Yesterday H and I went on a hike organised by a SHU graduate. I had asked her if it was a difficult hike as my feet have struggled in recent years. She assured me it was gentle stroll, taking pics and visiting a butterfly farm. So we went. Alighting at Fanling Station and wearing my MBTs for the first time on a serious walk we met up with a motley band of people of all shapes and sizes but they made us very welcome. Probably about 20 of us in all and with a guide we set off on the morning hike. At first we walked along the road and then started to go up a gentle incline.
Now I know I am overweight and I know for many years walking uphill has been a struggle. I simply struggle to keep my breath and so it proved here. The incline taxed me until we came to a clearing and I thought now we would walk through a wooded area and enjoy the day. Far from it. Some one pointed to some steps and indicated that is where we would go. In fact the whole of the upward walk was on steps, endless amounts of them. I found this challenging. Everyone also started to fuss around me – was I ok, could I make it, plenty of time, no rush. It was a tad embarrassing i suppose. H looked worried as if to imply that I was about to have a heart attack and generally the pressure mounted as I slowly climbed these steps.
Strangely my feet and my legs were ok but my breath simply kept defeating me every 20 steps or so. Some stayed with me whilst others forged ahead. From time to time there was a viewing point where the others stopped, admired the view, took photos and waited for my arrival.
This reminded me of walking in the lake District in 1973 with a university friend, N, with whom I have lost contact in recent years which is a shame. N and i were both reasonably fit but he was taller and bounded along quite quickly, my little legs struggling to match his stride. Whenever we went up a hill he simply forged ahead leaving me way behind. I have always found uphill difficult and struggled for breath even then. When he stopped i would catch him up. As soon as I reached him he would be off again leaving me trailing once more. And so this happened yesterday.
Thus I fell further and further behind and dragged myself up endless thousands of steps seemingly never getting nearer to the top. This was not enjoyable and certainly embarrassing. But I kept going.
I managed though to get there in the end without keeling over. I expected now we were at the top to walk along some terrain, enjoy a view and have some relaxing walking.But no, following a rest and more photos, (they like taking photos in HK), we began the descent.
This was to prove if anything more difficult than the ascent. It was a mixture of steps and steep inclines on which I could breathe fine but my knees took the brunt. My MBTs were difficult going downhill and the rocking motion was difficult going on the steep declines. I had to walk side step to relieve the knees a little. I lagged behind again though not as far and after a painful half hour reached the bottom. My knees nearly gave way and it was distinctly unpleasant. I cannot say that this was my type of walk as I had had to struggle every step of the way both up and down!! But the heart was still pumping and I kept telling myself and was told by others this would do me good. I suppose so, I thought, though somewhat ruefully and grudgingly!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anyway a typical chinese (Cantonese) lunch followed and it was great to sit down and get my breath back. After lunch we made our way to an old town area (Sheung Shui) and looked at a market for a while before returning to the train and back home. I was tired and ached all over but had survived.
I guess I can draw a couple of lessons from this. Firstly be a little surer of what type of walk it is. I am not sure if fit I would have enjoyed this type of walk as it was hard work at all points. The second one is that if I could get fitter these walks would be bearable and would help increase my exercising, which I know is woefully limited. This brings me to the third lesson and the reason I don’t walk much – the pain in my feet.
Since being diagnosed with plantar fasciitis (sore heels?) I was finding any time on my feet painful. And there was a catch 22. The more weight I could lose, the easier would be the pressure on my feet and then as I exercised more I would lose more weight. But with the pain in my knees due to the way in which I was walking, the more I walked the more uncomfortable i felt which then put me off walking for a while afterwards. All in all it was difficult to find a way out of this conundrum even if friends and family thought the solution was easy – lose weight.
Enter MBTs. These ‘anti-shoes’ as they are badged by the company are designed to offer a physiological solution to the way we walk. Given my orthopaedic practitioner had suggested it was the way I walked that caused me problems with knees and heels then the promise of footwear which made me walk properly sounded helpful and indeed when I researched their site I found this to be the testimony of a lot of satisfied customers. Despite the cost I decided a few weeks go it was worth it to try them and I have been wearing them ever since. You walk in a kind of rocking motion as if walking on sand and certainly I feel that I am standing straighter just by virtue of wearing them. Have not noticed any improvements in the 3 weeks but I have had them on and until yesterday they had not been fully tested in a prolonged way.
I can say that my feet have really recovered well and I do not have the aches and pains I have experienced when on my feet all day teaching. So maybe, just maybe, there is a potential solution here. I am very sore today with lots of unused muscles complaining but I can walk today which I fully expected to struggle with. So maybe, just maybe, I can find a way out of the catch 22 conundrum I posed earlier. watch this space!! But next time I hike it will be on more level land I think. But just to conclude everyone was patient and tried to be helpful and at least when i got home I slept well and deeply last night.