Fitness Challenge 2012: Walking the South Downs Way

walking boots on pebble beach

It’s time to put on my walking boots and get fit. In September I’m going to be walking the South Downs Way with my partner and a couple of friends.  It’s a 100 mile trail from Winchester in Hampshire all the way down to Eastbourne on the south coast and I can’t wait!

Walking a long distance path in England has been a dream of mine for years and now it’s finally about to come true. In order to enjoy it and get the most out of it I need to get into training.

I did a bit of cliff walking while on holiday in Dorset recently and last Sunday my partner and I went for a 6 mile walk around our area of South London. I have to admit I was pretty stiff and tired afterwards. On the South Downs Way we’re going to be walking an average of 12 miles a day, so I think I’ve still got a way to go when it comes to building up stamina.

Why I love Walking

Walking in the countryside is one of my favourite things to do. It clears my mind and rejuvenates my spirit. Most of the time I am able to forget about my everyday troubles and instead I focus on the moment –  the beauty around me, the path ahead, the breeze against my skin. I breathe more deeply, become aware of my body – feet, legs, back, lungs. Reconnect body and mind.

In that way, walking is a form of meditation for me.  It’s mind-clearing. After a few quiet miles memories begin to surface. A few more miles and occasionally creative ideas begin to form. Other times there is nothing – just a sense of peace and happiness and a desire to keep on walking forever.

Unable to Walk

But walking is not something I take for granted. A few years ago I found myself crippled with arthritis, in a wheelchair for six months and on crutches for almost two years. Losing the ability to walk was devastating and I knew then that if and when I got better I would always appreciate every pain-free step I was able to take.

Since then I have recovered and taken up power walking and Nordic walking. I still get a thrill when I power round the park and each time I complete a walk I feel grateful that I was able to do so.

Last year I had knee surgery and found myself back on crutches again. While the situation was only temporary, it reminded me how much I love walking and how limited my life feels when I’m unable to stride out and go for a walk. I dedicated hours to physiotherapy and knee rehabilitation exercises so that I was able to walk normally as soon as possible.

Sense of Achievement

So, walking the South Downs Way is going to be packed with significance for me.  Not only is it going to be the achievement of a long-term goal but it is also going to remind me how far I have come since those arthritis years and how precious walking is to me.

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