Crosswalks and Crosswords: A Walk in Zainea’s Shoes


Whoops didn’t see ya there! The large boulder Zainea fell over on one of his daily walks.

I was driving with my mom in Ann Arbor last year when I saw something strange: a man walking down the sidewalk reading a newspaper. After taking a second look I realized it was Chelsea’s own English teacher John Zainea. 

Walking and reading may seem tricky, but to Zainea it’s a daily routine. Every morning he straps on his headlamp, grabs his newspaper out of the lawn and hits the sidewalk. 

“I set my alarm for 4:45 a.m. and then I usually allow myself to snooze once, but I have to be out of bed by five so that I can get on the sidewalk by 5:10,” Zainea said. 

Zainea has crafted a perfect waking routine every morning. Kept to a tee and never fell off his norm. 

“I usually walk for about an hour and a half,” Zainea said. “I have a five-mile morning route that I do during school days so that I know I can finish it in the same amount of time every day and not be late for school.” 

However, Zainea does like to make slight tweaks to his walks to keep them interesting. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday he walks in one direction on his route and then Tuesday and Thursday he walks in the other direction. 

After suffering a back injury many years back, Zainea had to switch from running to walking every day. For years he walked at the wellness center but shifted to walking around Ann Arbor after COVID hit. 

“When COVID hit the Wellness Center closed down and that wasn’t an option, so I just started walking around in Ann Arbor because everybody was working from home and staying home,” Zainea said. “And I like being outdoors. I like being more in tune with the seasons. I know when it’s winter because I’m freezing my butt off while I’m walking”

Zainea has been walking every day since. He never misses a day even if the weather isn’t great. 

“It’s easy to walk in a snowstorm,” Zainea said. “I just bundle up and the snow doesn’t get the pages wet because it’s hard.”

If there is a dangerous rainy thunderstorm, Zainea doesn’t skip a beat in his walks. On days when the weather isn’t too good in the morning, he takes his walk when he gets home from school. Although he has a tight routine for his weekdays, Zainea changes things up on the weekend. 

“Saturday and Sunday I read magazines or read The New Yorker typically, or listen to podcasts,” Zainea said. “I do get a little bit of a change-up and those are the days when I can branch out to my other five-mile loops that aren’t like the school loop. I’ve got the loop going to Trader Joe’s and I’ve got a loop going to the farmers market.”

Through his years of practice, Zainea even says he’s been able to perfectly fold the newspaper with the wind so it doesn’t slow him down. 

“I would say the one thing that I have become an expert on is the turning of the pages of the paper especially because it’s windy outside a lot of times,” Zainea said. “When you try to fold the paper to the next page that the pages can flip or if you’re wearing gloves like that’s really hard. So I’ve gotten really good at using the force of the wind to strategically push the paper in a certain direction. So that you know if it’s blowing at me, I’ll spin around and open the paper up so that the wind hits it and creases it, and then I can fold it.”

Because of his perfected routine, Zainea rarely misses a step on his walk. Although, there has been one incident. 

“The worst accident I’ve had was when I tripped over a boulder in somebody’s yard,” Zainea said. “I fell into the middle of the sidewalk and I literally went head over heels immediately. I got a big fat lip from it.” 

Despite the trips and tumbles Zainea continues to walk because of its benefits. Not only does walking improve your physical health, but it also helps with mental health as well. Zainea would recommend taking daily walks to anyone who is considering it. 

“I think it’s nice to feel like I’ve accomplished something before I come to school every day,” Zainea said. “There are so many benefits to walking. It is supposedly the best form of exercise for you because it’s really low impact. It keeps you intellectually stimulated even if you’re not reading, just being out in the world and having a chance to clear your thoughts. It’s almost more important for your mental health than it is for your physical health. It’s a good way to just get away and unplug and be by yourself for a while and just get some space for whatever you need.”

If you ever see Zainea on one of his infamous walks, make sure to wave hello as he’d love to say hello back.