Charlie's Blog: 6 Things I Like About Walking


6 Things I Like About Walking

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.

This post is a companion to my earlier post, Walking Is Better Than Running. That post focused on the subject of injuries related to running and how walking is the antidote. That is the number one thing I like about walking. Walking doesn't hurt. Here are six more things I like about walking.

1. Walking requires no special clothing.

Runners typically dress in shorts or tights along with singlets, technical shirts, and other items. Cyclists also wear similar gear along with helmets and special shoes. Then, there are the gym rats who typically wear shorts and a T-shirt. All in all, I have always felt like an idiot when dressed in gear like that. I won't even take out the garbage in my sleepwear much less exercise in clothes that are less than the sweatpants I wear to bed.

Though some people dress for walking in athletic apparel, I prefer walking in the same clothes that I wear for work. I am usually dirty and sweaty from yard work and chores, so I never understood why you need another outfit for getting dirty and sweaty. Walking does not require special athletic apparel, and I like this. I walk in normal clothes.

There are a few special things I put on for walking. The most obvious would be comfortable shoes. I like the New Balance 608 shoes paired with a thick pair of Thorlo socks. Some people will mock these shoes as "dad shoes." I think they are awesome. If you are going to walk, you should invest in comfortable footwear. I like New Balance because they offer these shoes in wide sizes, and they don't make radical changes in their designs from one year to the next. Plus, these 608s are cheap.

Another thing I wear is a Carhartt boonie hat. A friend of mine wears a broad brimmed hat on his walks, and he has become famous around town for that hat. I wear a similar hat. I believe in protecting your face and ears from sun exposure.

A final thing I wear is a yellow and orange reflective vest I purchased from Harbor Freight. I only wear this when walking on the road. People will run you over especially when it is dark. I know to always walk facing traffic and be visible.

I have some gadgets I use for walking. I do not use a smartwatch or a pedometer or a fitness tracker like the FitBit. Some people like to quantify every aspect of their walking, but I don't care about that. I prefer wearing a cheap Casio G-Shock watch. There are more expensive models of the G-Shock that have all those tracking features, but I only need a stopwatch or a timer. I walk for time, so I only need a watch to keep track of what I am doing.

Another gadget I carry is an old school compass with a clip on it. I think it was $5 on Amazon. I call it the poor man's GPS. I find it is easy to get disoriented on a path or trail or even a neighborhood of homes that look the same. I clip the compass to the string that has my safety whistle and homemade dog tag.

One of the great advantages of wearing regular clothes is that you have pockets. Runners go out almost naked. The bulkiest thing they might carry is a music player or smartphone. I think this makes them bait for pit bulls and criminals. Because I have pockets, I can carry my cellphone and some pepper spray and even a snack if I feel fainty. If I want to carry more like a water bottle, I throw on a backpack. Walking isn't bouncy like running, so you can go heavy if you need to do that.

2. Walking strengthens your legs, feet, hips, and back muscles.

One of the pleasant things I have discovered from walking is how much stronger my body has become from the lower back on down.  You don't have to worry about skipping leg day with walking. I am amazed at how my legs feel. Walking is cardio with strength exercise as a bonus. I think pairing walking with bodyweight exercises like squats and push ups is a perfect combo. Runners tend to become scrawny and weak while bodybuilders become bulky. The walking/bodyweight exercise combo is the perfect midpoint between these extremes. You can have both strength and endurance without compromising either.

I also think walking helps to rehab injuries. I have a few of those. I have to say that my knee feels worse when I don't walk than when I walk. Additionally, walking has had a significant impact in helping me recover from TBI. I think sitting does more harm than walking.

3. Walking builds community.

When I started walking, I finally met my neighbors. I also met other walkers. I also inspired others to take up walking. One neighbor started walking with his family, and he wore a boonie hat like me. I can't help but think I had some kind of impact on him. Either way, his family took up exercise.

I have read that walking your neighborhood drives down crime. This is because the criminal element sees the walkers and doesn't want the attention. When you walk, you automatically become a part of the neighborhood watch. Walkable neighborhoods are safe neighborhoods.

4. Walking improves mental health and thinking.

I always feel better mentally after a walk. My wife says I always come back in a better mood. Walking also gives you time and space to think. Walking's reputation for improving mental health and thinking has a long history. Many writers and thinkers were walkers and found the exercise to be essential to their creative work and mental health.

I prefer not to listen to music when I walk. I think earphones and headphones are unsafe, and I find that distraction is a waste of the walk. I think far too much of our lives are consumed by distractions, and we would all benefit from a daily time to reflect without those distractions. Walking gives you that time.

5. You can walk anywhere, and it is a great way to see new places.

You can't run in a mall without someone thinking you are a shoplifter. But you can walk in a mall. That is why walking is so convenient as an exercise. I see people walking the parking lot at work on their lunch breaks. Smart workplaces go ahead and build a walking path on campus. You can walk downtown. When you travel, walking is the best way to see the sights.

6. There is no competition in walking.

Runners, cyclists, and triathletes like to enter races. Even gym rats have gotten into the competitive action with those CrossFit games. I don't know what it is about these people that feel the desperate need to validate their existence through competition, but I find it ridiculous.

Walking has a competitive element known as racewalking. It is the most ridiculed sport at the Olympics as these people contort their bodies in the desperate effort to walk fast without bursting into a run. I have zero interest in racewalking. If it was up to me, I would ban it from the Olympics.

I am never training for a competition when I walk. I just walk. The only organized events that I might do would be some walks for charity. But these aren't races. You just join up with other walkers to bring attention and raise money for a cause.

Those are six things I like about walking. There are two things I don't like about walking. That would be rainstorms and darkness. I have a raincoat and a headlamp, but I don't gamble with thunder and lightning. I don't encounter much snow and ice where I live, but I have a plan for that stuff if it comes. Because I like walking, it is the exercise that I find myself doing on a consistent basis. I think if you like your exercise, you will keep doing it.