Walking. I always resisted walking. It was too slow, it was not rigorous enough, it was boring! All that changed on the Camino. I have a new respect for walking now, one that has changed my attitude and life style.
Initially, I was only going to walk 11 days on the Camino, but as luck would have it, I had the time to do more. When this happened, I thought why not do the whole thing? I can walk 20-25 kms, gosh, if I can run 25km…it shouldn’t be that difficult to ‘walk’ that every day. Go for it… let’s do it all!
I had no idea what I was getting myself into to, nor how long 25kms actually is when walking, or what it feels likegoing over rough terrain carrying a backpack. Or, what it feels like to get back on the road early the next morning with aching muscles, blisters, stiff joints, and tired. Damn painful! But once you’re on it, and doing it, there is no turning back. Just put one foot in front of the other, I would say to myself. The voice inside my head that only wanted to stop and sabotage my efforts, had to be reprogrammed to more positive and motivational thoughts every step of the way. And that was sometimes the hardest part.
But something different happened while I was walking as opposed to what I knew before as a runner. I love running, I love feeling the wind in my hair, the feeling of going fast, (i know… not that fast…it’s all relative), the spring that i feel with each step and the unbounded freedom. So, walking came up a very distant second in my quest for fitness. However, when I got well into the Camino ‘walk’, I became addicted. There was a part of me, that couldn’t wait to get back on the road the next morning. I felt it was my natural human thing to do, what my legs were made to do…carry me to the next stop. It was slow, yes, butthis slowness caused a other faculties and senses of my body to be more aware. With running, the focus is on form, breathing, gate, pace etc. Once I found my pace with walking, my eyes were able to see, my mind was able to think and my ears were more acute.
During my long walks of 30 or so kms alone with myself, things became clear and i was in touch with my gut, and myself. I loved walking alone for this reason.
Today as I walk my daily 10kms, I feel once again that things sort itself out on ‘walks’. Not only do I take in the beauty around me, it was surely hard not to today, as it was a beautiful summer’s morning here, but it is like ‘sleep walking’, when the mind can process the things it needs to, yet be awake, walking. For me, I have to walk alone to maximize this experience. Yes, I love to walk with people too, but when i can walk my pace, get into my zone and feel like i can walk forever, then I am in bliss.
Have I mentioned conditioning? Somewhere read recently, ” I have 2 doctors, my left foot and my right foot”. I would have previously questioned how fit can one get with ‘just’ walking. I can honestly say now, that I became overall more fit walking than with training for a marathon. Walking forces one to be more balanced, at least I felt this. I didn’t have the hip problems that come with alignment issues that I repeatedly had with running. Perhaps it is because the abs are forced to be more engaged over the uneven terrain and with carrying a heavy weight on one’s back. The pace while walking is usually constant, and kept this way over long sustained hours. This can put strain on ankle and foot muscles especially, but i found that my increase muscle strength was more evenly distributed over my body than with running and my ankles and feet adjusted slowly over time. My legs (calves, quads, shins, hamstrings), ankles, feet, abs, arms, back, were all working together at the comfortable and sustainable pace. By the end of 800kms, I was addicted. I try to keep it going here in Halifax, but the difference is that 2 hour walks are not the same as 7-8hrs. The zone, fleetingly happens, but it is great when it does. But just the same, I won’t give it up. I don’t resist it anymore. I love it! If ever i have the urge to think things over, make a decision, or find a direction, I will walk now…..I will do the Camino again. perhaps the Portuguese Camino next time? Let’s see……
Buen Walking Camino!