Walks of the mind

Walking, to me, and being in the outdoors have always been beneficial. So important in fact, that they are an essential part of my personality, my well-being and seemingly, my subconscious.

Back in 1996 when I took my first steps as a ‘jogger’, I didn’t know that it was the first rung on a ladder that has been going for 25 years and shows no sign of letting up. My outdoor pursuits have grown in those years to more than running. I’m now a walker, trail runner, naturalist (not a naturist, that is something I haven’t dabbled with – yet), cyclist, wild camper, environmentalist – the list goes on. I imagine that anyone reading this will probably be very similar, after all, you probably found this along your own journey and decided to read it. The name of the blog does not suggest that I am reviewing mobile phones, or last night’s TV. You will also possibly, I imagine, be struggling with what to do with yourself now that (in the UK) we are in lockdown 3.0.

There have been times in my life when my back has been against the wall. When I’ve been in strange places and situations, and in my own analogy, feeling like a shaken up lemonade bottle (I always liken stress and bad stuff to fizzy drink in a bottle, and actions to reduce that fizz are the motions needed to slowly open the cap to let some of it out occasionally). Running has always been my way of opening the cap slowly. Not always letting it all out, but alleviating the pressure somewhat. Slowly over the years, walking has done that too. The slower pace, the opportunity for mindfulness, the feeling of being out with your thoughts, and being unhurried I think gives you a chance to take more mental photographs and make little films in your memory that you can watch back when you need them. It’s times like we find ourselves in now that it all comes together and becomes clear why we are the way we are. We can draw on those memories to calm our anxious thoughts down, we can use them to plan future journeys in brighter times ahead, and we can just solely relive them. They can draw us out of dark places, they are food to nourish our well-being. These adventures and experiences, no matter how small are investments in a bank that we can withdraw or count on days when we can’t go out and earn more.

One thing I found interesting about lockdown, especially 1.0 was how it seemed to me that as soon as the outdoors was taken away, people wanted it more. People who probably never considered themselves outdoor people. But once the option of going for a walk in, say, Snowdonia, was taken away, the desire burned more. I am not a psychologist, so I can’t say if that’s because of the need to defy authority or whether it’s that old adage of you-don’t-know-what-you’ve-got-until-it’s-gone kind of thing. All I know is that I am fully at peace knowing that I’ve planned almost every available weekend around an adventure, a walk, a long run, and not taken anything for granted, so I can stay local and relive my mountain films in my head and plan the next ones with even more appreciation.

Active resting

Active resting. A contradiction in terms. How can you actively rest? Or indeed, rest in an active fashion? This is a term I have only seen splashed around lately. It seems it actually means something different to what I thought/hoped it meant.

From my running exploits over the years, I have learned many things, and terms for different training activities. It happened gradually, from just going out for a ‘run’ and seeing how it went, to having a structured training plan. I used to believe that in order to run better, I needed to run more, and as fast and as hard as possible every time I went out. After a few years and a fair bit of experience, I realised this was not the case, and I needed to have regular rest days and days that are easy runs, at a much slower pace. From my internet research, I can assume these easy days are what are now being called active resting. The act of running, but very slowly compared to your normal pace, allowing your presumably tired muscles to recover. Makes sense.

Here’s what I thought it might mean. Stay with me. I related to it because the phrase resonated with me as something I consider myself to do. I thought it might mean going outdoors for a possibly strenuous walk in the mountains, or anywhere, that whilst being taxing physically is actually resting your mind and, in the long run, providing relaxation. I may be completely wrong, but I like mine better. I do prefer to get up early on days off and distance myself from stresses and strains of every day life – resting. Not being one to lounge around in bed, this is how I choose to be alive.

In relation to the aforementioned resting, I have just (as of yesterday), reached the end of a 50 day running streak, that is, 50 days of consecutive running. It wasn’t structured, and most of my runs were active rests really, but I enjoyed it and effectively out-ran some niggling injuries that had been getting me down since June, as well as shifting a few extra pounds I had gained from being housebound and greedy. The feeling of being overweight, though only by a few pounds, coupled with pain when running and a distinct lack of motivation pushed me to taking a week off and seriously consider whether running was still something I wanted to continue doing. So I picked it up again, created a couple of challenges for myself and allowed them to keep me focused, driven and motivated. Thinking lockdown and working from home would only last a month at most back in March, I made the most of every day, running, workouts in the garden, push up challenges, just being in the garden; but as time went on and various issues niggled at me, I lost my drive, purpose and motivation. Luckily I seem to have recovered some, if not all of it. In the midst of it, I wildcamped and also managed a pretty rewarding day in my favourite part of South Wales.

So, fingers crossed, I’ll bore you stupid with one of my stories from one of my adventures next time, as I haven’t done it yet. Stand by.