Over the past five years, I have been tracking my steps daily with a fitness tracker. An act that on the surface seems rather superfluous. There is one question that I have asked myself at times.
Is there any benefit that comes from tracking my steps?
When I consider this question though I know that there is one very good reason. The act of tracking your steps does in a way encourage you to walk more steps.
Between the years of 2015 and 2018, I walked a total of 24.4 million steps. It is impossible to know what the difference would have actually been. However, had I not been tracking my steps I suspect the actual steps could have been half that.
More Than Just Walking
Over the past four years though the one thing that I have not considered is walking in the bigger context. Thinking about the fact that walking at one time was a much greater part of our daily lives. In some cultures walking was a central part of who they were as a nomadic people.
In a way, walking has become a tool for fitness instead of a method of transport. If you can drive a car between two locations there is a very good chance that you can walk with your own two feet.
The distance that we will give over to walking is getting ever shorter. With an ever-increasing pressure to save time and get things done in less time. It is no surprise that walking takes a back seat to the much more time-effective option to drive a car.
What Does Walking Mean to Me
Up until now walking as a concept is just something that I do each and every day. Something that I have a target to reach for how many steps I take. But that is about the extent of it.
In large part walking for me has been a numbers game. Initially, I put the fitness tracker on with the idea to see how many steps I take a day. Very quickly that became chasing the goal of 10,000 steps each day. Eventually graduating to my current goal of 15,000 steps every day.
In general, I do not think of walking on that level above reaching that goal each day. I do take any opportunity that I can to walk, but purely with a focus on that daily goal. To reach that it just simply requires me putting one foot in front of the other and keep walking.
I am sure that the movement in a way is absolutely beneficial to my health. I have friends that are the total opposite and do anything possible to avoid walking. They are happier the fewer steps they take and their health shows it.
On the Verge of Change
In a way, I think that my approach to walking is something that is about to change. I doubt that I will ever stop recording my steps, but I am seeing a bigger picture around walking.
The change is coming as the result of reading a book I borrowed from the library. Written by Dan Rubinstein the book is called “Born to Walk” and looks at walking from numerous different angles. The book is broken down into eight sections covering, body, mind, society, economy, politics, creativity, spirit and family.
The book opened my eye to the many interwoven aspects of walking. The different jobs that rely on the act of walking to complete the task. The way that nomadic tribes have moved from being nomadic to settling into communities and the resulting health challenges. How police officers patrolling on foot can see a situation in a very different way to those in cars.
The book has very much opened my eyes to the fact that there is more to walking than just moving your feet.
Ideas For Walking
One of the biggest takeaways from this book for me was a question asked of me while reading it. My mother asked me if I was going to do a walk like in the book. While there is mention of some longer walks, it was not something that had particularly occurred to me.
While it had not occurred to me before the next question came as a little surprised. What if you walk to cairns? To my surprise, the idea was more interesting than I had expected.
Interesting enough that I sat down at the computer to find out just how far that is. Currently living in Brisbane the distance is listed as 1,674km. With a suggestion by Google Maps that it would rake around 340 hours of walking.
Although it sounds intriguing it is not something that I am just going to up and do. The timing is not great coming into a Queensland summer and cyclone season. Along with a range of extra planning and building up to walking for longer periods.
Long Walks in Australia
There is some history in Australia of people taking very long walks. Wikipedia has a list of 48 people who have recorded longer walks around Australia. The page “List of people who have walked across Australia” shares journeys varying from 67 days through to four years.
The shortest walk listed in terms of time on the above list is by Steve Quirk. In 2014, Steve crossed the country from East to West, leaving Wollongong, NSW and arriving 67 days later in Fremantle, WA. A distance of 3,711 km with a suggested walking time of 748 hours from Google Maps.
On the other end of the spectrum is the longest walk by time and distance. The journey was taken by Terra Roam, who circumnavigated Australia, walking. She covered a distance of 17,200 km in multiple legs over a period of four years. Also, overcoming injuries that saw some prolonged breaks in the walk.
Planning a Walk
Taking a long walk is something that definitely requires some planning. There would be aspects that could easily be taken as they come. But at the same time, you want to know that you will be able to successfully reach your destination. The last thing you would want is to walk a significant distance only to find the route impassable.
There are at least three areas that I would need to take some time to plan for, including
- The route that I would take and plans for overnight stops.
- The supplies needed, how to transport the supplies and where to potentially resupply.
- Training for the distances that would be covered.
1. The Route and Overnight Stops
I believe there to be two schools of thought on planning a route. The first is to pick some major points along the way as a rough plan and go from there. While the second is to get down into the detail of planning each road and track you will take.
Both have some validity, but the final plan would likely include elements of both. I think there would be a level that I would want to say these are all the towns I want to visit. The in-between for those does not matter, but I do want to visit all of these places. Beyond that, there is going to be plenty to see anyway.
On a more important note, I think that having a plan for overnight stops is more important. Making sure that you are staying within the law and not putting yourself in a dangerous situation. On some walks, this is going to be easy finding a town each night with a campground. However, other walks might not have towns are convenient distances for each daily leg.
2. The Supplies Needed
I have six main areas that I would need to plan for here. Some people I know would only be concerned for some of these. But these are the ones that I think would be important to my own journey. The six area’s include in order of importance.
- Water — Knowing that you have enough water for the distance you are covering is important. Especially as some of the longer stints may not see the ability to resupply for numerous days.
- Food — Almost as important as water, is having a good supply of food that will provide the energy needed to keep going. Also, keeping in mind a way to store food and prepare it.
- Carrying Supplies — Depending on the route that I am walking the way in which supplies are carried might differ. Where you can resupply often it will require something much different to when you need to carry everything for multiple days at a time.
- Sleeping — Generally, I imagine that with a long walk camping is the most practical option. Which would mean a tent and sleeping bag, but there could be some differences depending on the season you are walking in as well.
- Resupply Points — Where along the route can you resupply with water, food, and other supplies. Something I would definitely want to plan ahead for especially in some parts of the country.
- Technology — Documenting the journey for me is important and would see me needing some technology. The absolute worst case would see me wanting a GPS and the ability to recharge AA batteries. However, I would likely also look to carry a Camera and Laptop and the ability to recharge the batteries. Other considerations would also be a locator beacon and maybe a satellite phone.
There is a lot to think about when planning for a long walk. The list above is just an off the cuff first thought on the matter, so I am sure there could be plenty more that I have not considered.
3. Training For The Distance
Whether it is walking around Australia, from Brisbane to Cairns or some other trek, it will involve some long days walking. Steve quirks walk above form Wollongong to Fremantle would have averaged 55.4 km per day. While Terra Roam mentioned averages from 20 km per day up to 67 km in one day.
As it stands at the moment I am a little way off even 20 km per day, but not that far. Over the past five years, I have averaged 16,700 steps per day. Based on my average pace length of 80cm I average about 13.4 km per day.
I am not so concerned about the distance, but more the extra things. Such as I would likely be carrying a backpack with some weight to it. Or I would be pushing or pulling some kind of trolley. Over short periods these things would not concern me. However, over a longer stretch of walking, they are both potential problems I need to prepare for.
In The Future
Any idea of a longer walk though is definitely in the future. I do not want to start something in the middle of summer in Australia.
At this point in time, I think my process will be along the following lines. In the next few months, I will look at some potential routes for a trial run. Maybe a four to five-day loop that I can test my long-distance walking on.
The result of that planning I will take some walks coming into April 2020. Following the idea of some four to five-day loops. From there I will look to the future of a much longer walk. Potentially between just two cities, or potentially the whole way around Australia.
Is it something that I am ready for? That is a great question, I don’t think it is something that anyone can truly know the answer to until they complete it.