Monday, August 18, 2008

These boots are made for walkin'

In the immortal words of my favorite comedian Steven Wright: Anywhere is walking distance if you have the time.

I’ve been making an effort to add more walking to my daily routine, partly because I sit at a computer a lot so I need the exercise, and partly because I prefer to drive as little as possible in these days of global warming and high gas prices.

Did you know that Google maps will plot out not only driving directions, but walking directions, and that you can add intermediate stops or click & drag the route to suit your whims? I mapped out a back-roads route to walk to Lutherville using the click & drag map recently, which helped me figure out mileage and allot walking time accordingly. Of course, I didn’t get to actually use this route because I slept too late and didn’t have time to walk the five miles after all, so I walked part of it, then waited for the bus for half an hour, then hailed a cab so as not to miss my appointment. D’oh! Which leads me to post my “walking lessons learned”…

Do set aside enough time to walk to your destination, assuming an average 4 mph walking speed. Factor in extra time for crossing streets, chatting with people, petting dogs, checking out sights along the way that you never noticed before because you drive too fast, etc.

Do wear comfortable walking shoes. Blisters are no fun – if you get them, go get bandages with Compeed recommended by my hiking friends.

Do wear sunscreen and bring water if you’re walking more than a mile.

Don’t walk through any areas that seem unsafe to you, and especially not after dark! Don’t let that pepper spray or cell phone in your pocket give you a false sense of security – better safe than ending up on the evening news.

Why walking is good:

It’s good for your health! If you don’t have time to go to the gym, walking is great exercise. How do you think Europeans stay so svelte? Living and working in high-density areas that allow people to walk between public transit and their destinations certainly helps. They also drink a lot of water, sit down for meals of fresh/seasonal/local foods of reasonable portion size, and tend toward other habits like those described in the book French Women Don’t Get Fat, but I’ll let you read that on your own time if you’re so inclined.

It’s cheap! Gas is pricey these days. Public transit, if you’re fortunate enough to live in an area with a good system, is cheaper, but walking is FREE. Can’t beat that.

On a related note, the Towson paper recently ran a front-page article on a doctor who runs the 5 miles from his home in Lutherville to work at GBMC every day. When I used to commute up Charles Street, I’d see him running along in his skivvies, carrying his plastic bag of what I now know is scrubs, and wonder about him. Apparently lots of people wondered about him, because the article was entitled “Who is this guy?” Kudos to the good doctor for saving on auto and medical expenses by running instead of driving to work! Car insurance + maintenance + gas for daily commute = $$$, running shoes + good cardiovascular health = priceless.


bender said...

Any comments on how to overcome laziness in regards to walking and even cycling to work, ALM? I am embarrassed to say I live within 4 miles of work but don't cycle nearly enough because 1) Some days I want to dress nice and don't want to arrive at work wet from rain or overexertion, and 2) books and my laptop come to and from work with me. Any tips for the fashion conscious and the faint of a strappingly strong back?

ALM said...

Are there showers & lockers at your work? Lately more workplaces are putting these in for walkers & bikers to shower and change into fresh clothes - this is actually worth a credit in the LEED certification process for green buildings. There's a guy at our Philly office who drives in once a week to re-stock his locker, then bikes in on the other days.

I'd suggest saddlebags or a rear cargo rack for your bike: books & laptop can be treacherous in a messenger bag (don't know about you, but I am a balance-challenged biker)! You can find all kinds of bike accessories at REI if you don't have a good local bike shop.