The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Carl Robin­son Re­view this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

I’m an early riser and my day feels in­com­plete with­out see­ing the sun­rise. For years I re­ally en­joyed walk­ing with the dog. But in my mid-60s ev­ery­thing changed when my doc­tor pro­nounced me bor­der­line obese.

He rec­om­mended a pe­dome­ter. Walk a min­i­mum of 10,000 steps a day, he said. Well, that shouldn’t be too hard, I thought. An hour’s walk is 6000.

The pe­dome­ter was an in­stant mo­ti­va­tor, but things re­ally took off when we shipped the fam­ily dog to our daugh­ter in the US. I sud­denly re­alised how dogs — great as they are — just slow you down. It was me who was now off the leash.

Wher­ever I travel, I’m out be­fore dawn. On our first trip to New Or­leans, I ex­plored the en­tire French Quar­ter and found its fa­mous Cafe du Monde be­fore wak­ing my wife and strolling back to­gether for its chicory-flavoured coffee and ic­ing-sug­ared beignets.

But early morn­ing strolls in Rochester, New York, where our daugh­ter lives, of­ten earned me a rep­ri­mand as too “dan­ger­ous”.

Well, I replied, all the mug­gers are night peo­ple and are prob­a­bly still sound asleep.

I ex­plore en­tire towns and land­scapes and get those 10,000 steps be­fore break­fast. Never en­tirely soli­tary, it’s rare if some­one doesn’t nod or say good morn­ing.

Closer to home, a move back to Syd­ney three years ago and its pre­vi­ously un­fa­mil­iar ter­rain opened up to­tally new ar­eas to walk and ex­plore.

A mix­ture of busy roads and tree-lined streets sud­denly turns into forested gul­lies, with ris­ing mists and wa­ter­falls. There are some steep hills but al­ways a pleas­ant am­ble home.

On week­ends, I’m even near­ing the Hawkes­bury River on the 250km great north walk to New­cas­tle.

Now in my early 70s, my weight has dropped below the cen­tury mark and is stay­ing there. In the early days, I of­ten over­did my­self and strained mus­cles and ten­dons I barely knew I had. Now I have good shoes, plenty of wa­ter and a chi­ro­prac­tor.

When my se­cond pe­dome­ter died, my tech­savvy son gave me one con­nected to my lap­top, tablet and mo­bile phone. I usu­ally re­sist change, but this pocket de­vice was soon cheer­ing me on with how many more steps I needed, and con­grat­u­lat­ing me when I soared above my daily tar­get of 10,000.

Last month came my an­nual re­port: al­most 4.5 mil­lion steps. (The Aus­tralian av­er­age is 914,001.) Then it awarded me a dig­i­tal “badge” for walk­ing the equiv­a­lent of the Trans-Siberian Rail­way from Moscow to Vladi­vos­tok, or 9289km, dur­ing the past three years.

It’s an ex­haust­ing thought, but I feel great.

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