Stephen Grant

Walkover Success

Words by Stephen Grant

Never underestimate a good walk.

I don’t. Not now. I’ve pretty much taken walking for granted all my life, but every now and again, fate throws subtle reminders of how incredible it is in your path.

Certainly last Summer it was everything, as we tried to coax our 1 year old into that most independent of skills. This helps elevate you from the rest of the animal kingdom into the realm of humans, ostriches, and dancing dogs. And from a baby’s perspective, it’s huge. So much so that the only prerequisite of a graduate to ‘toddler’ status is actual toddling. At the time, fellow friends with older children warded us off. “Don’t do it! They’re so much easier to look after when they can’t walk!”. Of course, they were joking; I’ve yet to see a parenting book amongst the billions out there titled “Don’t Walk! A Guide to Denying Your Child Realistic Mobility”.

And trying to explain to a child how to walk reminds you of the fact that you’ve been doing it so long you don’t actually really know yourself. There’s only a select few people who are truly skilled in the art of explaining out loud how it is achieved, such as clinical physiotherapists, and highly motivated drunks.

There is an argument it’s less critical than it has ever been. In our increasingly office-based lives, a large portion of your 24 hour clock can be walk-free. Commuting, work, socialising; a lot of previously necessary walking is now out of your hands (feet). And in many ways, that’s fabulous. A close family member has recently had a diagnosis that means he may never walk, and with this in mind, let alternative mobility reign supreme.

The flip side of the coin is not great. Sedentary lifestyles are doing untold damage to the human race; fitness, strength, obesity, even social integration are all falling by the wayside/pavement. In many cases, it’s just the access to breathing outdoors that we lose out on. Though sometimes this need becomes confused; I recently overheard someone saying, “I’m off to the shops to get some fags. The fresh air will do me good”.

The most recent studies have shown that the most important of personal strengths – mental health – is hugely linked to our need for regular exercise. Think that walking a dog helps your sanity? It’s not the dog that makes you less depressed, it’s the walk. That said, while walking without a dog may help improve mental wellbeing, walking with a leash, shouting, and throwing a stick at nobody in particular will probably give the impression of the opposite.

Someone turned up at your house angry? They probably drove. I guarantee you; a walk can only help allay sadness. If you wanted to be the best therapist or life coach in town, put your clinic at the top of a hill a mile from the nearest car park, and watch those positive results flood in.

And walking is easy, no? Even by definition; the word ‘cakewalk’ means ‘straightforward’. It was a kind of dance you just had to walk to (not to be mistaken for a cake & walk – the effects of these two cancel each other out). Yeah, it’s easy. Which is why people go (miles) out of their way to make it difficult.

This year, I’m doing the three peaks challenge in aid of Scope. That’s 24 hours in total to walk up, and down, and travel between, each of Britain’s 3 highest peaks. I’ve got a six page letter telling me what I need to prepare, buy and do. For a walk. I’ve got Goretex everything. I’ve got climbing poles (is this cheating?). I’ve spent hours on internet forums researching ‘really good boots’. Quite disappointed so far. For me, ‘really good boots’ would have wheels. And an engine.

I’m nervous. Every now and again people die going for a walk. I have a colleague in comedy who walked across Greenland last year who sent a fundraising email beforehand insinuating how tough it was – and how he might die. He did. He raised a fortune, but despite my altruism, I’m just not prepared to go that far, regardless of how good a cause it is.

Walking solves obesity, improves fitness, mobilises society, and clears your head. It’s the magic bullet. Those people who think I’m exaggerating can take a hike.