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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