The first time I walked the famed Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in northern Spain, I learned quite a bit about walking.
At first, it was brutal -- walking all day long carrying a too-heavy backpack, up and down hills, over uneven, sometimes unstable surfaces. After about a week, I managed to cultivate a massive blister on the ball of my left foot. Every time my foot made contact with the ground, the pain was excruciating, and when I stopped to rest, it throbbed and pulsated like something out of a cartoon.
Eventually, the blister healed and life was good again. The thing I learned from that is to always take a break after two or three hours of walking, remove shoes and socks, sit for a half-hour or so, and let everything dry out, before continuing. Also, not to ignore so-called "hot spots," when any sort of irritation develops with the feet.
Something else I learned about walking -- it may seem obvious, but never occurred to me before the Camino -- is that the body is designed for walking. It enjoys movement.
Still another thing is that when you walk for any distance, or length of time, you develop a natural rhythm, and if you simply let your mind go, not think about it, your body will go on "cruise control." Your body will move at its natural pace, and your mind is then free to think about other things. Or think about nothing. To just observe and absorb the sights and sounds all around you.
Sort of a walking meditation.
That brings us to today's message -- walking.
Walking is a wonderful exercise program, and a great way to get in shape -- physical and mentally.
According to various guidelines, older folks like us should participate in some mild form of exercise at least 2.5 hours a week. That computes to 150 minutes, and if you walk for 30 minutes at a time, that's five days of walking -- a good amount for starters.
Many moons ago, I ran into an acquaintance who obviously had lot a significant amount of weight. I asked Karen what she had been doing.
"Just walking," she said, explaining that she went home after work and walked for one hour every day. That's it.
For beginners, an hour a day may be too much to handle right at first. Maybe start with 20 minutes. Get yourself a sturdy pair of comfortable shoes and some good quality socks -- try and avoid all-cotton socks, which can cause blisters -- and find a good, safe route. If nothing else, walk around the block a few times. If there's a park or designated walking trail nearby, even better.
Start out slowly and gradually increase your pace. Take it easy at first. Let your body fall into a natural rhythm. One foot in front of the other. Let your arms swing naturally. If you run out of breath, you're pushing too hard, Back it off a little.
As your endurance increases and your legs get stronger, you can add 5 or 10 minutes at a time to your workout. Eventually, work your way up to an hour of walking at a brisk pace, enough to make yourself breath hard, but not become completely out of breath. Any time you exercise, you should be able to carry on a conversation while you're doing it.
When you really get going, try holding a pair of lightweight dumbbells as you walk, or strap on some ankle weights.
I've walked with a weighted vest, and that is an excellent workout.
So there you go.
Take a walk.
You can do it.