- Health

Would you rather go for a quick sprint or a long walk?

Are you the sort of person who prefers to stop and smell the roses on a long gentle walk, or the sort that craves the adrenalin rush of a quick run?

A long gentle walk

I used to be a runner — well sort of, but ever since the lockdown I have been a walker, savouring the outdoors – something we took for granted before. As a walker, you have the time to look up at the trees and the blue, blue sky, hear the birds, and watch a mud puddling butterfly alight on the ground.

As I age and have fewer responsibilities at home, I find that lingering over things has great benefit. I say hello to fellow walkers, stop to buy vegetables, chat with a friend over a phone call. I am in no hurry — there is nowhere to go, nothing to achieve, and certainly no race to be run, either literally or metaphorically.

Long walks have not given me the lactic acid build up that a run does, I am not worried that I’ll need a puff of my asthma medication, and I don’t have to be stressed about warm-ups and cool-downs — a cardinal sin for runners who don’t do it.

I quicken my pace when I think of all the fitness advice I’ve been given over the years about cardio, and do a few intervals, but my 10k steps of walking are based not on my ability to get it done quickly, but just on getting it done. A long gentle walk is fitting towards the end of a journey, and as I feel myself coming to one with my son leaving for college, I tell myself that this is the time for nurture and Nature, not a hectic dance around a park most runners are not sure why they are doing.

– Now that her son is off to college, Sunalini Mathew has calmed down and stops to smell the roses (though they still give her an allergy).

A quick fun run

As my sweet colleague takes a long walk to get to the point, let me run shortly towards it. Because that’s my end game: efficiency.

I stew in my own thoughts all day long and a good 20 minute run is all I have to drown everything, except my own breath and the beats in my ears, out. When I run I can feel the day’s sloth drain off my back. I am moving towards something, even if that something is an imaginary goalpost.

There is something to be said about the dividends of discipline that we do not appreciate enough, in this world leaning heavily on self care. The knowledge that you can, and will, run for however long, boosts your confidence. Let the sweat trickle down, feel the heartbeat in your eyes, and notice the deep content of a job well done.

Now, the question is, what should your route be? I prefer running on open roads, beside railways tracks, under the many canopies that Chennai’s trees provide. But the hamster circuit of parks has its advantages too; if the gods wish to place a fit fine specimen in your daily run route to make googly eyes at, so be it.

Sure, once in a while, long walks are great. A hike up the nearest hill, say. But the commitment they demand is more than my flaky self can provide. Say you stop and bend to smell the roses, five kilometres away from home, and develop a back sprain. What then? An auto rickshaw ride home?

Sweta Akundi’s rule for buying snacks is that it is okay as long as you are fit enough to run to the shop and back home.

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