It was cold, I was cold, and there were still several hours of walking ahead before camp that night. It felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders (in reality, it was about 12kg in my rucksack). I laughed to myself – I was doing this for pleasure! I wasn’t the only one; there was a small group of us walking part of the Kungsleden (Kings Trail) in Sweden. It was about day 4 or 5 of the 7-day trek, and I was finding it harder than I expected. I’m a keen walker and have walked for many years in different places, but it was becoming apparent that I should have trained harder and brought two walking poles rather than just one!
We got there in the end – to the Kebnekaise Lodge, where we could have a proper hot shower, a good meal and relax in the bar. This wasn’t quite the end of the journey though; we enjoyed a helicopter flight back to the bus depot (instead of a full day’s walk!). The scenery was stunning, and overall the experience was worth the effort. That trip taught me a lot and took a good deal of inner strength.
Walking has often been a great source of escapism for me. Escape from the everyday noise and distractions. Escape from the humdrum. Escape from my worries. Walking provides time and space to reflect, reconnect and recharge.
Everything feels so much better after a walk. When I’m stressed, I head out for a walk and can literally feel the tension start to melt away. Setting out at a fair old pace, I can tell when the stress starts to dissolve because my pace begins to slow and I start noticing my surroundings again. I head out when I’m procrastinating too. I’ve learned to recognise when I’m not focussing and lacking direction and know that it’s time to change my state by heading out for a walk. The movement of walking gets my heart pumping, blood flowing, and increases my energy levels. I start to relax, and then my thoughts begin to clear and ideas come forth.
You don’t have to be in the middle of nowhere or go out on multi-day trips to get the benefits of walking. It’s surprising what you can find in your local area if you start looking; even in urban towns there are green spaces and gardens tucked away. Be curious and notice your surroundings; notice how you are feeling and notice your thoughts. Don’t force anything; simply be present in the moment and take pleasure in the experience.
So, if you’ve got a problem to be solved, are feeling a bit overwhelmed, procrastinating or have just been stuck indoors all day, pop your trainers on and head out of the door.