Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

Nov 12, 2019 | Teacher's Corner

For me walking feels as vital as breathing. In the evenings, when returning from work, and when it is warmer, I like to go for a walk – for an hour or longer, if I can get away with it. I find the simple action of putting one foot in front of the other, and the rhythm of that action, incredibly therapeutic. It relaxes me and unwinds my mind from a busy day of dealing with stress.

Walking also gives me a sense of immersion, of being rooted somewhere, makes me feel part of where I am, a sensory and physical connection to the bit of world I find myself in.
At home, although I vary the walks I do, there are many routes I’ve done time and time again at different times of the day and at different times of the year. There is nothing boring about this because one of the great joys of seeing a place on foot is that it allows you to notice things, little things, that would otherwise be missed. The more familiar the route becomes, the more I find it is easy to notice things that have been either been overlooked previously or have changed.

What I have discovered about walking is that thoughts come, quite naturally.
I never go for a walk with the intention of solving a problem. It does not seem to work like that, at least not for me. But thoughts, ideas, solutions seems to come more easily when I’m thinking more about walking than about thinking.

And my thoughts are often random, unconnected. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote;

All truly great thoughts are conceived when walking

Well, I’m not sure my thoughts on what to cook with the measly pickings in the fridge so I don’t have to go to the supermarket count as great. But as well as coming up with a plan for dinner, I might also come up with the opening line of a paragraph I’ve been battling with, and idea for a documentary or the right color to paint the bathroom.

The sad truth is that even though there is so much evidence that walking is good for us, we are all doing less of it.

A UK All-Party Commission on Physical Activity found that today’s children are “the least active generation in history” and the World Health Organization cites lack of physical activity as being the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.
We are recommended to walk 10 000 steps a day. Hardly any of us get even close to that. But to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, we need to walk more. The problem is “need” makes it a chore, another thing on the never-ending-to-do-list of life. And something as simple and as pleasurable as walking should never be a chore.

I hope you may be inspired to stick on a pair of comfortable shoes and discover what novelist Elizabeth von Armin describes beautifully: Walking is the perfect way of moving if you want to see into the life of things. It is the one way of freedom. If you go to a place on anything but your own two feet, you are taken there too fast, and miss a thousand delicate joys that are waiting for you by the wayside

• Excerpted from Thinking on My Feet by Kate Humble

(Janet Diederiks)