UKHillwalking contributor Alex Roddie has set himself an ambitious target for 2017, to walk 1500 miles. Much of the distance will be accounted for by a daily five-mile circuit before work. Already one third of the way into his total, we asked him to explain the thinking behind the exercise.
"I first heard about walkers doing a 500-mile or 1000-mile challenge in 2016, and thought it might be for me" says Alex, "so I decided to begin for myself at the start of the year."
"I’m notorious for promising myself I’ll do something and then failing to follow through, so I needed to set a target that was achievable but challenging – something that would really force me to take action. I think having a number to aim towards is very important."
"Credit must go to ViewRanger – they set up the #walk2017 Twitter hashtag and the challenge page, and have been promoting the idea for months. While I’m not usually one to jump on board every craze that comes along, I think encouraging people to do more walking in their daily lives can only be a good thing."
Come rain or shine, since the beginning of 2017 the five-mile circuit through Alex's local Lincolnshire countryside has become part of his weekday morning routine.
The route - generally the same every day - takes between 60-90 minutes, depending how many photos he takes, the number of inquisitive cows to avoid and the mud factor - which he says was considerable until well into April.
"In January I had a lot of clear, crisp mornings with opportunities for sunrise photography, but the light was drab in February and the weather a lot less inspiring, so getting out walking every day was a struggle" he says. "February was the most difficult month."
Part of the attraction in treading the same ground every time is the opportunity that it gives him to appreciate the progress of the seasons at close hand, Alex says:
"Seeing the slow change in the countryside was the main thing driving me to keep going from the end of February (after which the routine became a lot easier, mainly due to the increased daylight I think). Feeling a connection with the landscape as the seasons turn is something I’ve missed since moving away from Scotland. It’s highly rewarding to see the same place time after time as life and colour return."
Lincolnshire could hardly be further from meaningful hills, and yet he still finds inspiration through walking in the countryside:
"The rewards are ample but subtle" he explains.
"You won’t be blown away by the majestic landscape of the Lincolnshire Wolds, but you might find joy in a buzzard flitting through the copse at dawn, or the way nature is gradually recolonising the old Victorian railway line."
And a key advantage of this daily discipline, Alex has found, is how well it sets him up for the rest of the day:
"This has been, by far, the greatest benefit of my walking routine" he says.
"I don’t respond well to desk work first thing in the morning – I need a little thinking time first, to reflect on the tasks of the day ahead, and I have always done my best thinking on foot. I can’t prove a direct connection, but I have noticed increased productivity and creativity this year. I’m more organised too and less likely to descend into post-lunchtime brain fog."
So would he recommend it to the rest of us desk jockeys?
"Wholeheartedly! We should all be doing some form of daily exercise, and walking has many proven benefits both for body and mind. If you can squeeze in the time, even if it’s only 20 minutes a day, you’ll thank yourself in the long run."