It is such a simple thing – placing one foot in front of the other. And, because of its simplicity, I think it is often completely under-valued.
Put down your mobile phone, stand up from your chair, stretch and let’s go for a wee walk.
I am a bit of late bloomer when it comes to walking. Yes, I have had the ability to walk for more years than I care to admit, but to walk consciously and with purpose, is a completely different scenario than being mobile enough to simply hang the washing out. I acknowledge that having the ability to do even that, should not be taken for granted.
I have only come to this purposeful-walking gig in the last seven years or so. It started with our first camino in Spain back in 2013. I have always been a pretty uncoordinated sort of sportswoman – think two left feet, two right hands, the concentration span of a gnat, and a complete absence of competitive spirit. The idea of a long walk seemed the perfect match for my athletic ability (or lack there-of) and it was. That first camino triggered something in my brain and I viewed the simple act of ‘going for a walk’ in a whole new light.
Here is what I found:
- Walking as Meditation: I have tried to meditate in the past and have been spectacularly unsuccessful. See the previous comment about concentration span/gnat. However, the regular action of walking, one clumsy foot in front of the other, generates a consistent rhythm which allows my mind to wander, removing myself from the immediate task of getting from Point A to Point B. While this may not be a true definition of meditation, it is as close as I get for now.
- Walking is not Exclusive: Anyone can walk. It is not exclusive or elitist. You don’t have to walk far, you just need to decide to get moving. You also don’t need all the latest designer gear and brand names. A comfy pair of walking shoes or sandals and some clothing that allows you to regulate your temperature, will carry you far. I remember a few years ago I was participating in a large fun run called the Sydney City to Surf. A man standing nearby looked like he had just stepped out of the garden and was wearing pretty ordinary gear including a pair of worn out Dunlop Volley sneakers (think: simple canvas, no arch support, no tread for grip etc). Even in my non-athlete mind I scoffed that he could run 14km in those dilapidated shoes and yet, when the hooter sounded, he took off like a rocket and left me standing, wondering where he went. Never judge a book by its cover or a runner by his shoes!
- Walking as a Dose of Nature: Walking opens you up to your surroundings. Moving slowly through the landscape you get to hear and see the birdlife, smell the flowers and see the mist gently rising from the valley. It allows you to connect with the environment on a much deeper level. I love an early morning walk when you can feel the moisture on your skin and see the land around you awaken as the sun rises.
Can I suggest that as you walk, don’t plug into your phone or other music? Don’t crowd out your mind and ears with mechanical sounds. Let Nature provide the entertainment.
- Walking to Win Friends and Influence People: Well, that may be a slight exaggeration, but you can meet some really interesting and pleasant people when you go for a walk. I think that is one of the main reasons I enjoy caminos so much. Each day you meet a United Nations of people all with interesting stories and many with a similar outlook on life as myself, and all happy to walk and talk at the same time. Last year I finally got organised and joined my local bushwalking club and this has introduced me to a whole bunch of fabulous people I may not normally come across in my home town.
- Walking as Medicine: The medical benefits of a good walk have been widely discussed in all sorts of media. Again, maybe it is the rhythmic nature of walking that allows you to walk off the stress and release any frustration you may be lugging around.
I find it helps me work through any quandaries I may be pondering and it can help me sort out the priorities for the day. A free planning tool?
Then there are the medical benefits of simple movement, weight-bearing exercise and increasing your heart rate a little. What is not to love?
- Walking for Weight Loss: If you do enough of it, walking can be very good for the waistline. I often lose around 5kg every time I walk a camino or similar long distance walk. Winner!
- Walking for Some Quiet Time: We all need some alone time, some quiet time every now and then. Walking delivers that in spades as well as giving you time and space to think. Not that I have major ‘stuff’ to think through, but when our days are so full of noise and input, some quiet time is good for us and is to be embraced.
- Walking as an Education: On the walks I have done through Spain, Portugal and Italy I have felt like I was walking through history over ancient Roman roads and bridges. What a privilege to learn about these industrious and innovative people by walking in their footsteps. I get quite a thrill (Yes, I am easily pleased I know) when I come across an interpretive sign explaining the significance of a tumble of sandstone blocks. I love a bit of history.
Take the time to stop and read these signs. Walking is about the journey, not just the final destination. It is surprising what you can learn in the great outdoors.
So, now it is your turn.
Just put one foot in front of the other. It is not a race. There is no finishing line. Rest when you need to, but keep going and slowly build your distance and resilience. You will thank me for it.
Have I enthused you to go for a wee walk?
#walking #thejoyofwalking #walkingthroughhistory #walkingasmedicine #historicwalks