A year ago, after a pricey five days immersed in the study of positive psychology at Kripalu, I decided I wanted to exercise again. Four months later, I took my first step into the woods.

20% of my house’s ambitious footprint is taken up by top-of-the line gym equipment, in a beautifully appointed home spa equipped with Apple TV and surround sound; streaming video of everything from TED talks and Wayne Dyer podcasts to the original Paddington Bear. And eight years ago I hopped on that treadmill daily, mindful of the electronic display of miles down, elevation climbed and, of course, calories burned.

In my sixth month of pregnancy, the poor GymSource guy made an emergency house call, departing minutes before the first Passover seder, to eliminate the shrill shriek coming from the treadmill’s belt.

I would have carried on despite the shriek but I feared the noise might kill the baby.

And then after baby two, I dumped the treadmill. And I ate. And I gained weight — all the while, ravenously consuming books like Skinny Bitch, The China Study, and Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live.

I thought a lot about my weight. And I thought for four months between my decision to exercise again and my first step into the woods.

But on a muggy day in June, days before my precious ruffians were released to me for that “special” lapse of time between school and camp, I pulled the car over and hiked deep into the park that I’d driven by each weekday for four years. I was wearing Eileen Fisher stretch crepe ankle pants, an asymmetric black nylon tank top and ballet flats. The look was “schmata chic” — not suburban naturalist trekker. But I walked through three miles of woods, shocked that I never knew such beauty existed so close to home. I did it again the next day. And the day after that.

Hiking has become its own reward. Why would I ever go back to the treadmill? The “spa” was, after all, in the basement. Who cares how many calories I’ve burned when I can watch a baby deer from only four feet away or mash astringent sweetgum leaves beneath my feet in fall? I’ve revolutionized my take on exercise. It’s not about calories and quick results, it’s about giving myself some alone time, some freedom. Some time off from thinking so much.