T minus 15 (days) to my Camino.

Today, I’ve been thinking about how I am going to climb and the things I need to be mindful of.  In Edward de Bono’s world, I guess I am doing Blue Hat thinking – thinking about thinking.  In my case, it is managing the conditions to reach the desired outcome.  I need to do this because there’s a couple of physical/medical conditions I need to manage for myself on the journey.

I’m imagining the success I will achieve when I breathe in rhythm with my step, with poles in rhythm with my feet, keeping body aligned, and being aware of surroundings. I suppose it’s like playing a game that hasn’t yet been played and imagining how I would need to use my body during the game.

And of course, I won’t know till I get there how it will be, since I have so little experience of trekking.

The Breath

I’m still recovering from this cold that I got from Son.  Son had a flu about 10 days back, and despite my telling him not to “breathe” on me, he did (in that very playful “I’m gonna breathe my germs onto you” way), and now I have this cold that’s turned into a chesty kind of thing.  So I haven’t been out walking at all.  The cold air plus the constricted chest could make it worse.  Some days I’ve felt too tired to leave the house.

This sickness has reminded me that I have to bring all my asthma medication with me and that I need to take it easy in a measured paced way – especially on uphill climbs.  Over exertion is never good for me, and slight panic can set in if I feel I really can’t get the air in. It’s really quite a horrible sensation, struggling to get air out and in.  I take breathing for granted, … until a mini attack happens and I can’t breathe.  When this happens, I breathe even faster and then it all goes out of kilter.  Then I have to sit down and breather super slow, like in for 10 seconds and out for 10 seconds, during which time, my lungs feel like it’s about to burst.  So, as is said time and time again on Camino forums and those who’ve walked, “go at your own pace.”

Situations like this remind me of the limitations of my body, and the things I have to do to manage it.  I have had mild asthma all my life, managed by inhalers and preventers.

For the most part, I haven’t had to think much about it.  However, it’s not something I shout out from the world. And I learned from a very young age, not to share with people this physical ailment. I grew up in Singapore. Not many people there had asthma, so they looked at my strange when I had an attack.  Plus I couldn’t do a lot of things. Or, my mom said I couldn’t do these things.  I couldn’t go swimming, couldn’t drink cold drinks, couldn’t exercise.  (I think my mother had a own version of treatment because these days, the medical professionals tell you to go swimming and exercise, though not sure about cold drinks.) Anyway, becoming ill became a sign that I was not allowed to do things. I was always scolded that my asthma was a sign of my weak lungs, that I was overall just very sickly, that I was just weak.  It took living in Australia, where a large percentage of the population suffer from asthma for me to realise that it is an environmental condition, triggered by allergens.  Asthma was not caused by me doing physical exercise.  As it turns out, my mother developed full blown hay fever whilst living in Australia. My son has hay fever.  So, this weakness in the chest is not a sign of my having a weak constitution, it is a genetic trait that passed from one generation to another.  So now I tell my mother it’s because of her genes that I have this.

And for my son, I just go out and buy hay fever tablets for him.  Done. End of story.  No blame needed.  No finding of fault required.

I just manage the symptoms to reach the outcome I desire.

Alignment

I know too well that when an injury happens, the body compensates, and after prolonged activity, the body hurts in all the wrong places.  Since I started doing Reformer Pilates, off and on over the years, it has given me a lot of awareness of how mis-aligned my body can become and how I have used incorrect muscles to over compensate, leading to tension and even injury.

When I put the back pack on, I noticed how much it pulls my body backwards, and the greater effort I had to exert to hold my body up into position.  My abs are activated and working.  I also have to remember to pull my shoulder muscles back and down, so that I don’t slouch forward.  If anything, I’m thinking the walking will be less hard work than the holding up of the body in a very aligned manner.  Doing this for 1000 km will give me a really good posture.

There’s quite a lot of things going on, and for the first week I will have to walk in quite a conscious manner to create a new unconscious rhythm in myself.  Even in my practice walks, I have tried to walk quite consciously, keeping hips steady, and abs activated.  But I get tired and it becomes harder to hold the position. The other thing I need to do is stretch more along the way, but I find this much harder with a big fat boot in the way.

But. But. But.  So many buts for such simple actions to execute.  Why is it that very simple things that are not hard to do can be hard to do?

Rhythm. Alignment. Mindfulness.  

This is what I want for my walking. To be quite conscious and to be aware of my body’s alignment and muscles being activated. Just like when I’m at pilates. Trekking with a back pack and walking poles is such a new experience for me that I still have to concentrate. I think this is good. It means I am present to the activity. And I’m sure I’ll get into the swing of it quickly enough to enjoy the surroundings.

And if you’re thinking that I overthink things, you are probably right.