Being a Londoner I walk. A lot. We all do. We walk quickly and efficiently without stopping and struggle not to get slightly irritated if someone walks slowly in front of us, or possibly the worst crime – stands on the left on the escalator – that side is for walking up only!! So when I was on holiday on a Caribbean Island which had no cars and you could walk from one end to the other I thought nothing of it. I was on holiday and chilled out so happy to take a gentle stroll to the other end of the island. Here was me thinking I was walking so slowly and the locals still were shouting out to me ‘Why so faas mon? Go slow!’. Within a few days I’d slowed to the pace of the island. It was fab. I’d never felt so relaxed. I thought they’ve got something right that’s for sure and then on my return to London I promptly sped back up to my standard walk/run and forgot all about it.
[Tweet “Within a few days I’d slowed to the pace of the island. It was fab…they’ve got something right that’s for sure”]
If people come to visit London who aren’t used to it they’re always exhausted after a day out. The congestion charge and traffic makes driving centrally uncommon. It’s much easier to walk to the tube station and be whisked into Central London, but even then you do a lot of walking, between lines, between stations and to your destination. So when people say walking is good for you I always (slightly smugly, if I’m honest) thought ‘Yep, I know, I do tons of it!’.
It was only when I started learning more about hormones and their impact on our health and weight that I found that walking quickly (and other steady state cardio activities) isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It raises the stress hormone cortisol, which depending on what else is going on in your body, can cause cells to hold onto fat read more on this here. However, very low intensity activity like walking and relaxing activities such as massage and yoga actually help lower our cortisol so are a great addition to counterbalance stressful lives and cardio exercise. Walking can also help our bodies to eliminate fat more effectively, bonus!
Therefore, when my coach suggested I started walking at a leisurely pace for 30-60 minutes a day I understood in my mind that it would be beneficial but in reality I found it REALLY hard. I would start slowly and within minutes speed up without even realising. I overcame this gradually through constant reminders and wearing flip flops if necessary (it was warm at the time)! Now whenever possible I walk somewhere in nature, my local park is my go to spot when I don’t have time to go further. When I’m on my own I walk slowly, trying to be really mindful, noticing the leaves on the trees, the flowers coming through, the gentle breeze (or gale!) on my skin. I focus on my breathing and try and allow my mind to settle. It’s amazing how much clearer I feel afterwards and I also find it allows my brain to find creative solutions.
When I’m with my partner or friends I try to only talk about fun and positive things and allow my mind to have a break from the day to day. I have even learnt to enjoy going out in the rain, as long as I’m dressed for the weather, there is something quite liberating about it!
So in honour of Walk to School week your challenge for this week is to go outside and walk slowly and notice your surroundings every single day, even if it’s only for 10 mins. You’ll know you’re doing it right when if you’re not breathless and you can maintain a conversation and people in the park start lapping you!
[Tweet “Your challenge for this week is to go outside and walk slowly and notice your surroundings every single day”]
In the words of my Jamaican friend ‘Go Slow Mon’.