Happy New Year, if that isn’t already old hat. I’m not one to deny myself, so no mince pie, no mulled wine, no turkey sandwich nor drop of Black Bush went un-enjoyed over the past 10 days. To me, life’s about balance. That doesn’t mean you have to live every day in dreary moderation — we’re not all millennials! The joy of occasional excess isn’t to be underestimated. It just means that good times cease to be special if they’re continual. And holidays and celebrations are at least partly enjoyable because they’re rare.
o in the same way I love to enjoy the hell out of Christmas, I like to balance that with a bit of a personal spring-clean in the new year. This is the fifth year I’ve asked people to join me and my merry tribe on my 100 days of walking and, yes, I’m asking you now.
The premise is simple. You just walk for half an hour every day for 100 days in a row. There’s no distance you have to cover. You go at your own pace, whatever that is, and you’ll naturally get faster as the days go on. It’s not a weight-loss plan; there are no add-on requirements to give anything up or diet. It’s just a commitment you make to yourself that you’ll take a half-hour out of your day and spend it walking.
And the knock-on effects are amazing. For a start, there’s something really positive in setting a goal and achieving it. It’s empowering. It makes you feel like there are other challenges you could rise to. It’s time for yourself that you can legitimately insist on taking! The ‘100 days’ chain is a great motivator; when you’ve done a rake of days you don’t want to break the chain and throw those days away by skipping one.
Plus there are all the incredible benefits of walking. It’s a great form of cardio and resistance exercise. The weight-bearing element strengthens bones and muscles, so it’s brilliant for mobility, joint movement, coordination and balance. It’s good for your lungs and heart. It lowers blood pressure. It’s wonderful for your mental health. It’s green exercise out in fresh air so it raises your endorphins, which improves your mood, lowers your anxiety and stress levels and helps you sleep. Walking helps you to maintain a healthy weight and tops up your vitamin D levels. It’s truly the king of exercise.
What’s more, it suits everyone. You don’t have to be fit. You can be any age, any size, any ability. It’s free! There’s no gym membership or fancy clothes or equipment required — you just go out your front door in a pair of comfy shoes and you’re away!
I started today as I always do on January 1, but if you prefer to start tomorrow and finish a day later, or even do two walks one day, to catch up, then do that. You’ll be joining the most positive bunch of people I’ve ever come across online in our 100 days community who post about their progress on Facebook and Insta using the #100daysofwalking. They lift my spirits with their good vibes and constant support of each other whenever it’s needed.
The best form of exercise is one you can sustain. Five years ago, having resorted to cruising the Bountys in the sweet tub, I’d no notion that an idea I came up with would become something thousands of people now do with me every year. It’s never too late to take the first step that changes your path. So get out there and walk!
A second opinion
I wrote a piece a few weeks back on my Groucho Marx-like dislike of clubs that’d have me, or rather my longing to be in a squad only to realise I actually hate squads, and it got massive feedback. Huge numbers of people contacted me to say they totally identified with it and they too had often felt bad they weren’t in a cool clique.
So I thought I’d impart the only other bit of insight I’ve gleaned about friendship. There’s a definite case to be made for ‘ask not what your friends can do for you – ask what you can do for your friends’. Showing up for your friends and being a friend seems to me to be what we should actually focus on. I’ve realised that one of the best
feelings is doing nice things for other people, just because you like them; that an act of kindness or generosity given with no expectation of anything in return is what friendship is all about.
A lovely thing about ageing is it becomes easier to do that – because being happier and more secure in yourself allows you to do those things without feeling compromised. We often worry about having friends, when being a friend is all it takes.