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

Top 10 Steps to Everlasting Youth (article)

Hey everyone…if you need the perfect motivation to read my new book, How to Drink from the Fountain of Youth: 30 Steps to Everlasting Youth, my feature article for Healthy Aging Magazine (Winter 2021) should definitely do the trick.

Top 10 Steps to Everlasting Youth

By Rich Tola

When it comes to the relentless march of Father Time, I think of myself as the rapper Eminem, flipping that aging bastard the bird with both fingers.

Why? Because when it comes to staying young, I’ve got that old ass curmudgeon beat.

That’s right, folks, there’s no way I’m letting Father Time’s renowned conspiracy theory, “Everybody Gets Old,” catch hold of me. Forgettaboutit!

Now get outta my kitchen, you pesky youth plunderer, because I consider my mind, body, and spirit – and my protective aura surrounding it – way too vibrant to be hoodwinked by you. Just like you should stop the aging process by fortifying and maintaining an everlasting aura that emanates into the Universe, keeping you harmonious, youthful, and strong.

Now you think who’s this Tola character and what’s he been smoking? Everlasting youth, yeah, right.

But I am right. Because the proof is in the pudding and with my youthful successes, that is to say, I’m a 57-year-old who got stuck at age 30; I know you can. Whoever you are and wherever you live, regardless of your current state of eternal metamorphosis, take my practical and very doable advice…and stop aging now.

Here are my top 10 tips for everlasting youth.

1. Keep Moving

Arguably the most important step of all, which begets one simple question: Do you wake up in the morning and soon find yourself sitting down for long periods? Can’t do it. Gotta keep moving – at all times – like baby dolphins.

2. Be Vain

We’re talking about the good vain here and not the obnoxious vain that Carley Simon sings about. Always be confident and proud of your accomplishments as well as your aura and appearances.

3. Love the Scale

Yes, the one device that displays a tiny number between your toes that can totally ruin your day. But you have to learn to love it because it’s crucial to stay within your optimum bodyweight range daily. Forever. Plus, it keeps you honest.

4. Be Passionate

In everything you do, or don’t do it. Passion keeps you young and vibrant.

5. Respect Yourself

Arguably the #1 Step again (or tied with Keep Moving) means that any way you look at it, everlasting youth and being your best possible self starts with self-respect. And as the saying goes, everything else is gravy.

6. Don’t Quit

Oftentimes the ‘art of winning’ is in the ‘never quitting.’ Plus, perseverance can take you all the way, no doubt. As Great Britain’s courageous Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, “Never, never, never give up.”

7. Embrace Failure

You’ll find this one on the flip side of Don’t Quit. As basketball legend Michael Jordan professed, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career, I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Amen.

8. Exercise Daily

This one goes without saying because your body is a temple that needs to be exercised every single day, something I’ve been doing for the past 50 years. It’s true; that’s why this one is easy for me. But no worries if it’s more challenging for you, kinda like cooking is, for me, impossible. Anyone can embrace a daily fitness program that’s easy to maintain. Just do it.

9. Know You’re Young

Believing and knowing are completely different energies. You Gotta know it.

10. Self-Correct

So what if you’ve fallen off the wagon again? Get right back on it. It’s that simple, self-correct, and you’ll be back on track. Because you can do anything, you set your mind to. Just like when I quit drinking alcohol altogether 13 years ago. And yes, you can too.

Now, what about all those aches and pains that seem to accompany us Boomers with each new dawn? Can anyone make those disappear and truly feel like you’re 30 again?

Not exactly.

But you can come close. Everyone knows that concept of mind over matter. It actually works and sure comes in handy when convincing yourself to ignore those aches and pains.

Tell you the truth, there are some mornings when my legs and feet are so sore from walking 10 miles a day – that’s right, 10 miles a day since the Coronavirus hit last year that I need to mindfully stretch my legs and crack my feet before stepping out of bed.

I also have recurring neck and back problems that date back to my baseball playing days of the 70s and 80s, plus hip and knee problems from all the walking I do. So yeah, I’ve got problems. Lots of them, but who wouldn’t after thousands of hours lifting weights and doing yoga and running canyons and walking all over God’s creation.

Yet I’ve loved every minute of it. That’s right, and I’ve been embracing good health and fitness since I was a toddler doing push-ups and sit-ups alongside my older brother Sam.

http://richtola.com

The good news for me and all the other fitness enthusiasts from the 70s and 80s who cherished all things Jane Fonda and Arnold Schwarzenegger is that staying healthy, strong, and fit is so deeply ingrained in our psyches that nothing can derail us from our daily workout routines.

In closing, let me say this: Regardless of your predilection toward exercise or anything else that’s really good for you or otherwise fat burning, anyone can drink from the fountain of youth. As I say on the back of my book, “Youthfulness is not contingent upon your physical body or even how old your face looks, but rather the force and energy you emanate into the Universe.”

So may the force be with you…and I’ll see you at the fountain!

Peace – R

Rich Tola is the author of Top 10 Steps to Everlasting Youth and How to Drink from the Fountain of Youth: 30 Steps to Everlasting Youth, which also doubles as a handy note-taking journal and is ideal for anyone looking to lose weight, feel more energized, be more confident.

Perfect example of bad role models

I read in the LA Times this morning about two parents in Michigan who beat up a 73-year old school crossing guard who tried to break up a fight between their 6-year old son and another boy.  This after bringing their son to school to beat up the other boy after the two kids got into a fight last week.  I would call that a perfect example of bad role models. How about leading by example and treating everyone with respect – starting with yourself.  Interestingly, I would bet that neither of these attacking parents partakes in anything physical fitness at all.  Just a hunch, but it seems like a lot of pent up anger and negative energy.  So for these accused attackers – and anyone else who’s looking to open their heart and release some aggression via a daily fitness program – check out my 5 minute fat burning workout #41, Standing Heart Openers.  Then lead by example!  R