Whether your two footed passion is running ultra events like the ‘Comrades’ and ‘Two Oceans’, or more sedate sunrise walks around the Botanical Gardens, walking and running are the easiest, quickest and cheapest ways for you to get fit. To do it you need nothing more than a good set of trainers and some motivation. Couple that up with a good gossip with friends, throwing a stick for the dog, or bouncing along to your favourite tunes and it’s easy to see why walking and running are such popular fitness pastimes.
For the complete sports novice the easiest and safest way to start exercising is by walking. It doesn’t put any unnecessary strain on your joints and allows you to burn calories, slowly increase your aerobic capacity and lose weight. The intensity of your exercise regime determines how much energy you use up but generally speaking an average persons physical activity contributes 20% to 30% of their bodies total daily energy consumption. A thirty minute walk may only use a third of the kilo-calories of a thirty minute fast run but it is still burns a lot more calories than doing nothing.
Harare’s summer heat, suburban sprawl and security concerns aren’t always conducive to regular walking and as such we have developed a great air conditioned car culture. However it doesn’t mean you can’t get out and about. Early morning and early evenings are great times to stretch the legs in the cool of the day, it just means that you have to put a bit of time aside to do it. Holidays are a perfect way to start walking as your often so immersed in the new environment that you don’t realise you’ve just walked five or ten kilometres. Once you get to know central London for example you soon realise it is quicker to walk somewhere than to take the tube.
Zimbabwe’s great all year round weather, give or take the odd storm, makes putting your running shoes on and getting outdoors so much easier. The activity options are endless. In the mornings I see a great diversity of people exercising from all walks of life. Runners, sprint interval trainers, amblers, power walkers, and people with hiking poles pound the suburban pavements. If you’d rather exercise away from the streets then there are a lot of other exercise options available.
There are several exercise gym facilities available, though monthly fees and memberships are not cheap by regional standards. There are many running and walking clubs around town including Old Georgians running club (0772 300953), the Greendale Polocross Field Walkers club, Run/Walk for life, which operates out of Hellenic primary school, contact Mel on 0773 060 235, and the very active Mountain Club of Zimbabwe which walk every weekend, email Lorraine on firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can team up with friends to do a variety of triathlon distances and just do the run section, which many often walk, or you could try another discipline as well. For more info on the very active triathlon association look at www.zimtri.org.
Then there are the many fun runs to raise money for worthy causes including the 5km and 10km Spar Fun Runs and the immensely entertaining and extremely colourful ‘Colour run’.
Other great places to stretch the legs include Art Farm on Harare drive, the Botanical gardens off Sandringham Drive, the Borrowdale Race Course, Monovale Vlei and the many golf courses that we have in Harare. Not far out of town on the Borrowdale road we are lucky to have the beautiful Domboshawa and Ngomakurira area, both of which are managed by National Museums and Monuments.
Zimbabwe’s highest mountain is in the beautiful Nyanga National Park, which in itself is home to some beautiful places to walk. It is a great, slightly strenuous, climb with stunning views from the top but caution is required as the weather can be very unpredictable. It’s essential not to walk on your own and ensure you have adequate supplies and experience should the weather take a turn for the worse. The relatively new 5 day, 62km Turaco trail in the Eastern Highlands organised by Far and Wide Nyanga takes walkers trough stunning mountain wilderness areas. For more information see www.turacotrail.co.zw. Other National Parks around the country have great places to walk or trail run, the Matopos is a hikers dream.
With so much of our beautiful country to see there’s no excuse really not to grab a water bottle, put on some suitable footwear, find a friend, some music or pet and walk, run, or skip your way to better health, a more toned body and that fabulous ‘feel good’ feeling.