Walking's just too complicated

May 06, 1994|By Kevin Cowherd

Now that the warm weather is here, I see the walkers are out in force again, their eyes burning like twin coals in their zealous pursuit of fitness, their faces a grim mask of determination, their arms swinging to and fro.

Actually, it's mostly women swinging their arms in that jaunty, Follow-the-Yellow-Brick-Road sort of gait.

You don't see too many men swinging their arms like that since, let's face it, it looks sort of la-di-da.

Not that there's anything wrong with looking la-di-da.

I just mean that most men would not . . . see, they'd be afraid that other men would . . . never mind.

Me, I think even women look goofy when they swing their arms like that.

Every time I see one of these women walk that way, I have to fight the urge to snap her picture with a Polaroid camera and then run up to her and say: "Here, this is what you look like!"

It's Dorothy without Toto under her arm, if you ask me.

Yet, incredibly, I see lots of walkers swinging their arms without even a hint of embarrassment. I myself would have to wear a ski mask in order to walk in public like that.

Ask my wife if that isn't true. My wife is a walker. And every once in a while, she'll ask me to walk with her.

"Sure," I say. "But if you swing your arms even a little bit, the deal is off."

I'm sorry, but I'm just not walking with an arm-swinger. It probably has something to do with the way I was brought up, which was: repressed.

The point (if there is a point to all this) is that walking for exercise is very big these days.

The stores are full of walking outfits and walking shoes and . . . yes, yes, I know all shoes are basically designed for walking, excluding maybe stiletto heels.

But apparently these walking shoes are especially good for walkers because, well . . . because they just are, OK?

They have a reinforced heel or something. Frankly, I'm sorry I brought the whole thing up.

There is even a magazine for walkers now, if you can believe that. It's called Walking, strangely enough, and is devoted to chronicling the, ahem, walking experience.

To that end, the magazine offers tips on: how to walk more efficiently, which foods to eat to heighten the pleasure of walking, hot new walking gear, etc.

Now maybe you're thinking: For God's sake, I've been walking since I was this high! Do I really need a magazine to tell me how to do this?

Well. That just shows how incredibly close-minded you are. That attitude will get you nowhere, pal. People like you make me sick! My God, if everyone were like you, cars would still have running boards. Polio would still be wiping out half the population.

Besides, Walking magazine does more than just tell you how to walk.

It also tells you where to walk.

It's chock full of riveting pieces with titles such as: "10 Great Places To Walk in Paramus, New Jersey!" and "15 Great Places To Walk in St. Paul, Minnesota!"

The idea being, apparently, that if you ever find yourself in Paramus, N.J., or St. Paul, Minn., with some time to kill, you would know, um, where to walk.

All right. Let me say right here that, as a nonwalker, I see the sport (OK, that might be stretching it) as having become too specialized.

For example, the other day I was riding my bicycle (yes, I ride a bike -- no, I'm not 12 years old) and I passed two walkers.

And I heard one say to the other: "No, no, Patty! Like this! Your stride has to be longer."

Now, I figured Patty to be about 50 years old, OK? Which means she has been walking for roughly, oh, 49 years.

Yet here was this other woman, with absolutely no trace of irony in her voice, telling Patty how to walk!

Me, I couldn't get over it. If I were Patty, I would have thought seriously about elbowing this other woman in the gut and telling her to get lost.

But this is what it's come to with some of these walkers.

"You have to maximize your walking efficiency," one young walking storm trooper told me recently, her skin still pinkish from a brisk 45-minute jaunt through the neighborhood, her eyes glowing with the feverish intensity of the truly deranged.

"Can't you just, um, walk?" I asked her. "And not worry about your stride and arm movement and all that other stuff?"

She looked at me like I was the dumbest person she had spoken to all day, which I'm sure was true, although it was only 8:30 in the morning.

You have to give everyone else a chance.

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