By Frank Greally
Walking for health and fitness provides a reminder for both beginners and regular walkers of the gifts we receive in great abundance when we exercise.
Recreational walking is already the most popular form of physical activity among Irish people, with over 2.5 million taking time out to walk for leisure and pleasure each week. Walking has been described as “the closest activity to perfect exercise” and people who regularly walk enjoy a multitude of physical and mental health benefits. In fact, a number of GPs I have spoken to recently agree that regular walking can be far more beneficial than some of the medical prescriptions they write for patients who have neglected their physical health.
Walking is cheap, accessible, low-impact and requires little skill, which makes it an attractive option for those who are sedentary and wish to increase their physical activity levels. Embarking on a regular walking routine can act as a gateway for many people to more strenuous forms of exercise such as trail walking, hills and mountains.
It all has to start with one step… going out the front door and deciding that you are going to begin a new life chapter titled Walking With Purpose and Gratitude.
I use the words Purpose and Gratitude for good reason as I have found both have helped me find my own way back to an enhanced state of both physical and mental fitness.
My own walking is a daily joy and prompts a deep sense of gratitude at still being able to complete a brisk walk that has already this year extended to beyond a daily hour in the park. I get to walk twice most days and I keep in mind the words of motivational speaker Gerry Duffy and remember that I never have to walk- I get to walk. I also keep in mind an old proverb that says ‘hasten slowly’.
It’s a temptation to try to do too much, too soon when you begin a fitness walking routine. I stick with what the late Noel Carroll used to advise on running: “A little a lot is much better than a lot a little.”
It’s so easy to put off the day that you decide to embark on what can become a life-changing fitness plan. Putting on your walking shoes and going out the front door is really the only obstacle. I have never felt sorry for having gone out walking, but I have not felt at all good about skipping the odd walk for some silly reason that brought me no benefit.
Many of us arrive at middle age unprepared for the reality of advancing age and receding rewards. My good friend, the late Dr George Sheehan, an original fitness guru in the USA, wrote about this and I often quote what he had to say.
George wrote: “Most experts suggest that as we age we make a new start in a new career, develop new interests. I say begin at the beginning. Begin with the body The body mirrors the soul and the mind, and it is much more accessible than either. Become proficient at listening to your body and you will eventually hear from your totality – the complex, unique person you are.”
“I did it that way when at age 45 I began to again walk and later run. And in that hour-a-day of perfecting my body, I began to find out who I was. I discovered my body is a marvellous thing, and learned that any ordinary human can move in ways that have excited painters and sculptors since time began.”
George Sheehan’s words have an even truer ring for me today than when I read them first a few decades ago.
I walk with purpose and a deep sense of gratitude and I find that is enough to keep me motivated. Purpose and Gratitude are two very empowering words. They are words that can help you kick- start a brand new walking plan or enhance and build on your regular walking routine.
I have a few walking targets for this new year that include a walk from Inniskeen in Monaghan to Dublin, re-tracing the footsteps of the poet Patrick Kavanagh. I also want to walk from Dublin to my hometown of Ballyhaunis; I have already completed the walk (12 days) from Ballyhaunis to Dublin and my plan is to complete the walk in reverse and arrive in Ballyhaunis in early May to celebrate Come Home To Mayo month.
I’d like to extend an open invitation to readers of the Gazette to join me on Gratitude Road. My Gratitude Road walking group is free to join and you will receive a monthly newsletter with motivational tips to keep your walking fresh and lively. There will be real-life walking stories shared in the newsletter and some Special Offers too.
So, join me today on Gratitude Road! All you need to do is email me at: [email protected] . Let’s be grateful together for our Gift of Days, Good Health, Family and Friends.
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