Fitness - Challenge Liz - Walking

The challenge

Liz, our researcher and reviewer set herself the challenge of being the Uncovered guinea pig.  Issue 2 she asked the public to challenge her to anything that they would like trialled or tested to see if it would improve health and/or mind.  She first took up the challenge of giving up smoking, but as you will see this failed... So undeterred Liz got back on the challenge wagon and tried something else - walking!  Here is how she got on.

Well let’s start by being completely honest – my challenge to stop smoking has, so far, failed.  I stress the ‘so far’ part of the last sentence because I fully intend to try again soon.  My excuses are as follows:

On Christmas Day I severely burnt my left hand on a mince pie which had come straight out of the oven.  It was an open tart which did a summersault as I tried to take it from the baking tray to the plate and foolishly I decided to catch it as it fell.  Consequently I spent the rest of the day with my hand either under the tap or in a bowl of water and went to bed that night with it wrapped in cling film.  On Boxing Day I felt under the weather and a few days later I went down with flu-like symptoms.  By New Years Eve I felt absolutely dreadful and despite having 10 family members and friends coming round to see in the New Year I had to stay in bed whilst my partner partied with them.  When I got up on New Years Day I felt a bit better but not strong enough to tackle breaking my horrid habit.  I had decided to quit all on my own and using will-power to overcome my addiction but hadn’t got the strength or courage.  I generally beat myself up about failure for the next few days and felt guilt and weakness in equal quantities.  I shall soon be heading to see my G.P. for some potions to aid my lack of self-control!

Challenge attempt number 2!

I decided to tackle one of my ‘challenges’ from our readers instead – yes a cop out perhaps – but it made me feel better about myself to conquer one thing having failed at another.  Mary from Warwickshire asked me to go for a walk every day to see if it made any difference to my mental attitude and physical fitness.  Fortunately the snow was gone from the roads but my drive was still covered in ice and it is up a very steep hill so my first steps out were very tentative.  I tip toed down the drive and fell flat on my bottom – not a good start but I picked myself up and headed for the footpath through the woods.  The first part of the walk is up a steep hill with graduating steps along the way to the top.  By the time I reached the top step I was gasping for breath (a timely reminder that I must quit smoking).  I paused until I could breathe easily again then headed further along the path, through the woods and into the open area where the footpath takes me alongside the river.  It was glorious, cold but bright and fresh.  The birds were singing and the sound of the raging river was wonderful.  No signs of Spring yet but I’m sure there will be soon.  I walked as far as the nearest country road and paused on the bridge over the river feeling rather smug with myself and happy to be outdoors on a sunny day in beautiful surroundings.  I returned home tired but exhilarated.

The next day it was raining and it would have been so easy to have used that as an excuse to stay in the dry but it was too close to my failure to stop smoking to give in again.  I put a waterproof coat on and my Doc Martins and off I went.  As I reached the woods it was surprisingly dry even though the canopy of leaves was not yet there and as I reached the open fields the rain let up.  The birds started singing again and the river roared louder with the extra rain content.  I stopped to listen to a black bird and then a magpie.  I happen to recognise the song of these two birds and realised that there are so many other voices chirping in the background and I wanted to learn more about which bird sounds like what.

I went a bit further than the bridge this time, only a matter of a few hundred yards but felt that I would feel good for going that bit further.  The path was slippery with wet leaves and rain water but my boots kept my feet firmly on the path and nice and dry.  I gradually extended my walks each day until I felt I had gone as far as I was happy to.  There is a wonderful viewing peak right up the mountain called ‘Burning Rock’ which is, as yet out of my walking distance but I hope to get there by the end of the summer.  I have never got that far yet and have heard that it is stunningly beautiful so that is my personal challenge.  We used to have a dog and I really missed him as I used to walk this path with him, throwing sticks for him to fetch as we went.  But now I was doing it just for me and felt self-important because I was caring for myself and I felt worth it.

I repeated this walk every day for the next three weeks and felt that I didn’t need to pause for breath quite as desperately as on the first day.  Yes the weather could have been kinder, rain, frost and snow flurries but each weather condition made the walks that bit different.  I tried to make my walks a regular event and chose a time which I knew I could keep to.  I felt a great deal of satisfaction from disciplining myself and from knowing that I was getting myself fitter and with a bit of luck lose some of the pounds gained over Christmas.  I had the added bonus of noticing that all the snowdrops were peeping their little green tips through the dead leaves in the woodland and I am looking forward to seeing their white flowers before long followed by the bluebells and primroses but I am not wishing my time away as I am enjoying all there is to see each day.

I am very grateful to Mary for challenging me to do these walks as I had intended to start doing them later on in the year when Spring came but I would have missed out on a few month of enjoyment and opportunity to get fitter.  I really feel mental and physical benefit from my walking and will be keeping it up for good.  I can recommend it to anyone whether living in the countryside or in town – if you open your eyes and mind there are things of great beauty to be seen everywhere.

If you want to challenge Liz to something or to tell us of your own challenges email liz@mentalhealthy.co.uk.

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