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The many virtues of stepping it up, making it count, and taking it all in your stride


If coronavirus has given us one reason to be grateful, it’s the surge in people taking a step for self-improvement, writes Michael Blucher

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On top of all the logical boom industries triggered by COVID-19 – cooking, baking, landscaping, spring cleaning, toilet-paper buying etc – I gather there’s also been a giant spike in the timeless pursuit of walking.

It would make sense if that was true.

Normally active folk, denied access to their local gym, or prevented from playing organised sport – how do they expend all that pent up energy and frustration?

Simple answer – they lace up their track shoes, and they run. The other 94 per cent who find that too taxing – they walk. Up and back, in and out, round and round, they do laps of the kitchen bench if they have to – anything to get their steps up.

It seems these days, courtesy of our smartwatches and Fitbits, we’re all counting.

Steps are the new smashed avo on toast. Why just enjoy it yourself when you can share it on social media with all your friends?

I know you’ll be fascinated with this, because I pretended to be – my mate “Burger” has now clocked up 116 consecutive days of 10,000 steps or more. Hasn’t missed his target for almost four months. How good.

He’s still as big as a house, mind you, but that has more to do with his diet than his exercise regimen. You don’t get a nickname like his from eating salads and steamed vegetables.

I must admit, up until the COVID lockdown, I’d never been a huge fan of walking. When I thought of walking, involuntarily my mind defaulted to Kath and Kim – that disturbing mental image of Kel Knight, in his impossibly short, electric blue shorts and tank top, striding proudly and purposefully through the streets of Fountain Lakes, beside him, Kath in her chic purple tracksuit ensemble.

That vision alone is enough to keep most prospective walkers locked in their cellar for up to a decade.

However, as we know, the pandemic has provided ample opportunity for self-reflection, a chance to reassess how we go about our daily lives, even ponder new and improved ways.

Having swallowed my pride, and set aside all associated prejudices, I’m proud to say I’ve now joined the waddling masses on the streets. And very quickly, I’ve come to realise that walking can in fact be very therapeutic.

OK, it’s not quite the workout you get from jogging, cycling or even, at times, playing cards. But there are other advantages, such as being able to breathe comfortably and having time to take in the sights. Observe stuff, which according to my wife, is one of my many development opportunities.

Given the gentle nature of the exercise genre, you can even listen to your favourite podcast. Most people have one these days, so there’s no end to the quality material that you can pump through your earphones, to improve yourself, or keep yourself engaged or distracted – or all three.

I’ve found for the sake of ego, it can also be good to incorporate a few challenging elements, for instance a succession of steep hills, an occasional sprint, even a couple of boisterous dogs on long stretchy leads – that usually adds a welcome layer of complexity.

The best bit of all, as I touched on before, you can share your walking achievements on social media and tell the world just how far you’ve gone, or like Burger, how many days in a row you’ve been out there, pounding the pavement. If they’re real friends, they’ll want to know. They could even have some questions they’d like to ask – average stride length, heart-rate variance, elevation gained, that sort of thing. I know my kids just love it when I regale them with my daily walking data.

Finally, if you’re “uber” competitive, there’s also the option of joining one of the countless online challenges, where you’re pitting your daily step count against walkers in other parts of the country, even the world.

It doesn’t interest me (not after finishing fourth, third, seventh and sixth in successive weeks), but for others looking for a little injection of self-esteem, it could be worth exploring.

That’s about all I have to tell you about the whimsical world of walking, save for one important community service announcement:

This week is “Walk Week”, a community initiative to get more people out of their cellars and onto the streets. In their walking shoes, of course.

So google “Queensland Walks Week”. Sign up. Go for a walk. Take a snap. Share it. Write a really witty caption. There are so many ways to showcase your “awesomeness” to your social media audience.

But before you get too cocky, a fun fact – the existing 458,892 members of the “10,000 steps” organisation between them have amassed 236, 744, 303, 272 steps.

And that was last night, before any of them walked around their kitchen bench.

It could even be more by now.

But who’s counting?

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