Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I walk therefore I is

I've been watching "Too Big To Walk" over the last couple of nights on Channel 4. It follows 8 seriously obese people as they attempt to walk from the south coast of England all the way up to Edinburgh. In doing so they want to challenge themselves, begin to lose weight and hopefully kickstart a healthier life. It's been compelling viewing and I find myself willing all of them. As people have fallen by the wayside I've felt real disappointment for them that they've been unable to keep going. They're a nice bunch of people, all fairly thoughtful and articulate about the state they've got themselves in. We're hardwired to desire food, we're programmed for scarcity at a time when food is cheap and plentiful. Food becomes an addiction and a comfort and before you know it your weight is creeping up. The final stretch of their journey up through Yorkshire and the Lake District, then through the Borders and onto Edinburgh will be shown tonight at 9pm.
Walking is a great way to lose weight. Throughout my 20s I used to be quite a serious runner. I ran countless half-marathons and a good few marathons. I would dash off on a Sunday morning for a twelve mile plod down the cycle track and think nothing of it. This came to an end when I started developing really painful knee problems, at times it became really difficult to even bend my legs never mind run. My dad who has long suffered from knee-problems, due in no small part to the impact on his legs from jumping in and out of the cab of a lorry has had one knee replaced. It won't be too long before he's having the other one done as well. I've seen the scars, they're not pretty and the pain he was in is not something I'm in any particular hurry to experience myself. The other knee will be replaced as well as soon as my dad gives the signal. He's reluctant to go for it due to the fact that despite being in his 70s he still runs a gardening business and two false knees would restrict his ability to do his job. Time will eventually leave him with little choice. As an aside, what has been a positive experience for him is the fact that he's not been put on a waiting list to get either knee done as would have happened in the old days, instead his consultant has left the timing of the operation entirely in his own hands. As soon as he's ready he'll be given a date within three weeks when the operation will take place. When he was recuperating he had the benefit of a brand new state of the art physiotherapy suite which aided his recovery no end. As a result he's been a lot more empowered throughout. There is much that needs improving in the NHS but praise where it's due.
Not wanting to go down the same line as my dad some thirty years earlier than he did I took my doctors advice and put the running on hold. Anyone who has run a marathon will tell you, that one of the best aspects of the training is that you can pretty much eat what you want. My appetite was huge when I was running and I still managed to stay slim. Then when I stopped training I kept eating. It was a hard habit to shake. I was the pasta king, tons of the stuff I shovelled away as if I was still aiming to beat my marathon personal best. As a result my weight crept up and up until my I hit 13stones 7lbs as 2005 gave way to 2006. Not only was I now looking a bit chubby (I've always had chubby cheeks whatever my weight) , I was looking fat. I had to buy new clothes and I was in danger of accepting that this was the new thirty-something me so just get on with it.
New Year is always a great time for new starts so I resolved to do something about it. Rach and I started to have a regular evening walk. Starting out at 30mins a day, it increased week on week until we hit March and the return of the light nights and we were doing nearly 2 hours an evening. It was great. We saw the Spring slowly returning and the weight falling off. We modified our eating slightly, but not drastically. There was no talk of a diet, just cutting out the sugar in the coffee and tea and the snacks between meals. By the end of March I was under 11 and a half stone, roundabout where I should be for a bloke of 5' 9". That's pretty much where I've stayed, when a few pounds have crept back on a bit more walking and a bit less food has got me back where I should be.
I'v always enjoyed walking and I frequently document different country walks we've enjoyed on my blogs. North Yorkshire is walkers terrain so we've a lot on our doorstep to explore. Walking around the city streets of York though offers just as much interest and variety as well we've found, particularly if you're consistent. You notice subtle shifts and minor changes, places have moods and atmospheres that differ throughout the year. The light picks out some small detail that you've never noticed previously despite having passed it countless times. Walking roots you in your environment in a way that driving, and even cycling can never really do. It beats gym membership and requires only a decent pair of walking trainers and a determination to keep at it.
Today Natural England is launching a campaign to encourage people to walk in green spaces for the sake of their health. It's clearly not a panacea but it does contribute to your general sense of well-being. Another related website is the excellent York Stories which charts in photos and words one woman's journeys on foot around the City of York.
I'll sign off here as the dog is looking expectantly at me. We've got an appointment with the park to keep.


Anonymous said...

good entry today ... i enjoyed the walk talk. I seem to be able to eat & drink more than my hour and half round river ouse walks to work. thanks, for flying by my page the other day.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen this programme but it sounds as though it would have been interesting.

I think a lot of the trouble in this country is that there isn't enough space left in which one can walk. You have to stick to the paths because most of the woodland is private land and pathes don't always go where you necessarily want to go. Of course, that isn't the case in all parts of England but certainly in the more densely populated areas.

Maybe I was spoiled during my years in Norway ;-)

Martyn said...

Jim b :thanks for dropping over. Great to see that you're enjoying life here in York. I'll be adding you to my blogroll in the next day or two.

Sharon : It was really good. It's no mean feat to walk from Devon to Edinburgh in 8 weeks whatever your size. Four of the group completed it.

I agree with you about walking in England, although you can find places of real wilderness that few folks ever venture into. The new right to roam legislation has helped matters no end.

I've never been to Norway but want to visit. It looks absolutely stunning with very little population. I can imagine it being a very civilised place to live.

We're thinking of venturing into Scandinavia next year but it's probably going to be a city break to either Copenhagen or Rekyjavik this time round.

Tara said...

We have The Metroparks in Ohio. I've always known it as "the valley", though. It is a valley, but walking paths have been built so that people can walk through, go fishing, have picnics...All sorts of stuff. I love walking those paths.