On Walking

by F.

I love to walk and I won’t be surprised if someday soon walking is crowned as king of exercise. Not running. Not cycling. Not StairMaster. Walking. It’s easy on the body and and appears to be good for the brain.

This calendar year, I’ve exercised less and less and felt better and better. I used to ride my bike at least an hour a day, with one day off on the weekend. Sometimes I would ride for 3-4 hours on Saturdays or Sundays. Other rides were intense interval workouts. And during all this time I didn’t lose weight. My cycling coach saw me once and said, “You’re too fat.” I was 6’0″ tall and 175.

But I was too fat, because I have a small frame. I kept riding and riding and riding, waiting to slim down. The problem was, all that riding made me feel terrible. And when I felt terrible, I ate. A lot. So I didn’t gain weight, but neither did I lose it.

Only when I exercised less did I feel better, and only when I felt better was I able to eat moderately. I’m convinced that the answer to weight loss rests with control of appetite (the supply side) rather than more and more calorie burning exercise (the demand side).

These days, I ride my fixed-gear bike for one hour or jump rope for 30 minutes (the rope jumping is quite intense—a combination of plyometrics and aerobics). The other days I walk or recover. I lift weights once every five days. This regime leaves me feeling great.

Another benefit is that I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. At 167 pounds, I do squat reps with 300 (all numbers are for freeweights). I do bench reps with 225. This is getting up close to the magic 1.5/2.0 x Body Weight number than the Men’s Health editors seem to think is good.

Whether or not it is absolutely, I don’t know. But I do know that, when I was 15 and lifting weights all the time, by best bench (1 rep) was 200. So, as a 40 year old, I’ve surpassed the strength of my youth. I suspect my exercising less leaves me feeling less tired when I lift and thus has some effect on my newfound strength.

Walking helps me recover from my weight workouts (especially deadlifts and squats). Walking also makes me calm. I walk for an hour when I feel rested, 30 minutes when I don’t. I usually listen to The Economist or EconTalk (which is an hour long).

The poet Derek Walcott said men are born makers. I suspect we are also born walkers.

[composed and posted with ecto]