By Robert Ross



“I have two doctors, my left leg and my right.”
— G. M. Trevelyan

The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard understood the value of walking when he stated: “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.”
Kierkegaard is not alone in his appreciation of walking. Henry David Thoreau often walked four hours a day, claiming that his walk “preserved his health and his spirits”. Others, like Thich Nhat Hanh, wrote about value of walking in

his best-seller “Walking Meditation”. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was a  staunch believer in walking. Even Shirley MacLaine wrote a book about her experiences walking the El Camino in Spain. The list of notable walkers is endless.         

The benefits of walking are for everyone. After all, all it takes is a pair of  walking shoes and a desire to walk. The rewards are there for the taking.
The value of walking on the body is pretty straight forward — muscle tone, weight loss or weight maintenance and cardiovascular enhancement. Walkers will also tell you they sleep better at night. But these benefits are only the tip of the iceberg. There’s more. Much more.

Quoting Nietzsche again “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”. Call it enhanced creativity or just plain clear thinking, walking has the potential to connect us to a deeper part of ourselves.
Writer Ann Johnson states: “There is a deeper aspect to walking as well. When walking we not only connect to our body but also to the earth. We are reminded we are a physical being who is part of something far greater. Tree branches whisper reminding us of a gentle breeze, the fragrance of pine. It opens our senses to the world around us and to the world within. We become larger than we were, something more. Whether we are watching birds in the country or masses of people in the city, we see with perceptive eyes. We become aware of our self in the greater scheme of things; fertile ground for fostering creativity.”

Although walking is a natural part of my daily activities, there are walks that have stood out. For example, the two-week walk/hike along John Muir Trail in the Sierras will be ingrained in my memory for life. Walking the streets of some of the well-known cities of the world like Moscow, Rome, and Auckland in New Zealand, all have been memorable events. As an adventurous youth, I will never forget walking the eight miles across the mountainous Tunisian/Algerian border. And then there were endless miles of walking with my wife crisscrossing Torres Del Paine National Park in southern Chile.
There is no better way to see a country and no better way to get a feel for the environment than by walking.

In the past few years I find myself, more often than not, at the shores of La Jolla, taking one of my favorite two-hour walks. The La Jolla walk has helped me through a number of life’s more troubling moments. I know that when the going gets tough, it’s time to take the five-minute drive to La Jolla, grab a water bottle, and head out for a two-hour walk along the shore line.

The two-hour walk has a certain predictability to it. For the first forty-five minutes or so, thoughts are swirling, problems are being relived, and events are being revisited. But as the walk continues something changes, thoughts slow, emotions smooth out and a rhythm seems to take hold. By the second hour of the walk, the thoughts are of the moment — of the formation of pelicans swooping low looking for food, of swimmers venturing out into chilly waters, of tourists with their cameras photographing the scenic La Jolla coastline. It is as though I am walking through a beautiful painting of life — observing this corner and that — just walking and looking. By the end of the walk, I am a bit tired and . . . at peace with the world. Not bad for the price of a pair of walking shoes!

For those interested, here are some suggestions on making walking a lifelong activity. First, never refer to your walking as a “walking program”. Walking transcends the concept of a program or regimented routine. Never walk faster than you want to walk. Your body will let you know what is an appropriate pace; some days are faster, some days are slower. Avoid  documenting your walks. This is your time to let go — reflect — and let the mind go where it wants to go. Avoid thinking and talking in terms of distances, rather think in terms of time or destinations — an hour walk — a two-hour walk — a walk to your favorite park. Never carry weights, walking is walking, it doesn’t need any embellishments.

Always attempt, whenever possible, to walk in areas surrounded by nature. A coastal walk or a walk along a mountain trail will do wonders for your spirit. And, most important, if you miss a day or two or three, don’t worry, just know that soon, you will be with your favorite doctors — your left leg and your right!

Robert Ross can be reached at:   
Copyright  2007 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved

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