Gotta Run: With plenty of walking too!

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 7, 2022

My good friends at the Rowan Public Library South Branch made sure I got on the reserved list for a book named “52 Ways to Walk” by Annabel Streets. When I saw that the book was in, I had another book that I was reading and didn’t rush to go get it. “I’m a runner, not necessarily a walker,” I said. But then I started reading the book and realized that we all are walkers, depending on what we make of it.

Annabel grew up with two parents that hardly ever drove, in fact one of them never did. The family learned to walk everywhere, usually living where public transportation wasn’t all that reliable. Then she got a car, she forgot about walking and even drove to the gym to “walk on a treadmill.”

I have a friend who does a challenging workout at the Forum nearly every morning, but then she goes home to walk five miles. When I go to the beach, I always run first and then go on a very long walk. And I finish nearly every morning run at home with a walk too.

Annabel lists all the health reasons that you have heard me say about running. Yes, in most cases, walking is just a slower version that wants nearly everyone to take their turn. She says, “When we walk, oxygen rushes through us, affecting our vital organs, our memory, creativity, mood, our capacity to think. Walking causes hundreds of muscles, joints, bones and tendons to move in an elaborate, effortless sequence, propelling us forward but also triggering a multitude of molecular pathways, expanding our heart, strengthening our muscles, smoothing the lining of our arteries, shunting sugar from our blood and so on….” Doesn’t walking sound delightful and needed?

There is a small section about finding the right gear, beginning with the proper shoes or boots. This woman does her walks every day, no matter the weather. Annabel details the reasons why she likes this or that piece of clothing, much like runners do when they talk of the cold, wind, heat and more. She advocates a fanny pack or a small backpack with some often-needed items like blister bandages, tissues, a snack or two, a water bottle, hat, gloves, sunscreen, small sketchpad, a lightweight set of binoculars and sunscreen.

The purpose of the book is to get you outdoors but also to explore all the different kinds of walks. Annabel wants us to seize the sunlight, the moonlight or a rainstorm. I will name just a few of the 52 ways to walk that Annabel describes, allotting a short chapter to each one.

Walking in the cold gets a chapter and it describes how doing this converts bad white fat in our stomachs and thighs to good brown fat. Walking long enough to improve your gait takes away many of the bad side effects of sitting way too much, including how a good long walk improves your mood from all that sitting.

Taking just a 12-minute walk has multiple positives, including recovering from grief which the author describes, with several short walks in a day as good as a longer one for women. Walking alone lets you reconnect with the dawn, the night, the wind and sea, and she says the solo walk is great for confidence building and self-reliance. Psychologists refer to this as “self-strengthening.”

And finally, the chapter about learning to walk backward was one of my favorites. You’ll read about the man who walked backward 7,000 miles and continued to advocate the practice for the rest of his 98-year life span. Walking backward enhances balance and stability and relies on other senses to stay on track.

The book is a lot of fun, and likely will open your mind. I told a client about the book, the same day he walked both to and from church, a little over four miles round trip. The average American only walks 1.4 miles a week.

Our next race locally is the Bare Bones 5K benefitting Relay for Life on May 28. Look for it and more events at Walkers are always welcome!