I Tried Walking 10,000 Steps a Day in a City Where Everyone Drives


Urban Outfitters

Much like the traffic and spectacular array of dietary restrictions among its citizens, the fact that no one walks in Los Angeles was one of the oft-mentioned maxims that preceded my moving here two years ago. I didn't realize how true it was until my first full day in Byrdie's L.A. headquarters. In celebration of my arrival, our team went out for lunch. We piled into a series of Ubers… only to hop out at our destination two blocks down the road, like a scene out of a modern remake of L.A. Story. Fresh off the plane from a car-free five years in New York City, I was scandalized.

When I moved here, my ability to withstand any temperature less than 60 degrees was the first thing to go. My propensity to walk anywhere quickly followed. Now, I can barely be bothered to walk around the corner from my office to grab lunch. (My Postmates habit is pathetic.) I live in the very walkable neighborhood of Silverlake—aka West Brooklyn—and yet I typically don't stray from the five-block radius surrounding my apartment without hopping in my car.

The irony is that I had always assumed getting a car would be liberating. I could take spontaneous road trips. I wouldn't have to take a ferry to get to IKEA, and never again would I have to lug three heavy bags of groceries from Trader Joe's to the subway to my apartment. But in truth, there was a different kind of freedom that came with walking, not the least of which was never having to find parking.

That's not even to mention that just by living my life in New York—commuting from Brooklyn to Manhattan, meeting up with friends, and running any and all errands—I was actually in really good shape with relatively minimal effort. One of the caveats of moving that I hadn't anticipated was having to be far more conscious about my fitness routine since I'd be more inclined to sit all day. So with this all in mind, I decided to throw down a little challenge for myself. Most experts recommend hitting 10,000 steps a day—could I possibly meet that minimum for seven days straight in the city where no one walks?

To prepare, I put the call out to Instagram for some pointers on hitting my goal. Two commenters advised choosing far-away parking spots on purpose—an easy ask since street parking is already my recurring nightmare. Some of the quirkier ideas included walking around while brushing my teeth and going to the bathroom on a different floor at the office. One person suggested taking "walking breaks" at work, and I joked to a colleague that maybe I'd just start leaving for hours at a time to take my leisurely strolls—because "it's for a story!" (For the record, I didn't actually do this because I like being employed.)

So with a few new tips to keep in mind and my Apple Watch fired up and ready to track my every mood, I woke up one recent Monday morning with the number 10,000 emblazoned across my mind's eye. But weirdly enough, that goal would take an interesting turn by the end of the week.

Keep reading to get the play-by-play.