Wholesome habits for the mind- Walking

Although not an avid hiker I do like to hike once in a while. Mild to moderate (moderate=mild-moderate) is what I can at most manage. I don't ever imagine doing any strenuous treks but the Great Wall of China and the Lost City trek of South America are surely in my bucket list. I remember reading a story from our Hindi book in 10th grade which was basically some passage on walking- a real life account of a person who never missed his 20 mins walk ever since he began walking 20 years back. He said he never missed a walk- rain or shine, summer or winter and the benefits he received were many. Something about the commitment of the person remained with me over the years.

Having lived in my mind most of my life I only started exploring serious physical activity a few years back when I struggled with loss, separation and anxiety. I did walk a lot before that but it became a routine and discipline only lately. With the intention to improve my wellness, when I started walking daily I also began keeping a journal of how much I walked and how effective it was. Just a simple score out of 10 was all I kept. Within 2 weeks I started feeling much better. Any negative thoughts seemed to reduce towards the end of my walks. I also started timing my walks. I noted that walking for at least an hour seemed to make a visible difference.

Over months I started going for longer walks. Finally I reached a magic no of 5- walking for 5 miles in 1.5 hrs. Around the time I hit the 5 mile mark my mood changed significantly, I felt happy and surely rejuvenated. My thoughts definitely changed. Slowly this became a certainty. In fact such became the habit that often when I took a different route and did not time myself I knew 5 miles were up when my mood and thoughts changed dramatically. It does make a lot of sense. Physical activity, especially intense, brings our mind's focus to our body- the breath and the sensations. Without making any effort our mind starts focusing in the present moment. The ability to be in the present moment is key to concentration, mindfulness, happiness and health. I know this first hand because I also practice Anapana and Vipassana Meditation. The whole idea of happiness is about being fully present in the current moment.

Marble Spoon race (a random pic from the internet)
I also altered my walk sometimes by adding small sprints in between. In the 5 miles stretch I would run for about a mile. But when I ran it wasn't a jog. I ran as fast as I could. I read about this in Mark's daily Apple. He says that instead of running a marathon, it may be more beneficial to run an intercepted mile where in what you focus on is to run as fast as you can when you do, otherwise walk. I quote him here- "Instead of running the entire time, try staggering the running with walking. Run really fast for 30 seconds, then walk for 30 seconds. Repeat until the mile is done. Use any permutation of run/walk you prefer. 15/45, 10/20, it all works. Have fun with it." I liked this a lot because I am no runner.

Recently I watched Indian Bollywood Comedian and accomplished actor Anupam Kher mentioning this about himself in some stand-up comedy show -"When I was in school my PE Teacher told me that even if I ran alone in the race I would come second". However denigrating that remark, it was also very funny and in similar tone with Asrani's remark "Warna tum Avval aate!" in JJWS :). I resonated with it a lot. The only race I ever won in school was a marble spoon race where all other participant's marbles had fallen off the spoon in the beginning itself and the referee smiled and assured me that even if I walked very slowly I was sure to win. So basically I won only one race in my life and that too because of good concentration :). I was 7 then.