Having walked approx. 850 ks of the Camino called the Via de la Plata in Spain this September/October, I learnt a heck of a lot about what our bodies are capable of.
What did I learn?
Firstly, let me clarify that when I left to go walking in Spain, I was not in fantastic physical shape. I’m in fact an average female in her mid-fifties with attendant dodgy bits – crap left foot, left ankle, arthritic hips, a severe case of arthritis in my lower back newly confirmed by a hospital X-ray in August this year (I was so worried about carrying a rucksack but my back rallied beautifully).
As for the ability to walk 20 ks or more per day, I had practised at home for maybe 2 months walking 8 – 10 ks every other (OTHER) day. On only 1 occasion did I attempt a longer distance – 15 ks.
Secondly, I have a history of exercise since my late teens but I wouldn’t call it constant. More “off and on” – jogging was frequent but not for more than maybe 5 ks max generally. Remember Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda and their aerobics? Well I devoted years to their routines back then. I also was a gym goer.
In my late 20s I had to walk about 5ks to work every day and back for a couple of years so that took care of that.
In my 30s I lived overseas surrounded by concrete so running led to shin splints and turned into long walks. But then eased off. I’m essentially lazy, really.
My 40s saw a turn to bicycling. And so on – you get the picture. There’s a long interrupted history of exercise but if it was ever a choice of going for a run/walk/ride OR drinks with mates, you are looking at one big lush!
The point being that it was in my cellular memory to exercise and I had the historical impression that my body was an essentially strong thing.
So here’s what I learned walking approx. 20 ks a day for 7 weeks at the age of 56: we can DO IT!
The human body is capable of walking that distance every day. Capable of 4-5 hours of sustained walking on a daily basis.
Naturally, I am talking about bodies that are within the average range of mobility and health. (And this is NOT an article about judgement or criticism.)
This is a post about WONDERMENT and DISCOVERY of our capabilities.
Now before you all jump up and down with differing opinions I want to add that I was a youngster on the trail amongst the pilgrims.
I encountered women in their 60s and 70s – there was a man who was 86! There were men with grey hair ranging from 50s to late 80s, women on their own from 50s to late 70s, married couples in their late 60s. To be only in my fifties meant that I was a youngie!
Of course there were even younger people on this route, but this is not an article about that age group.
We older people don’t need to look to an incapacitated ageing process – if we exercise even to half our capacity then we can keep our bodies in good nick! When I think of the older pilgrims doing their 20-30 ks a day on the Camino I wonder about half the older folk in nursing homes or retirement villages who give up on exercise.
Our older bodies are capable of so much more than we let them do! Wherever have you read that we should all try to walk about 10 kilometres a day!?! or even 15? And yet that’s how we are designed.
To be moving! To be physical! And a welcome by-product of exercise is that it decreases the ravages of depression. Endorphins are activated. Good feeling vibes are generated.
For most of us, it’s our mental attitude that keeps us sedentary – I can’t be bothered/ it’s too hot/ too cold/ (in my case) too rainy! Whatever!
It’s been a revelation and in my next post on this topic I’m going to share what I learnt about how much food our bodies actually need if we walk 20 ks a day – totally dependent on personal metabolism of course!