Homer's Travels: Exercise: Phase II - Weekly Walking

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Exercise: Phase II - Weekly Walking

After returning from our Route 66 vacation I started a project.  It might be more appropriate to call it a resolution but making resolutions in August seems out of place.  I told myself I would try to exercise more.  I've made this promise many times before, failing miserably, but this time it seems to be sticking, probably because it was reinforced by a bad set of blood tests and the need to do physical therapy for my leg issues.

You may be wondering why this post is titled Phase II.  I started Phase I in August but I haven't reached its goal yet.  I started Phase II in late November of last year and I have reached my first goal ... hence the name of this post.  Phase I will be discussed when I reach its goal in a few weeks.  Phase II of my exercise project, by the way, consisted of walking.

The thing about walking is that I really enjoy it.  It gives me time to let my mind wander.  It lets me explore parts of the city I've never been before at my own speed.  It is also easy to set concrete goals.  I have tried to keep each walk relatively new and fresh going to places I've never been before ... at least on foot.  As the walks have gotten longer I've had to look harder for places to walk that allowed for long loops (I almost always do loops and stay away from there-and-back paths) affording me opportunities to travel in my head.    This has not always been easy.

My initial plan, like many plans I have had in the past, was very aggressive.  I planned to walk every week day (M-T-W-TH-F).  The first week would be a mile a day.  The second week would be two miles a day, the third week would be three miles a day.  Etcetera.  I was doing this to give my body time to adjust to the walking and to thicken up my feet before I got to the longer distances that I knew I was capable of.  I started the walks in late November, after Thanksgiving.  I'd irritated my right knee in late October during a bike ride and I took most of November off from all long distance walking/biking to give it time to heal.  By the time it was feeling better I was feeling really antsy and raring to go.

The project went well for the first four weeks.  My knee started bothering me again but I discovered wearing a neoprene sleeve helped stabilize the knee and reduced the irritation substantially.  What got me was my recovery time.  When I got home from my walk I just wanted to lay around.  It reminded me of what it was like in the albergues in the afternoon.  You'd get there and, after doing your chores, would crash for a few hours.  I like a good nap as much as the next guy but I couldn't do it everyday.  There are things to be done, chores to be completed, errands to be run.  I had to rethink my strategy.

I have to admit this bothered me a bit.  On the Camino I averaged 14.27 miles a day for 36 days.  I walked with a twenty pound pack.  Sure I was tired at the end of the day but I still had energy to do stuff in the towns I stopped in.  Here I was walking a measly four miles with no pack, good food and the comforts of home and I was having issues recuperating?!?  After agonizing about it a bit I decided I had to listen to my body so I reduced the walks to three days a week (M-W-F).  I would maintain roughly the same distance for two weeks.  This slowed things down, gave my body time to recover and get used to the new distance.  It felt like I was learning to walk all over again.

Around the eight mile point I ran into more time issues (though I think the time issues may have been/are all in my head). It was hard to fit in three hours of walking with the three hours of grocery shopping and errands I usually did on Monday.  I stopped walking on Mondays.  I also took a week off from walking in mid-February after having a short bout with the common cold.

This week I reached my first walking goal - 10 miles.  Not a huge distance.  In fact, of the 210 walks I've made since I started keeping track in 2007, 79 have been greater than or equal to 10 miles long (37.6%).  But it still feels like a success for some reason.  I don't have another goal except to continue to increase the distance of my walks.  I was going to add bicycling to my exercise once my walking reached 10 miles but I have decided that I need to give my knee more time to fully recuperate.  These types of knee injuries, strain/damage to the cartilage, heals slowly, if at all.

Being a numbers guy, here is a plot of the Phase II walking distances.  Note as the distances got longer it was harder to meet a specific distance goal and the walking distances became a little erratic:

I wish I'd started this walking routine before my Camino.  I didn't prepare well for it and, while I finished the whole 513 miles, I think a little more preparation would have made a difference early on.  In a way I'm preparing for the Camino after I walked it.  A little back assward.  It will make a difference on my next Camino in 2013 though.

I think a lot about the Camino while I walk.  This really hit home when I reached the longer eight and nine mile walks.  Walking longer distances along streets I'd never been on before triggered the feelings I had on my Camino.   I regained some of the sense of wonder I'd experienced and with the sense of wonder came a flash of the calm, comfortable feeling I had along parts of the Way.  It's a wonderful feeling that has helped me move a small step closer to the optimism, and the healthier body, I am searching for.


  1. Walking is more fun when done as a group, and it's important that companies include this in their program. It really does improve employee productivity.

  2. It's hard to prepare for something as big as the Camino, but you MADE IT! I'm glad you took the time to recover, and that you're back out there walking.

    1. I did make it and i'm kind of amazed. I'm glad too.