Tapping into that special optimism only walkers enjoy...

David Bathurst shares his passion for walking and explains why it might just be what we all need in these difficult times - particularly when we are in a county as beautiful as Sussex.

Saturday, 2nd May 2020, 11:53 pm
David Bathurst

"I often feel that there should be a special word for that optimism felt by walkers that mist or fog, which has been getting thicker and thicker since their walk began, will let up and be replaced by glorious sunshine. I also think a word is needed for that refusal to believe, on reaching the fine viewpoint that was the objective of that walk, that the fog is even more dense than it was at the start.

"I think optimism and positivity are ingrained in keen walkers. We tell ourselves, as we lace up our trainers or walking boots, or pull on our wellies (as I’ve been doing for almost all my walking over the winter), that the effort will be worthwhile, and that our brisk march will repay us with great scenery, great architecture and, if we’ve planned carefully ahead, great refreshment in a pub or café somewhere along the way.

"I’m writing this, though, at a time when we’re all asked to stay at home and leave the house only for exercise, our stay out in the fresh air even then to be kept to a minimum. Unless we are fortunate enough to live immediately adjacent to an area of outstanding beauty, how should we, as optimistic positive walkers, respond to having our wings clipped in this way?

"Throughout the “stay at home” period I’ll be offering suggestions as to great things we as walkers can do in this situation. They’ll include making the most of the scenery and architecture within easy walking distance of our front door; using our time out of doors to make us mentally stronger; reflecting on great walks we’ve completed; taking virtual walks using the technology at our disposal; planning walks to be attempted once the lockdown period is over; and thinking on how we can use our penchant for walking to help others.

"Supposing you’re not a walker? This may seem like entirely the wrong time to extol the benefits of walking. Government advice is clear. Stay at home. But the Government recognise that one form of exercise a day, whether it’s walking, running or cycling, is permissible for health reasons. Of these three forms of exercise, I would suggest that walking is the best, both for your physical and mental well-being, giving you time to reflect and take stock in a way which running or cycling do not. If you haven’t been exercising at all and you feel your physical or mental health is suffering as a consequence, then unless you’ve been told you cannot, try just a short walk, either on your own or with those living with you. Take the precautions, of course: don’t walk too far, distance yourself from others you pass, and wash your hands as soon as you get home. If you’re not used to it, it may seem like an effort. But just a short period of exposure to the open air and a change of scene to an environment other than your front room or your computer screen will leave you feeling satisfied and very much better than if you’d not done it at all. And you will start to build up an appetite for longer walking, looking forward to longer walks and bigger challenges when circumstances allow.

"I don’t for one moment wish to suggest we should ignore or belittle the very negative impact that the current situation is having on so many. But I believe that a positive mindset is vital to help us through it and I feel that a love for walking, and the walkers’ optimism that flows from that love, can really help. So why not give it a try?"

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