Wednesday, January 17, 2007

serious walking

i saw this article and couldn't help thinking it almost perfectly encapsulates some of the bizarre ways americans relate to their cities. sort of an apotheosis of the inevitable misunderstanding of the flaneur. i love the daring choice to forgo carrying a water bottle.


Sidewalks Are for Walking

NYT Published: June 19, 2006

IF you are not active and need some inspiration, meet your new role model: Marcy McGinnis, 56, a former senior vice president of CBS News. She stays in shape by walking around Manhattan.

Ms. McGinnis is not on a regimen, a schedule or meeting a training standard. She is not power walking but not walking aimlessly, either. Her outings encompass much more than breaking a sweat — she is attuned to herself and to her environment. Call it destination walking.

From her apartment on Central Park South at Seventh Avenue, Ms. McGinnis moves about the city on foot year round, absorbing the quirky beauty found on almost every street. Feeling invigorated and enriched, she even stops to help tourists.

"I walk around town, doing my errands, meeting a friend for lunch or dinner or doing a little shopping," she said. "I spend a lot of time on the Upper West Side. I don't take the subway or bus much anymore. The best part about walking is wearing comfortable shoes. Also, you can take your time."

Ms. McGinnis walks briskly but not in a hurry. "We spend so much time getting where we're going that we don't even see in between," she said. "If you're on a bus, you're probably looking at your BlackBerry. Walking, I sometimes play games. I look at people's faces, to see if they appear to be in another world."

Walking around the city can give you the same health benefits as the treadmill walker going nowhere. An hour's walk — on Fifth Avenue, along the Hudson River path, through SoHo or Central Park — will shed about 300 calories, if you keep a pace of at least 20 minutes a mile for three miles. Do that three or four days a week and you can lose 10 pounds or more in a year.

You will also improve cardiovascular function, reducing the risk of heart disease, said Robert H. Fitts, an exercise physiologist and chairman of the biological sciences department at Marquette University in Milwaukee. "When you start aerobic exercise like walking, the muscles have not yet acquired the ability to take on oxygen and the cardiovascular system is challenged," Dr. Fitts said. "It adapts quite rapidly in the first few weeks, resulting in lower heart rate at greater effort."

Walking for just 30 minutes a few days a week was found to increase bone density in women, lowering the risk of osteoporosis, according to a 2001 survey by the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions in Boston. Experts also say that walking is one of the safest weight-bearing exercises, resulting in fewer injuries than other aerobic exercises like running.

"Walking nurtures mind, body and soul all at once," said Elliott Denman, 72, a champion racewalker who competed in the 1956 Olympics. Mr. Denman, who lives in West Long Branch, N.J., regularly walks around the city from Lower Manhattan to Midtown and beyond. He stressed that walking was an easy form of exercise for most people. But he has one rule: no slouching. "Maintain an erect carriage with slight forward lean," said Mr. Denman, who has walked the last 27 New York City marathons. "Swing your arms up and back. You'll move faster and get more of a full-body exercise."

To keep a good pace without pounding the pavement, take short steps instead of long strides, said Lon Wilson, a coach and executive director of the New York Walkers Club, an affiliation of the New York Road Runners. "Walking is a pushing action, not a pulling action." He advises keeping hands open with thumb and forefinger together, as though holding a potato chip. No fists, which can tighten arms and shoulders.

Ms. McGinnis has her own rule: travel light. In her walks — from her apartment over to the East River Drive path, or to meet friends in the West 80's — she takes few essentials. "I like to stick my glasses, credit card and key in one pocket, and cellphone in the other pocket," she said, "and not carry anything."

Not even a water bottle? "Nope," she said. That is O.K., even in warm weather, as long as you are not out all day.

Mr. Wilson, who teaches walking classes for New York Road Runners, said, "You can last an hour without drinking." When you are done, he added, you should drink four ounces of water for every mile walked, or about 12 ounces an hour.

If you do take water on a walk, but still want a hands-free feeling, use a fanny pack, Mr. Wilson said. But make sure you wear it in the rear, not on your side where it can tilt your body, resulting in poor posture. For midwalk nourishment, he suggests bringing a piece of fruit, an energy bar or a bag of almonds.

Or stop for a meal. Elizabeth Segall, a 27-year-old social worker who lives in Chelsea, walks regularly from her apartment on West 23rd Street and Seventh Avenue to the Chelsea Piers sports complex at West 23rd Street and the Hudson River. She proceeds south along the river toward Greenwich Village, where she makes a left on Charles Street and meanders a maze of streets to Carmine Street to meet a friend for lunch at Grey Dog's Coffee. "It takes me 40 minutes to get to the restaurant," she said. "Afterwards, I walk to the farmers' market at Union Square, then home, more than an hour's walk altogether."

For Ms. Segall, it's bliss. "It's nice to slow things down, get away from the monotony of a gym," she said. "I get a view by the water, great people watching and a healthy meal at the Grey Dog."

Water views, from the Hudson to the Harlem River and beyond, are favored by C. A. Adler, the president of Shorewalkers, a club that stages walks along the city's waterways. "The waterways are better than walking through the woods," said Mr. Adler, a retired oceanographer, "because there's more to see, and you get a cool breeze."

Inland, on the Upper East Side, Shari Forman, a 33-year-old human-resources manager, finds other landmarks just as appealing. From her apartment on 61st Street and Third Avenue, Ms. Forman regularly walks to eat brunch at Sarabeth's Kitchen on 92nd Street and Madison Avenue, an hour round trip. Or she walks to Saks Fifth Avenue at 50th Street, 20 minutes each way. "Walking the city makes me feel less lazy," Ms. Forman said. "Just knowing that I'm getting out, moving, puts me in a better mood."

Comfort enhances mood, and running shoes are preferred over other athletic shoes, said Curt Manson, the owner of Playmakers, an athletic footwear and apparel store in Okemos, Mich. Working with the sports-medicine staff at Michigan State University in East Lansing, the store conducts a weekly injury clinic. They have found that walking injuries to the feet, knees and hip often stem from shoes that lack adequate support, Mr. Manson said. He also said that shoes with "too much cushioning" can result in an unstable gait because your feet are not secure.

Besides the physical benefits that walking provides, Ms. McGinnis says that it makes her more sensitive to other people. On a recent destination walk, near 64th Street and Second Avenue, Ms. McGinnis noticed a woman who was having trouble crossing the street. "Her cane got stuck in the road," she said. "In the past, I would have rushed by. But I told myself, 'Just stop,' and said to the woman, 'Let me help you.' "


Blogger RC said...

good article, thanks for posting.

1/17/2007 10:57 AM  
Blogger Freeheart said...

Wow! Really cool article! That's great. Thanx for the post.

3/08/2007 2:07 PM  

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