Setting off for a destination, having only what you are carrying on your back and no real plan is true freedom
As you may know, I set up this blog so that I can share three of my passions with others, and one of these passions is walking. My motivation for sharing my walks is partly for the enjoyment of those who for health or age reasons are unable to get out into the countryside themselves, partly for those who do get out into the country and who still enjoy reading others’ experiences, and partly to encourage non-walkers to just give walking a try.
Some will ask the question, ‘Why Walk?’, and I know that some will be unable to see any benefits to something that to them might seem quite laborious and slow. There will be those who think only in terms of arriving and who will see the journeying as just an evil necessity, so ‘lets get it over in the quickest way possible’! But as T S Elliot said, ‘The journey, not the arrival matters’!
So why do I use Shanks’s Pony as my preferred mode of transport? Well the short answer is that I enjoy it, I enjoy the mechanical process of just putting one foot in front of the other. But obviously there is much more to it than that! So here are some of the benefits.
I think one of the first, over-riding things is that anyone can do it, whatever your age or fitness level……and it doesn’t have to cost a thing.
It brings health benefits, both physical and mental. On the physical level, it keeps the body fitter, tones muscles, is good for weight loss, keeps the heart strong. On a mental level, it pumps blood round the brain, improving memory and mental agility. It also has the effect of improving mood and has been shown to be effective in combatting depression. In short, you feel better mentally and physically for walking. Hippocrates was right when he said, ‘Walking is man’s best medicine.’
It definitely helps stress and I know people who were off work with stress but who soon recovered after spending some time walking in the countryside. It is a great de-stresser and can be preventative as well as curative. Coupled with this, it can help you sleep better – the pure sleep of a tired body and a satisfied mind.
It can be tailored to suit the individual. Doctors recommend 150 minutes a week but if you have never exercised before, you can start with just a short stroll and build up from there to as much or little as you want. Anything is better than nothing!
It is gentle on the joints. For someone like myself who suffers from arthritis, this one is quite crucial. Recently I have tried a bit of running but my ankles soon complain because the weight on limbs increases considerably.
You don’t need any special equipment. OK, there is a whole industry based on walking, providing all manner of high and low tech gear to aid walking and in some ways the industry has created its own market. The fact is you don’t NEED anything specific – my parents walked many miles when they were alive and they did it all in their day clothes and ordinary shoes. Even the famous Alfred Wainwright didn’t have expensive equipment and he spent his life walking. I guess some equipment helps, but you don’t necessarily NEED anything fancy to start walking.
OK, so that has covered some of the factual issues, but there are many more emotive reasons for walking.
You will see things that you would never see otherwise. You can drive through the countryside but most of your focus will be on the road so you will miss much of what is around. When you are on foot, you can stop often, and paths will take you to places that a car just cannot reach. And you will be richer as a result.
You will be away from the daily grind. In this computer and social media age, there is often an imbalance between time spent outside and time spent at technology screens, whether they be computer, tablet, games machine or smart phone. Even as a walker I struggle with this – between blogging, processing photographs, writing, planning walks and researching my family history, I seem to spend more time than I want at the computer screen.
Just being in the countryside, on the coast, or on the hilltop is sheer joy. There are views aplenty, lovely varied landscapes, and even with a cheap pair of binoculars you see wildlife that you would not normally see. You can surround yourself with trees, wild flowers, animals, birds, bugs of all shapes and sizes and be lost in their midst. It is just the most amazing place to be and puts everything into perspective. No one ever achieved that in their office.
You meet some lovely and like-minded people. I always think it strange that you can walk through a town surrounded by people and speak to no-one, but get out on the coast path and you will say ‘hello’ to everyone you pass, and stop to pass the time of day with many. There is such a community spirit in the countryside and it is one of its great pleasures.
It is great for thinking…..and talking. I find that I think better when walking, that is a simple truth, and I often put the world to rights in my mind whilst climbing a hill. Somehow it is easier than when I am just sat at home. But it is great for talking too. If you have a problem to share, it is often easier to talk over it whilst walking than it is when just sat opposite each other. Sometimes I think there should be more walking and talking counselling services for those who have issues to talk through.
One area I think can be particularly enjoyable and beneficial is the end to end walk, or thru hike as they call it in America. With these walks you basically leave the world behind and it is just you and what you have on your back meeting challenges as you go with just your own problem solving skills to get you through. And you meet those problems head on whether they be to do with bad weather, finding places to sleep, finding food on the way, difficulties over route finding and so on. OK, so this is the UK and not the wild jungles of Borneo but challenges will still arise and you need to meet those and overcome them.
Setting off for a destination hundreds of miles away and having only what you are carrying and no real plan is freedom in its truest form!
I love my walking and as far as possible, I do it very day. Some days they are long walks, some days they are shorter walks, and some days perhaps just a half an hour power walk and I have tried to put into words why I do it.
So how about you? If you have never really tried it, I would encourage you to give it a go. You may be surprised at what benefits it brings you and how it will enrich your life.
Thanks for stopping by.
Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler
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