I don’t live in the suburbs for a few reasons. First, I value restaurants like Montana’s and Red Lobster as ironic destinations reserved for hilarious roadtrips to Target once every few weeks. Two, if I wanted to take the worst of city life and the worst of country life and mash them together to create a purgatory of earth, I’d go back to rehab. And three, I actually like the idea of walking everywhere. Nothing irks me more than than seeing someone paying for parking in full Lululemon gear with a yoga mat hanging off her shoulder. The Dalai Lama would be so impressed with our zen and peaceful nation.
The crazy truth about staying in shape that no one wants to believe because it’s oh-so simple is that, if you walk to most of your daily destinations, you’ll likely be in the best shape of your life. I was recently in Los Angeles doing a story for another magazine with celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak who trains people like Katy Perry, Megan Fox, Halle Berry, Eva Mendes and Kanye West. I was expecting him to wow me with his workout philosophies, but instead he mostly stressed the idea that, if an average person just walks 10,000 steps a day, he or she would be in amazing shape (in combination with a healthy diet, obviously).
In fact, Harley said that those who are regular gym goers are sometimes in worse shape than those of us who just simply make walking a way of life because a hardcore workout, as opposed to walking frequently throughout the day, actually spikes your appetite and makes you feel like you deserve to over-indulge because you went to the gym. Ever notice how some of your elliptical-obsessed friends think they have to fuel up on protein shakes before and after their “strenuous” workouts and feel like it’s totally fair to order the cheesecake after dinner because they “earned it”? Yeah, that’s part of the reason they’re not losing weight.
I know the first argument people are going to throw at me is: “But I’m at work all the time! That’s why I drive to the gym and compact my workout!” Yeah, dude, I go to work, too. In fact, as I’m writing this, I can hear some executive in the next office over screaming business jargon like “synergize” and “take it offline,” and I’m one corporate cliche away from going over there and showing him how to think outside the box(ing ring). But guess what: I walked here this morning. Sure, there was a streetcar that went by me every five minutes, and I could have easily slept in for another three hits of the snooze button, but I made time to get my heart rate going instead of saving it for the gym. I’ll walk home, too. And then I’ll probably walk to whatever it is I do tonight, and you can too. It’s as simple as making walking enjoyable, and that starts with music.
As sad as I am that I didn’t invent “Prancercize,” I did come up with my own approach to walking that actually makes me prefer to go most places by foot because I look forward to it so much. My iPod is divided into three music sections: 1) Karaoke, 2) Rock Star, 3) Supermodel. These are the three types of walking I do, and karaoke walking obviously involves all the songs I like to perform in front of audiences in real life. All of my karaoke songs are complicated rap songs that not only require me to learn a lot of lyrics, but also master complex meter. There’s nothing more embarrassing than getting up on a karaoke stage only to realize that you might know the words but you have absolutely no idea how to actually sing the song you thought you knew.
I reserve “karaoke” iPod time for when I’m just doing stupid errands like getting paper towels from the drugstore or walking a little further than Starbucks to get a snobbier, better coffee. It takes me about a song or two to get from one place to the next, and I just concentrate on learning the meter and, also, envisioning my rapper moves. You can’t just get up on a karaoke stage and stand there rapping. You have to put on a show! Stage presence is half of the battle! The best part about “Karaoke Walking” is that you can dress like a total bum in a sweat suit and a black New York Yankees toque and just pretend you’re at dress rehearsal for your performance later that evening. So that’s how I do my errands – no streetcar ride required.
The next two walking techniques are slightly more complicated, but ultimately the most fun. I save the “Rock Star Walk” for when I have long stretches of a street to cover with very few people on it, or when I’m in an area where I don’t really give a damn if people assume I’m mentally insane, like Queen and Parliament or Yorkville. I assume the character of a rock star, and for some reason, in my head I’m always a man. My “Rock Star” iPod section includes songs like “No Surprises” by Radiohead and “Dead Letter” by Wintersleep. I really like songs I can belt out the lyrics to, but I’m a really bad singer – like, cut from the elementary school choir kind of bad. That’s why I turn the volume up as loud as I can on my iPod so that while I’m singing I can pretend the voice I’m hearing in my headphones is actually mine. Sure, the odd car that drives by might look at me funny, but who cares what strangers think? Just make sure to stop at red lights and look for sirens, because this walk is technically the most dangerous of the three since you could easily get hit by a car because you can’t hear anything other than the amazing voice you’re pretending is your own.
The last walk, the “Supermodel Walk,” is my favourite, and the reason why, even more than with the “Rock Star,” you need a fabulous coat or revealing ensemble. I save the “Supermodel Walk” for busy streets with good-looking people, like Queen West, Dundas West or Bay Street at 5pm, because it gets you a lot of looks, both good and bad, and that’s part of the fun. The “Supermodel” section of my iPod includes songs that I think would make for great haute couture runway shows and that really let you strut your stuff – songs like “Icky Thump” by The White Stripes and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” by Smashing Pumpkins. The beats of those songs really let you practice all of the famous runway walks from the ‘90s supermodel era, or just invent your own. Sometimes I’m Kate Moss, sometimes I’m Naomi Campbell, sometimes I’m just me but three inches taller. This is also probably the walk that keeps you in the best shape because you end up going really fast. Also, at every red light, you can just pretend that you’re at the end of a runway and strike a little pose – fun!
So will you be seeing me at your local spinning class this week? Probably not. But look for the girl with the blonde hair screaming out rock songs or posing on street corners and give me a wave. But please don’t offer me a ride… I’m doing just fine.