Walking and Gawking in Ireland – Part 1

Walking a mile to a mile and a half 4 times a week for 6 weeks prior to our Irish holiday deflated my middle and I lost five pounds, which to me means I can eat potatoes and bread (as long as I keep walking).  You hear wild rumors as you get closer to 40, but I had to experience gaining weight while subsisting on salads and water to accept that my squirrel-like metabolism is dead along with my desire to buy a swimsuit.  It all works out, though, because the rumor about fading endurance is also true. Just a few weeks of a walking routine increased my stamina and made Ireland more enjoyable than I imagined.  I was even able to imitate running to catch our connection at O’Hare.

We spent our first evening in Blessington, a tiny town with a lone little terrier scouting main street just south of Dublin.  On the winding gravel road back to our lodgings we got out of the car to peek at Blessington Lake.

Blessington Lake

Blessington Lake

The next morning we started off for Wicklow National Park and found ourselves stopping often to explore.

A park in Wicklow County

A park in Wicklow County

A park with a fast flowing stream over mossy rocks and a stone bridge called to us, as did a cemetery with Celtic crosses raised high. The faeries moved a bit too quickly for my eyes, but I swear I heard their giggles just beyond the bubbling gurgle of water.

Between my walking routine and Ireland’s vistas, I shed not only fat, but a bit of cynicism.  Dreams coming true take chinks out of a calloused soul.

Walking does not build much muscle and muscle burns fat, so when I stop moving, my metabolism does, too.  Motivation is plentiful on vacation, but hard to find on a snowy frigid days, which is when I discovered that truth.  Almost a decade ago Ireland renewed a walking culture  to combat the country’s growing obesity rate along with national dietary standards.  It is not difficult to persuade an Irishman or woman to go for a stroll and GMO-free counties offer up food that reminded us what food used to taste like.  My theory is that we do not eat as much when it is flavourful because we are more easily sated.

Exploring Wicklow

Exploring Wicklow

Low in the Wicklow Mountains

Low in the Wicklow Mountains

In the hills of Wicklow National Park I stumbled on loose rock and stepped in a deep uninhabited hole, highlighting the need for a walking stick.  Mountain rescue teams are stationed in every area for good reason.

We were off to find St. Kevin’s monastic ruins in Glendalough and mistakenly walked up a steep road to find St. Kevin’s Parish where we lit candles for loved ones in heaven.  There were lovely engraved garden sculptures on the grounds and I suspect my husband knew I would stop at the craft fair on our way back down as I was excited for any opportunity to visit with locals.

St. Kevin's Parish

St. Kevin’s Parish

Gardens at St. Kevin's Welcome Center

Gardens at St. Kevin’s Welcome Center

On the way up, I stopped to rest and take in the gardens  at St. Kevin’s welcome center.  It was all meant to be, I am sure.  Just down the road we found the ruins of St. Kevin’s 6th century monastery.  Raided for centuries by the Vikings, most of the standing ruins date to the 11th and 12th centuries.  A man in a kilt and hose played Uillean pipes, whcih lent a melancholia to the scene, but a little girl yelling at the top of her lungs, “Rapunzel, let down your golden hair!” brushed it away.  A spiritual place, the sun broke through the thick cloud cover just as I offered up my gratitude.

St. Kevin's monastic ruins in Glendalough

St. Kevin’s monastic ruins in Glendalough

Glendalough Beauty

Glendalough Beauty

St. Kevin's ancient church often called "St. Kevin's Kitchen" due to the chimney.

St. Kevin’s ancient church often called “St. Kevin’s Kitchen” due to the chimney.

My husband was usually ahead of me because I am quite the gawker.  Also quite the talker and writer, I have many a story to tell you about Ireland, so I will break our adventure into a few posts. Sláinte!  (Good Health!)

Walking and Gawking in Michigan

BBI shoreFor the next six weeks I will be walking and practicing with my new camera in preparation for a trip to Ireland.  Walking is a bit boring really, compared to lithe runners with their snug running shorts and pretty shoes.  My jazzy shoes rival any runner’s, but that is about all the competition I can provide.  Have you seen the articles that say you can simply walk off excess weight around your middle?  Yes, I saw the headlines at the supermarket, too!  So, I will perform my own experiment, and it will not involve eating kale.  My diet is mostly natural foods, however I still inch up a couple of pounds every few weeks.  The reasons are valid and can be confirmed by witnesses, but how I got here is not nearly as interesting as where I am going.  Honestly after sporting a boy body all my life I feel powerfully curvaceous with a B-cup.  It is not the weight that I mind, but the pudgy bulges when I sit down, and standing for hours on the beach is tiring.  Sitting down I look like I am wearing a flotation device around my middle, and some of my pants no longer fit over the floaty part.  For the record I would like to keep the butt.  And the B-cup. I will not cut calories, but will walk at least a mile 5 days per week for the first 3 weeks.  Writing about my progress may cause a bit of a Hawthorne effect, so I must be diligent about eating sugar to protect the integrity of this experiment.

Something tells me that my current two walks a week is not sufficient conditioning for 7 days of trekking around the Emerald Isle.  Arduous hikes are not part of itinerary, however the cumulative effect of a few hours walking per day could hobble me, and what a shame that would be.  A six-week timeline also coincides with the number of summer days remaining here in Michigan.  Winter is always coming.

This well-intentioned idea came to me while on vacation, where so many great plans are born, yet never make it back home.  On the first day I walked down the gravel road and later along the shore of the island where we vacation.  Each walk an easy mile, I walked with spring,  buoyed by my new plan.  Another benefit of walking outdoors in Northern Michigan is that the black flies and mosquitos spur me on and keep my heart rate up, like tiny coaches.  A mile is easy because I worked my way up to that 8 months ago after my last RA flare.  After limping to the bathroom for a couple of months, it seemed like a prize to walk that far at a good clip.  It is time to move on now.