Take A Walk, Your Body Will Thank You
Musings on my brisk walking experience and why you should walk too
If anyone had ever told me a few years ago that I would do any physical exercise that involved going under the sun and sweating, I would have laughed their heads off, I would have laughed for a whole year. How did this guy who could sit in one spot from sunup till sundown find a way to get off his bum and become more active?
I remember the first time I ran in primary school. It was the trial for our inter-house sports and I was in Primary 4. I honestly knew it was a waste of time but the teacher had insisted everyone try out. Didn’t she take a proper look at me? I was rotund and chubby. Maybe it was her way of encouraging inclusiveness but I am sure I honestly couldn’t have been bothered if I had been overlooked. The only race I had ever run before that, was running to the kitchen at the sound of clanging pots. Why did she think that I would make a good runner? Anyway, to cut a very short story even shorter, I think I came last. I huffed and puffed my way to the finish line, my running career was over before it even launched.
The next time I ran was in secondary school. Remembering my primary school experience, I tried to get out of it but every student had to participate so there was no escaping it. We were required to run from the school campus to a bridge about three kilometres outside of the school which meant a total of six kilometres to and fro. I hadn’t even run one kilometre before I started gasping for air. I was so sure I was going to die. Luckily one of the seniors noticed and half carried me back to school. That was the last time I ran. There were two skills I developed in secondary school though: the ability to stand on the spot for long periods and also walk long distances. These skills came in handy during youth service.
For anyone who has done the national youth service and I mean anyone who went through the full experience without presenting a forged medical report, the endurance trek was a must. It was in the thick of the harmattan season so we were cold and everywhere was dusty. We had to walk then jog then run and repeat the cycle all over again until we got to our destination and back. It was not an easy feat but I somehow prevailed. I guess the daily 5 am drill was very useful in preparing us for the arduous trek. I don’t know how I survived that twenty-kilometre walk but mama, I made it! I remember the sole of a friend’s socks and tennis shoes got burnt from the intensity of the trek.
I remember getting up one evening a few years ago and deciding to take a very long walk. Quite surprising considering that I had never really been one to exercise. I walked for about five kilometres and I felt quite proud of myself when I got back home. It didn’t become a habit until a few years after that but once I settled on a routine, it became much easier for me. I have since gone on to walk/jog/run in several 10km events including two 10km races during two Lagos Marathons and one race down the Third Mainland Bridge with some friends. My longest-ever race, a personal attempt, was just about 18km. I plan to beat that this weekend as I aim to complete a half-marathon (21km) in honour of a friend who passed on due to cancer last year. I met him at my first 10km race through a mutual friend and we ended up participating in some other races together. He ended up doing a full 42km marathon but I don’t have the liver for that yet.
I am still wondering why nobody ever told me how exhilarating walking and running are! I mean, I find it hard to believe that some people knew this and kept it to themselves. Asides from the thrill, I have also felt the impact on my weight, vision, blood pressure, sleep patterns, digestive and excretory systems, thinking, and in so many more areas.
If you can’t run for whatever reason, you can walk but you have to brisk walk to get the best out of it. It is a very good form of cardio. I have been able to establish a routine around this. Doing my brisk walk is one of the major highlights of my day. I always aim to do an hour at least and, on the weekends, I try to go a bit longer. Most days when I am out, I see a few people who are also on the same mission and it is encouraging. There’s an elderly man I assume must be at least 70 years old and he always jogs while I briskly walk. Now tell me if that isn’t motivation. On Saturdays, it’s like an exercise festival where I live as many people troop out to walk, run, and do other forms of exercise. Old men and women, young men and women, getting their hearts racing.
Tracking your performance can help keep you accountable to yourself. I use a fitness band that tracks the number of steps I take daily and amongst other indices, also monitors my sleep pattern. I also use a fitness app that calculates my race time, distance, and the number of calories that I burn during each race. I also get to participate in monthly challenges with friends on the app.
You should also be mindful of the clothes and shoes you wear. Mesh tops absorb sweat so you don’t feel the discomfort of your top sticking to your body. Ensure you get the right running shoes for your feet. One time, I had to stop walking for three months because I got an injury from wearing the wrong shoes.
If you don’t already do any form of exercise, please try brisk walking. It is so easy and comfortable on all your joints and body parts. You can set your routine and increase your pace and distance as you become more comfortable with it. Start small and gradually increase your intensity. The key is to have an established schedule so whether you’re doing it daily or thrice a week, do try and stick to it.
It’s six years today since I unintentionally decided to start living a healthier life and I am amazed that I have gone this far. Of course, I have slipped up a few times but I always get right up and continue. It’s not about how well but how consistent one is. Your body and your heart will thank you every day if you get out and exert yourself often. Trust me, this is the way I see things today!
PS: I have written about my weight loss experience here just in case you would like to start your journey or you need encouragement.
PPS: there’s a fundraiser tied to my 21km race to support the family of my late friend and 20% of donations will go to their nominated charity, please send me a message if you would like to contribute.