Now, walking in the city you don't need the same level of equipment as walking in the country, but the longer I've been doing it, the more I've discovered the things that really do make a big difference to keeping my walks enjoyable. It's these essentials (to me, at least) that I thought I'd share.
OK, so not exactly revelatory - a good pair of shoes is my first essential. By 'good' I mean comfortable, supportive and with good cushioning as walking on concrete can really play havoc with your feet after a while.
I discovered the need for the right shoes the hard way, as after training and taking part in the charity walking marathon that first got me walking I ended up with plantar fasciitis. This was so painful initially that I ended up on crutches for a week and was unable to walk to work for about a month and a half.
I had been wearing trainers, but I think ultimately they weren't cushioning enough for the amount of walking I was doing. Relief from the plantar fasciitis came from a surprising source - I bought a pair of FitFlop boots. A week after buying them I was able to walk again without limping - a miracle as far as I was concerned.
Since then, for London walking FitFlop have been my footwear of choice. I have two different boot versions and a trainer version, and they've stood me in very good stead. They are on the pricey side, but given the amount of wear I get from them, they've been more than worth it!
So music is all well and good, but personally if I'm walking for 3 hours a day on the same route everyday, I feel like I need more mental stimulation.
One of the things I love most about my city walks is listening to my audiobooks. Not only am I getting plenty of exercise in but I'm learning things or discovering a new novel at the same time. Brilliant!
I have a subscription with Audible which is great. I pay a monthly subscription and get two books a month for it (which if I'd bought them separately would definitely work out a lot more expensive).
I listen to all sorts, from In the Plex (about Google's inner workings) to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell to Isabella: The She-Wolf of France (Alison Weir). With the biographies and fact books I feel like I'm really learning something and with the novels I get completely lost in the stories. I sometimes find myself wishing my walk was longer so that I can listen to more of my books.
The bag pictured isn't actually mine, but basically, if you're going to walk a long distance anywhere you need a rucksack.
I have to admit, the fashionable part of me misses my handbags, which I now reserve for shorter walks and weekend outings. However, I have tried walking my walk to work with a handbag rather than a backpack and it really wasn't worth it. 6 miles is too far to carry something on one shoulder or in one hand - I just ended up with shoulder pain.
I think I could probably still find a better backpack than the one I have, but I've actually already gone through three others to arrive at the one I have now, as I had back issues with the first ones, so it's not just the handbags that are to blame!
I think if you're serious about walking a reasonable distance in the city you have to let some of your fashion standards slip a little and give in to the comfort factor!
Protection from the elements
As The Boy so helpfully just reminded me, there's nothing more annoying than walking into the sun squinting. Sun glasses are a definite essential throughout the year.
Meanwhile, there's also rain to consider. I have to say that I still rely on my umbrella for this. It just protects my face (and make up - yes, I wear that) better than a hood ever does. Plus, as The Boy, who also walks to work, just pointed out 'you can use it as a weapon as well'. Handy if you come across any of the items on my walking blacklist.
A good coat is, of course, also useful, but beware! If you're walking a reasonable distance you are likely to warm up quickly. If you don't want to arrive at location in a sweatty mess then make sure you don't wear too thick a coat before the very cold weather sets in.
Some sort of navigation - unless you are very familiar with the area and don't need it. I now rely heavily on my smartphone if I'm walking somewhere new to check I'm on the right route. In a city as big as London, there are always going to be places you've not been before, so if you're going to walk everywhere some sort of map is really very handy!
I also found it quite useful when I first started to track my walking with an app, so I knew how far and how fast I'd walked. It's good motivation when you see yourself improving. However, I wouldn't say this is an essential, it's more of a nice to have!
So there you go - that's what keeps my walks interesting and comfortable in London. And on that note, I'm off for another walk :)