Walking is my first love. It is something I have been doing since, well, I could walk. I have chosen to just walk at every free moment, at any given opportunity. Just walk.
As kids we walked everywhere, and it was safe too. Growing up in semi-rural Pietermaritzburg was cool and we were fortunate to be ultra-independent kids. My mother was always buried in a book and my father out working as a vet. They were also big on socialising and chatting over long lunches so us kids were always roaming around the neighbourhoods. On foot mostly. Or on bikes and skateboards.
A Lifetime of Walking
When I was a teenager, I chose to walk for miles as my choice of fitness. I sometimes walked from home to the city! This was far – closer to 10 km! And when I was older, I would park my car for a service at one end of town, and walk to the other end of town, all the way to the public swimming pool to do some lengths!
When I was at Rhodes University, studying for my Journalism degree, I walked every day before the early supper at 5.30 pm. And in those days, we had to walk everywhere as we were all poor hippies with no material assets. On a night out, we walked at least 5 km just to drink wine here then there then home! Needless to say, we drank gallons of wine too!
I can walk in rain or shine, wind or heat. I can walk early, before the sunrise, or later, before the sunset. I am a morning person so the best time for me to walk is before the sunrise when everything is dark – and I know that within 20 minutes I will be able to see around me. Sometimes the moon is still up, or it is very cloudy and extra dark. Sometimes there are owls sitting on trees or lamp posts and sometimes there are shooting stars or satellites. And me, just me.
A Voyeur Alone at Dawn
Walking past houses in the gloom is voyeuristic – I can peep into private lives just for a second or two: a person on a phone on a couch; a couple watching the news; a child peering out from behind a curtain; an older woman hanging out the washing. I can smell breakfasts being cooked – from the morning toast and coffee to the turning of leftovers in the pan from the braai the night before.
And then the Cape Robins start to sing. They sing to one another from garden to garden and the sugar birds answer them with squeaky melodies only they know the meanings of. Then the Boubou Shrikes chime in and the Hadedas scream from the rooftops. When the traffic starts and the smell of pollution permeates the air, my mind goes into neutral and my feet walk a bit harder. Cars flash past, lights marking my way. Some have radios blaring, some rev and speed past. I walk.
My early morning walk takes me to the ocean. Every time. I have two routes. One route starts uphill and continues steeply upwards until it goes steeply down again, taking me in a full circle from home, down to the ocean, then back. The other route takes me uphill for a bit then down, down, down the slow incline to the ocean. Both times I walk along the train tracks, strengthening calves and knees and things as I carefully walk on the cement slats. These are the walks I do now, in Cape Town.
The Walks of Life
The many walks in my life have formed my thoughts, eased my stresses and helped me sort out issues galore as my feet tread forwards and onwards for hours non-stop. I have solved enormous problems on my walks and worked through my resentments, my anger, my worries and my angsts. Sometimes on my walks, I have had to remind myself to see the ocean, hear the birds and watch the sunrise because my thoughts are so thick like creamed honey, they threaten to blind me.
Nature is where I walk. When I can. It was naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, who said:” What is it that makes it so hard to determine whither we will walk? I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. It is not indifferent to us which way we walk. There is a right way; but we are very liable from heedlessness and stupidity to take the wrong one. We would fain take that walk, never yet taken by us through this actual world, which is perfectly symbolical of the path which we love to travel in the interior and ideal world; and sometimes, no doubt, we find it difficult to choose our direction, because it does not yet exist distinctly in our idea.”
Give me a mountain walk any day and I will hug you. I love the Drakensberg for walking and when I lived in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, I thought nothing of driving up to Kamberg for a day’s walk. All I needed was my flask of coffee and a camera. Living in Underberg for three years was bliss. I walked out of my door, onto a farm and then I could walk for miles in creamy-thick yellow grasslands where cattle grazed and reedbuck lay hidden.
The mountain walks here in Cape Town remove me from the urban setting in which I find myself. I do battle with being in a city, but the mountain walks remind me to breathe and be grateful.
In today’s rushed, weird, throttled world we have to be reminded to walk, to take time out in nature. Why is this? Why have we forgotten nature and her healing beauty? Did you know that walking slows down the decline of the brain, preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia? It slows down the onset of any disability in old age, especially when combined with some weight-resistance exercise. Walking heals depression and melancholy, burn-out and stress.
Walking is a Panacea
- It improves circulation, lowering blood pressure and raising the heart rate
- It strengthens the bones, reducing osteoporosis and other weaknesses
- It hardies the muscles and tones the legs, awakening the abdominal muscles and firming up the arms
- It reinforces and tones the cartilage in our joints which gets it nutrition and oxygen from fluids which can only move when we walk
- It fires up weight loss and boosts the appetite for things healthy and nutritional
- It deepens sleep towards an enjoyable night of quality shut-eye
- It helps eliminate waste products ensuring a clean and healthy body and sweet breath too
- It elevates the mood into a joyful thing – and we can see the bright side of life
- It adds years to our lives, and happy days when we are out walking and really SEEING.
For me, a morning walk is my daily medicine. Who needs Vitamin B when we have the bestest and cheapest way of improving our health at our fingertips, on our feet?! A morning walk is even better than any other walk. It seems to stoke the energy fire for the rest of the day. It seems to stoke the coping earthiness for the rest of the day. And it adds so much stamina to the day that another walk in the afternoon often zooms into sight and I jump at it like a bird to a worm.
What Does an Early Walk Do for Me?
- Wakes up my endorphins so that I feel energised and happy
- Wakes up my 6 senses to all that is happening around and within me – birds, trees, sounds of people stirring, scents of blooming plants; and the things that irritate but which can be switched off into the background, allowing the beautiful things to take the foreground
- Makes me feel grounded – as my boots pound the pavement and the beach and the train tracks, I feel good and solid on Mother Earth. I hear my breath, I feel alive, I know that life matters
- A morning walk clears the mind and allows natural planning to happen – get rid of all that procrastination that envelopes you most days and just do it
- I have a lovely morning thanks to my morning walk – I awake, tidy the house, make coffee and do my micro exercises for certain aching joints, put on boots and GO
- I am in Menopause, but my morning walk keeps my body slim and my brain alert – who needs all those calming and hormone pills when you can simply get out and walk?
- It is cheap and easy and does not involve any gear which other sports require.
There is no question about a morning walk, it just is – you get up, get dressed and go.
“When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become of us, if we walked only in a garden or a mall?… Two or three hours walking will carry me to as strange a country as I expect ever to see…. In one half-hour I can walk off to some portion of the earth’s surface where a man does not stand from one year’s end to another…” (Thoreau).
Thank you, Thoreau, I could not have said it better!
Have you walked today – or did you make an excuse?!
Taking nature hikes while in recovery doesn’t have to stop once you are back home and living a sober lifestyle. In fact, you will probably find that taking nature walks has become an enjoyable practice that you will indulge in for many years to come. Walking just 30 minutes a day post-recovery can help you maintain your sobriety as you also continue to care for your mental and physical health.
Aimed at millions of drinkers around the world who are interested in taking a break from alcohol, WALKING BACK TO HAPPINESS reveals the secret of how drinkers can free themselves from alcohol’s control.
It shows how by quitting drinking you can transform your body, mind, life and find true happiness. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to stop drinking. You just need to recognise that your relationship with alcohol can lead to life-changing issues – not just for you but for your loved ones, your work colleagues, in fact, everyone you are connected to.
It’s the story of how a 50-something-year-old, who had been locked into the habit of drinking alcohol for over 35 years, finally woke up and said, “I want a different life”; how he found his purpose and in doing so transformed his mind and body; how he lost 30% of his body weight and made anxiety and sleepless nights a thing of the past.
When are YOU going to start Walking for Life?