Yes, yes — I know. As a Naturopath I’m supposed to partake in some kind of ethereal Yoga practice. But I’m really not that way inclined (as most of you will have realised by now).
My first choice of exercise/stress-relief is Mountain Biking. I like to think of myself as a ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ — as I hoon through the forest! I also love Snowboarding (when the weather and funds permit). However, because neither of these are easily performed regularly, my daily go-to exercise is walking (at least until I get rich)!
For me, walking is far from boring. In fact, I think it’s a fabulous way to not only exercise, but also to meditate (again, strangely enough for a Naturopath, I don’t like to sit around ‘OMM-ing & ARH-ing’ either). When I go for a walk I like to get as far away as possible from the person who is causing me stress. And by that, I mean me! Therefore, I like to disengage from my head by concentrating on what I’m doing physically. Otherwise, if I continue to take my ‘jibber-jabber’ with me, then I just get annoyed and frustrated with myself, and I wish I hadn’t taken me along in the first place!
I used to think walking for exercise was for the old, the frail and the obese. I didn’t find walking emotionally or mentally enlightening at all. Now-days, I take all of that back! I’ve finally discovered what it’s all about — it is indeed a joyous thing to get lost while going walkabout.
More on walking from me! I know, right? 😉
Pay attention to what your feet are doing when you walk. It’s rhythmic. It’s predictable. It’s soothing.
Everything about it is effortless, from the way the weight flows evenly through one foot from your heel to your toes, to the way your feet work together in unison. One foot taking over from where the other foot left off.
Note: I like to shift my concentration between all these different points of contact. Initially, your ability to establish what is going on feels down-right uncoordinated. But once you become aware of what’s magically happening beneath you, it all becomes rather mesmerising.
Unlike running, at no point while you are walking, are you not in contact with the earth. (If you are able to take your shoes off and experience different surfaces under your feet such as sand, large rocks or grass, then all the better.)
Further to this, I find it very grounding to walk around my neighbourhood. Otherwise, my ‘stomping ground’ just becomes a blur, whizzing by in my peripheral vision as I zoom in-and-out of it in my little red car. Getting amongst it all makes me feel like I’m a part of something — like I belong, rather than being disconnected from it all.
Once you’ve sussed out what your feet are doing, start paying attention to all the different muscle groups that walking is activating. You’ll soon realise that ambulation (aka walking) is a full body work-out that gently tones all of your wobbly bits.
Walking causes minimal stress/injury on your body — unless of course you’re wearing head phones and you walk out in front of a bus!
Note: It’s really not safe to distract yourself from the world around you by wearing headphones in public places. Make sure you’re only listening to the little voices in your head — rather than the loud ones — so you can still keep your wits about you!
Walking doesn’t require any expensive equipment1, and you don’t have to worry about getting a flat tyre.
In fact, it should prevent you from even having to carry a ‘spare tyre’ around… as it’s flab-u-less for weight loss (long slow walking encourages fat-burning).
It’s also reported to help those suffering from depression and mental/emotional stress.
You can take different routes (and therefore take in different scenes, and engage in different levels of intensity). You can go at any time of the day (providing it’s safe to do so). You can go in most kinds of weather. You can go solo. You can take a friend. You can take many friends. You can take your beloved pooch. And you can wear whatever you fancy because there are no clothing codes.
And depending on your specific objective, or your level of energy and enthusiasm, you can also alternate some of your walking with some jogging, skipping, side-stepping, or running backwards (although this may take slightly more co-ordination to meditate along to).
I love walking! When I do it mindfully, I come back feeling much better for it.
Lisa Fitzgibbon is a degree qualified (2006), experienced and registered Naturopath & Medical Herbalist. She runs her own private practice – OOMPH in Grey Lynn, Auckland, New Zealand.
Lisa has been involved in the Natural Health industry for 16 years. She draws on her professional training and experience, as well as her own personal experience to bring you realistic, holistic health advice.Book online