A walk to remember

I’m glad that Charles Dickens didn’t own a Fitbit. He would have probably put us so-called “active” types to shame. On an average, the man used to walk 20 miles a day, meandering through the streets of London and plodding through the Kent countryside with equal aplomb. “No gipsy on earth is a greater vagabond than myself; it is so natural to me and strong with me, that I think I must be the descendent, at no great distance, of some irreclaimable tramp,” he writes in his series of semi-autobiographical essays, The Uncommercial Traveller.

Exploring the world by shank’s mare seems to be a popular pastime of many a writer. Think William Blake, William Wordsworth, Henry David Thoreau, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, Henry Miller and Vladimir Nabokov. Perhaps it is because, as Geoff Nicholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, says, “Walking requires a certain amount of attention but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking. I do believe once you get the blood flowing through the brain it does start working more creatively.”

Of course, my own tryst with walking started off with more prosaic intentions: weight-loss. It is probably the best form of exercise for someone who has a lot of weight to lose. It’s accessible, cheap, fairly easy on already-stressed-by-excess-weight joints and less intimidating than a gym or a class. Today, I fight with brawny men for barbells, lie askew on the gym floor unmindful of whether my (not flat) tummy shows or not and emit guttural, slightly-orgasmic sounds on my final rep. But when I started, I was uncomfortable in my skin, hated my body and was terribly shy, so walking was ideal for me.

As the weight came off, I graduated to other things. The gym, of course, but also yoga, boot camps, running, martial arts, swimming, Zumba, aerobics and parkour. Walking got relegated to the back burnerSure, I walked and explored new cities when I travelled or had the occasional walk-date or resorted to it when I had no access to any other form of activity, but it was no longer “cool” enough to count for exercise. Why would I want to walk when I could upload pictures on Facebook wearing a running bib, lifting a massive barbell or in some magnificent, gravity-defying yoga pose?

An injury last month changed all that. The only thing I was allowed to do was walk, so, walk I did. This was a temporary thing, I told myself. I would be back in the gym soon. Or so I thought. What I didn’t factor in was falling in love with it.

For starters, I get to choose the music echoing through the chambers of my mind, as I walk. Which means no more snazzy, gym workout tracks of the Hips Don’t Lie genre but my music. My friends laugh when I tell them I walk to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Leonard Cohen, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, Joan Baez, Jethro Tull, Harry Belafonte and Pete Seeger, but I find it deeply therapeutic. This music, that holds nostalgia-braised memories of great happiness, allows me to escape into myself. I’m mentally in a better place when I walk.

And guess what, fitness-wise, walking is pretty legit. Walking is LISS (Low Intensity Steady State Cardio) and while it doesn’t torch fat the way HIIT (Hight Intensity Interval Training) does, is fairly popular among trainers like Kayla Itsines, Joanna Hall and Bob Greene. On her website, Itsines notes that since LISS is“unlikely to impede your recovery by training over the top of sore muscles, “it can “actually help to increase blood flow to damaged muscles and reduce post-workout stiffness.”

Like Thoreau, I’m beginning to believe that, “an early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” It has been so far. And so, I intend to, as another fine gentleman once said, "keep walking".

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 11:49:04 AM |

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