The Year I Walked from LA to Venezuela

by Rich Tola, July 21, 2021

If anyone told you they walked 4,000 miles in the past 12 months you’d probably think they were crazy right? Because walking 4,000 miles is the equivalent to walking from the hot and sunny confines of The Valley of Los Angeles, California, to the balmy and tropical valley of Caracas, Venezuela. And yes, it’s totally possible as you can walk across the Panama Canal by way of a pedestrian walkway across the entrance of the locks of Gatun, so no worries if you want to follow my footsteps to get there. Figuratively speaking, that is.

Let me explain.

I didn’t actually pull a Forrest Gump and wake up one day and start walking south through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Columbia before arriving in the capital of Venezuela one year later. No, but wouldn’t that be cool. I actually walked the entire 4,000 miles throughout the streets of LA, from my home in Chinatown going back and forth to a plethora of neighborhoods including DTLA, South Park, the Arts District, Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights, Little Tokyo, Echo Park and yes, Dodger Stadium. 

Walking the empty streets of LA during COVID (4,000 miles)

From June 1, 2020 until June 1, 2021, I walked between 10-12 miles every single day as part of my personal COVID relief. Or shall I say, personal COVID insanity prevention. Because when the lockdowns in LA were imposed back in March 2020 and all the gyms and yoga studios were closed, my daily walking meditations became my only savior. The longer the better, and mostly in perfect quietude with no human interaction whatsoever. Except for the occasional homeless person, who seemed even more surprised to see an even less occasional pedestrian. LA was like a veritable ghost town where I can honestly say I felt like the legendary actor Will Smith, aka US Army virologist Robert Neville, cruising the empty streets of Manhattan in the 2007 post-apocalyptic thriller, I Am Legend

For anyone who knows me, you know that I can’t go a single freaking day without exercising in some form or another, e.g., weightlifting, Tola Yoga, stretching/abs. Good news is for as long as I can remember I was taught that your physical body, aka your temple, is the most important asset you’re ever going to possess in this world. And to respect your temple with a daily fitness program that keeps it vibrant and strong and injury-free, is paramount to maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well as turning back the hands of time. 

Something I’ve also been doing for the past 58 years. Drinking from the Fountain of Youth, that is, and yes, something that’s rather challenging to achieve – especially as you get older – but something anyone can do with the help of my 30 Steps to Everlasting Youth. Including Step 20 – Walk to Win, arguably the most important step of all because walking is a perfect source of aerobic exercise not to mention it does wonders for your brain.

That’s right, walking is great for your brain. Just this week the New York Times reported that “Exercise can freshen and renovate the white matter in our brains, potentially improving our ability to think and remember as we age, according to a new study of walking, dancing and brain matter. It shows that white matter, which connects and supports the cells in our brains, remodels itself when people become more physically active. In those who remain sedentary, on the other hand, white matter tends to fray and shrink.”

Fray and shrink just like everything else in our bodies with the help of good ole’ Father Time. Forgettaboutit! Don’t let the world’s most non-beloved Father get the best of you…get with the program now. Translation: start walking today. Or else stay seated and wait for your brain matter to wither away, and hopefully not before your temple does. And if you don’t care so much about improving or at least maintaining your ability to think and remember things as you age, then do it for your family. That’s right, start walking today and bring a loved one along so they can reap the amazing benefits of walking. You can even bring your dog Spot or cat Fluffy if none of your human friends desire to capitalize on such a great opportunity. I’m sure your pets won’t complain, and if they do, then pick them up and carry them for an even better workout. 

Just remember to bring water. And if walking to improve your white brain matter doesn’t really matter to you, then maybe these “12 Benefits of Walking” as described by the Arthritis Foundation will motivate you (see arthritis.org):

  1. Improve circulation
  2. Shore up your bones
  3. Enjoy a longer life
  4. Lighten your mood
  5. Lose weight
  6. Strengthen muscles
  7. Improve sleep
  8. Support your joints
  9. Improve your breath
  10. Slow mental decline
  11. Lower Alzheimer’s risk
  12. Do more for longer

So there you have it, 12 more reasons to walk every single day of your life (or at least 3 times a week for 40 minutes). If you’re capable that is, because not everyone is fortunate enough to walk. But if you can, don’t deny your body, mind and spirit these amazing benefits by choosing a sedentary lifestyle that’s only going to shorten your stay on Planet Earth.

And by the way, in case you were wondering what it’s like to walk 4,000 miles in a 12 month period, let’s just say it may do wonders for your brain but it sure takes a toll on the physical body, especially the low back, hips and knees. But what’s interesting about the routine of walking nearly 100 miles a week is that once your body gets used to it, it’s not only easy to maintain but it almost becomes a daily obsession that you can’t do without. Even with all the aches and pains that come along with it, during and after.

Would I recommend walking that many miles in any given year? No. But I do recommend walking 1-2 miles a day for the rest of their life, no matter who you are. And if you need some help try this: walk out your front door and keep walking for exactly 15 minutes, at a brisk pace with good posture, then stop, turn around, and come back. Voila! 2 miles in about 30 minutes. You can do it, especially if you live in LA or Venezuela or anywhere with a beautiful climate. Or just brave the rain and snow like I did in Chicago and Seattle. But then again you might say it’s summertime in the northern hemisphere and just like DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince rapped back in Philly circa 1991, “Summer, summer, summertime, Time to sit back and unwind.”

No doubt unwinding can be a good thing, especially to decompress from our busy lives. But when it comes to your health, walking is something anyone can incorporate into their current lifestyle. And should incorporate, based upon all the goodness it brings. Especially in today’s new normal world of working from home, there should be ample opportunity in your day to lace’em up Rocky style and kick the bricks, as I like to say. I hope you do, your temple will love you for it. 

Have an awesome summer everyone, and get your walking in! Peace – R

100 Workouts by Xmas Challenge – The Finale

Hey everyone, hope the last episode of Tola Talks 2.0 inspires you to accept my challenge and workout 100 times before Christmas. Only 170 days until then, so commit to 100 workouts and keep rockin’ it! 200 workouts for me, and yes, 30 minute stretch/abs and 2 mile walks do count.

And Don’t Quit, one of the key points in today’s show plus many other fitness and wellness tips from the past 20 shows. Thank you for watching and sharing…now workout 100 times by Xmas and read my new book, How to Drink from the Fountain of Youth, and I’ll see you at the Fountain. Peace – R

Finish Strong Everyone…and Keep Your Cool

Finish and Strong are no doubt two very simple yet very effective words. Just like everything I’ve been recommending in all of my creations since time began (or maybe 2006) including my new book, How to Drink from the Fountain of Youth: 30 Steps to Everlasting Youth, keep it simple and finish strong. And always Keep Your Cool, no matter how many COVID pounds you’ve gained.

Enjoy the last Tola Talks of 2020 everyone…and definitely read my book, because who doesn’t want to be their best possible self while looking, feeling and “being” at least 20 years younger!

Happy New Year…and get your workout in! Peace – R

Respect the Universe – Tola Talks # 165

In addition to respecting yourself – mind, body and spirit – you also need to Respect the Universe if you want to Drink from the Fountain of Youth. It’s also Step 9 of my 30 Steps to Everlasting Youth, and it’s all about extending your self-respect out into the world as it relates to all things living and non-living. Do it, and the Universe will thank you for it.

Now here’s a quick workout anyone can do with a single dumbbell. Peace – R

Another Day – Another Workout

Respect Yourself.

No doubt two of the most important words ever invented. They’re also Step 7 of my new book, How to Drink from the Fountain of Youth: 30 Steps to Everlasting Youth. And when it comes to respecting your temple (aka, your body), simply embrace my motto: Another Day – Another Workout.

Also check-out today’s Tola Talks 2.0 – Episode #162, for the easiest exercises you can do for your triceps. Plus get the low-down on Tola Yoga classes coming to ZOOM on Halloween (better eat your Wheaties!)

Have an awesome week everyone, and get your workout in! Peace – R

Get out of your FUNK & FEAR during COVID

Are you living in FUNK and FEAR during this COVID pandemic? Take my advice and be fearless in Tola Talks #153, plus some Trump vs Biden preliminary election talk including what “darkness” is Joe Biden talking about?

Plus, some cinema talk about the romantic comedy, “Knight and Day” with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz (love that movie!). Check-it out in under 10 minutes…and get your workout in!

Peace – R

PS – it’s always good to know How to Drink from the Fountain of Youth

Self-Correct…anytime you get Off-Track

Whenever you find yourself getting off-track when it comes to your fitness regime or worse, your body weight, no worries. Simply Self-Correct.

Anyone who has read my memoir knows that Chapter 67 is one of my favorites and is called just that, Self-Correct. Because it’s all about getting back on-track ASAP as soon as you start to deviate from your daily fitness responsibilities as well as from your ideal weight.

Case in point: Last month I gained the COVID 5, that is to say, 5 pounds of extra weight due to the overconsumption of food (mostly cookies) during this crazy pandemic. Not sure about you, but the prolonged ‘safer-at-home’ decree has really put a damper on my fitness routine, not to mention my usually good eating habits. So rather than get mad or frustrated, I confidently chose to Self-Correct and I’m right back where I started…5 pounds lighter.

How did I do it? I increased my aerobic exercises to 8 miles of walking per day (up from 7 miles/day last month) and decreased my weight training exercises by about 50%. Thus, I kept my total monthly exercise percentage the same (12%) while increasing my total calories burned. That said, with a little time and energy and discipline (of course), anyone can make the right choice versus the easy choice. For more self-correcting details, check-out my book on Amazon.

Here’s my exercise report card for May 2020:

  • 20 minutes/day of Abs/Stretching and Tola Yoga = 10 hours
  • 20 minutes/day of bodyweight training = 10 hours
  • 25 flights of stairs/day = 750 (about 3 hours)
  • 8 miles/day of fast-paced walking = 250 miles (about 60 hours)
  • 7 minutes/day of standing balancing poses = 3 hours

Have an awesome June everyone…and get your workout in! Peace – R

Make Note of Your Small Victories…They Count

Now that April is in the books, it’s a great time to reflect upon your small victories in the quest to win the war. Because when it comes to achieving your goals and aspirations – and your bountiful dreams – it’s all about making small advances on a daily basis as well as experiencing enlightenments along the way. Especially in these frustrating times of shutdown and uncertainty.

Small victories in the war also relates to your physical body, i.e., your temple and what you’ve done (today) to help fortify it for the journey. Thus, fitness is an everyday necessity, for sure, if you want to stay strong and youthful forever.

So, you gotta ask yourself one question: Did I workout enough in April 2020? Meaning, every single day or more specifically, 30 times. With ‘stay-at-home’ orders permeating the globe, how difficult was it for anyone on the planet aged 12 and up to squeeze at least 15 minutes of exercise into their busy day? And what about your Cardio, Abs/Stretching and Tola Yoga? I trust you got those in too. And if not, then hopefully my exercise report card for April will provide you with some much-needed fitness inspiration:

  • 20 minutes/day of Abs/Stretching and Tola Yoga = 10 hours
  • 40 minutes/day of bodyweight training = 20 hours
  • 25 flights of stairs/day = 750 (about 3 hours)
  • 7 miles/day of fast-paced walking = 210 miles (about 50 hours)
  • 7 minutes/day of standing balancing poses = 3 hours

When you look at my sum total for April, that equals 86 hours of exercise. To get my daily (and monthly) percentage of exercise achieved, simply divide 86 hours into the total number of hours in April (720), and that equals 12%.

Perhaps more than your average bear, but nothing too extreme. Now 12% may seem gargantuan compared to 1% – that’s exercising every single day for 15 minutes – because unfortunately most people don’t even do that. And if your exercise score is somewhere between me and 1%, you’re a superstar. I believe that. But if during April you’ve averaged less than 1%, than God help you.

Either way, make note of your small victories and keep moving forward. In everything you do, including your career goals and aspirations as well as your hobbies and your wildest dreams. And believe that anything is possible.

And finally, in addition to my fitness victory for April, I scored another small victory by completing my second nonfiction opus about everlasting youth. Another one-of-a-kind creation you’ll really enjoy, especially all the readers of my first book, Simply Between Millions: From Wall Street to Hollywood.

Have an awesome May everyone, and get your workout in! Peace – R