 6 feet wide, try to stand off the path at a safe distance.
  4. When a faster jogger is approaching you from the rear, stand off the path to allow them to pass.
  5. If you are the faster jogger, politely call out “passing on your left.”
  6. Bikers, beware! Bikers, please announce your imminent arrival. Please also maintain a safe 6-foot distance while passing.  If you must dismount, and stand on the grass, please do so.
  7. Using clear hand motions that indicate where you are going, can be helpful.
  8. If someone is clearly older than you, please give them the right of way. 
  9. If you see a young child, keep in mind, that they may not understand what is going on.  It’s also quite possible that they did not read this list!
  10. Smile, be friendly, go out of your way to say “hello,” “good morning,” or “nice day out!”  We are still social beings, and there’s nothing unsafe about a friendly greeting!

Thank you, Jen, and especially for No. 10. How nice it feels to offer a pleasantry to a fellow walker, runner, cyclist, or passer by.

And even better to be on the receiving end.

Happy walking!

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