- Getting started walking
- Tips for walking with diabetes
- How often should I exercise?
- How many calories will I burn?
- Is walking a good workout?
- Warm up for walking
- Walking for health
- Pregnancy and walking
- Walking can help our overweight youngsters
- Walking helps in fight against obesity
- Avoid travel chaos: walk to work!
- Diet Coke nutrition info
- 10 reasons to take up walking
- Walking facts
- Finding motivation
- How a good walk can help with stress
- A cliff with a view: New Quay walk
- St Nicholas, Vale of Glamorgan
- Bawsey Church near King's Lynn, Norfolk
- Walking Facts and Figures
- Rambling: how to get started
- Footpath Erosion
- Advice and Information for Leaders of Rambles
- An Introduction to the Hadrian's Wall Path
- An Introduction to the Pennine Way
- An Introduction to the Coast to Coast Walk
- An Introduction to the Cotswold Way
- Public Rights of Way FAQ
- A Guide to Walking in Britain
- More Than a Walk
More Than a Walk
A NUMBER of years ago I took my wife Gina on a trekking holiday to Nepal. For the best part of a month we hiked round the high passes of Manaslu and the Annapurnas and, while it was highly memorable as a holiday, Gina found it incredibly hard work. At the time she was overweight and short on fitness and one night, after a particularly exhausting day, she vowed she would never suffer like that again. On our return home she began to exercise on a regular basis and soon she was walking for over an hour every day. She lost two stones in weight within a few months and by the next spring she was accompanying me on some fairly lengthy backpacking trips, carrying her 35lb pack with comparative ease.
While she was delighted with her new shape, and her new fitness levels, she also realised she had changed in other ways. She had become more positive in her outlook, more confident in herself as a person and felt more alert mentally. She had realised in the few months of her exercise routine that regular walking had not only improved her body shape, toned up her cardio-vascular system and strengthened her muscles, but helped her to think more clearly and creatively!
She realised that when she started walking her brain and body operated as one unit and muscle use, followed by muscle relaxation, produced brain relaxation - could it be that for your brain to function at its best your body has to exercise?
Medical research strongly suggests that the mental demands of making muscles function actually pumps up your brain, blood vessels and denser nerve connections. So, the simple act of walking keeps your brain in shape and a healthy, well-tuned brain helps you deal with all the various complexities of life.
Another aspect of walking is that the wild landscapes we often walk through allow us to discover realms of our life that we may have been unaware of. That some curious healing process takes place every time we re-discover wilderness as a world filled with adventure and alive with spirit, a world in which we are able to transcend the limits of our own human-centred thinking.
Wild land teaches values, gives purpose and enjoyment, and we are fortunate in that we have the capacity to experience such benefits as our birthright. I personally don't believe it's possible to separate the mountains from the mystic - take the sacred out of wilderness and you're left with the cold, dead relics of the earth's bones.
And it's in this spirituality, this sacredness, that we can begin to gain full measure of the worth of the mountains. It's in this aspect of the mountain's character that saints, sinners, philosophers, writers and artists have sought refuge, not to escape from something but to discover it!
It's this aspect of wild land that gave our aboriginal forefathers a meaning in life, a purpose, a belief system that supported them and gave them a reverence for the land, a reverence that has been absent since our western Judaeo-Christian culture first saw wilderness as something without soul, the dwelling-place of the anti-Christ, a landscape to be tamed, robbed and ravished.
Our ancestors' reverence for wild landscape may have been absent from western culture in recent decades but I don't believe it is ever fully lost. It is, as the wilderness poet Gary Snyder suggests: " ... perennially within us, dormant as a hard-shelled seed, awaiting the fire or flood that awakes it again."
I wonder if we in the Ramblers' can be the fire or flood that awakens that
reverence for the land in others?
Walking through a pristine and unspoiled landscape allows us to rediscover that ancient reverence. We can find renewal in the stillness of a forest, or on a wind-scoured mountain top - the drift of cloud against the sky, the movement of sun and shadow, the warbling, liquid call of a curlew.
I'm convinced such encounters with nature can reduce the stress in our lives simply because they speak to us of eternal values, things that have always been, as ancient as the duration of days. And all of them, the flight of a bird, the sound of the wind surf in the trees, the beauty of a sunset, are completely and utterly unplanned - none of it has been previously arranged or rehearsed by man. And that I believe, is the important issue.
Wilderness settles peace on the soul, because it is beyond man's contrivance.