How I became a born-again walker


A learner is sometimes the best teacher.

bootcamp2015-small 2Who am I to give advice about walking? Somebody who used to be not a human as we know it but a balloon on a string, that’s who.

I deeply appreciate the joy of walking for that very reason: for years I was virtually unconscious of my body when out for a trot. All my attention was locked inside my brain. And what an astounding machine it was too, by gum.

I was a mindless walker

Think think think. Puzzle puzzle puzzle. Imagine imagine imagine. I was a biological thinking machine, propelled forward horizontally by mysterious means. I was conscious only of my thoughts; I cared only for my thoughts.

I experienced myself as a free-floating brain sailing over footpaths and dangling something vague beneath me. That something vague was… my body. Legs? What legs?

You were right on the button, Vi!

My mother-in-law Vi used to say, often, in fact pretty much daily, “As long as you’ve got your health…” A cliché, and so true. By the time she died, she had 20 serious health conditions—19 that she knew about, plus dementia. She began suffering from arthritis in her thirties; even at that age, the idea of going for a walk for pleasure was completely alien to her.

Well, Vi, I’ve been a hell of a lot luckier than you were. And I’ll carry on walking, which is both a cause and effect of having my health, as you put it.

Walking up and down stairs. Walking to the pool on Tuesdays. Walking over Mt Vic on Fridays. Walking to town for errands and entertainment. Walking the compost bucket to the community gardens. Walking my grandson to the park on Saturdays. Walking to meet friends. And once in a while, most deliciously, walking on a beach or in a forest.

Enjoy your walk! 

You’ll have your own walking routes and reasons. Walking the dog? Hiking in the Solomon Islands, shopping for hot air balloons, touring the estate?

Enjoy your walk. It’s your very own. Your walk is your choice, your walk is you.
Enjoy your walk. Even if you are in a wheelchair or using a walker.
Enjoy your walk. That’s not just a cliché: it’s a prescription.

Image from Chiaroscuro 1910, Senior Class Yearbook, University of Montevallo, via Internet Archive Book Images. Image of cyclists taken by a friend or relative, but I forget who, sorry.


Doing the Otago Rail Trail with friends: my 70th birthday treat and a celebration of sheer good luck so far

11 thoughts on “How I became a born-again walker

  1. Bernadette says:

    I have walked just about everyday for 30 years. I figure it is good for my heart, mind, and soul.

    1. Totally right! I used to walk automatically though… I am now a leg appreciator.

  2. I love walking. My mind wonders wherever it wants. I don’t try to restrain it. Sometimes it’s in wonder of the scenery and sometimes it’s working on a conundrum. In any case there is always a really good feeling (endorphins or such?) when I get home.

    1. Walking is the writer’s friend for that reason. Letting it off the leash appears to be the opposite of mindfulness and a different kind of adventure. The key is to do it (let the mind wander along with the feet) consciously, knowingly–mindfully! There, I just figured this out thanks to your comment! Thank you.

  3. cedar51 says:

    I now don’t have a “car” – when that happens, you end up doing a lot of “walking”. And I just moved to a place that is 20 mins walk away from the transport/mall hub (I used to be less than 5 mins walk from the same Hub); there is an irregular bus during non-rush hours which I do use if a/I’ve had a long day out, b/ is coming in less than 15 mins, Otherwise I walk up one of those long graduated hills to my street – which means it’s all downhill the other way.

    1. I think we both have many cars: they’re called buses, taxis and friends. Then there are our legs 🙂

  4. Oh, how I used to love to walk. Over hill and dale, dunes and wetlands. I loved it all. I’d go for miles. Then one day it felt uncomfortable. The next day it hurt. A lot. And fatigue! Where did that come from? Looks like I have rheumatoid arthritis. I still walk to stay as fit as I can but it isn’t the light and free thing it once was. I’m sure glad I put in all those miles when I could. I saw many beautiful things.

    1. Oh my what a blow this must have been, out of the blue. I feel for you. But your approach is so inspiring. That memory of being light and free is surely with you along with the lovely sights you have seen. Your story carries a message too: we had better walk all we can while we can. In New Zealand, arthritis is extremely prevalent in the over-65s: I appreciate my own good luck so far!

      1. Yes and I can enjoy it vicariously through you 🙂 It is wonderful that you appreciate it more than ever now.

      2. Melissa, I have just visited your own blog and it is, in return, an inspiration for me. I love our own native plants and ecosystems very much although I don’t often write about them. But I shall…

      3. I am delighted to hear that, Rachel. Thank you. I’ll look forward to reading about them.