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

Shake the Pandemic Blues & Dogecoin

Are you feeling the pandemic blues when it comes to your daily exercise? Don’t despair, just follow three of my 30 Steps to Everlasting Youth: Keep it Simple, Embrace Failure and Let it Go. Just like me – since I’ve been having a whale of a time getting back into my old fitness groove!

In today’s Tola Talks, I also discuss Dogecoin and how I agree with Elon Musk and Mark Cuban when it comes to caution investing as well as DOGE reaching $1 (for sure) plus becoming a long term ‘store of value’, i.e., real currency. Note that I’m a happy HODL of the cryptocurrency and look forward to accepting it at my Tola Yoga Fitness & Wellness centers…one day soon!

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

Time to de-COVID-tize your Habits

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

It’s exactly one year since the Coronavirus shut us down and we’re slowly getting back to normal, so it’s time to de-COVID-tize your Habits. That is to say, keep the good ones and delete the bad. It’s also been a while since my last Tola Talks 2.0, so it’s good to be back! Today is all about getting you back on track with those pre-COVID routines that include your old – and good – habits. So let’s re-tool, re-focus and stick to the winners that served your well.

All the while staying safe and strong and thinking positive along the way…also know as “Step 11 – Think Positive” in my new book, How to Drink from the Fountain of Youth. Because who doesn’t want to live their best possible life. Now available in audiobook.

Have an awesome day everyone, and get your workout in. Peace – R

Last Class + Romantic Comedy in January 2021

You know what they say, all good things must come to an end. Like Tola Yoga classes on Zoom. So come get your yoga groove on this Saturday, December 19th for our last class, and be ready for another strong workout.

Also this January 2021, join us for 15 minutes of fun with my one-act play, My Intervention, a romantic comedy set for today’s speed-dating world. Zoom details to follow.

Stay safe everyone…and get your workout in! Peace – R

Step it Up…When We’re Down

I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely been stepping it up with a few projects about to bloom, even during these “up-and-down-again” pandemic times. Gotta do it. Keep moving forward that is, when you have the time to make good use of your time, with actions and small victories.

With our recent setback, feels like a swimmer on the starting block who takes off only to be whistled back for a false start. I should know, I swam competitively as a child and for two years in high school, and no doubt getting called back sucks. That’s right, and it goes like this; you make a great start off the block, or so you think – and hope – the official didn’t catch you leaving early, then your heart skips a beat when you hear that whistle blow and you know it’s you. Now you swim back, pull yourself outta the pool, pull yourself together, then get set again. But this time you’re a little more cautious so you don’t get another false-start, and thus, get knocked outta the race.

Tola Talks is coming back in August!

Sound familiar?

For those of us in LA and anyone else who’s been told to lockdown – yet again – that swimmer is us. But we gotta stay positive and keep rockin’ our worlds.

No matter what.

And rather than bore you with my June Exercise Report Card – as you can imagine, it’s the same as the two months prior with some actual gym time in there, albeit not nearly enough, I’ve also been getting ready to publish my next book (woohoo!) as well as re-launch Tola Talks (podcast + on youtube.com/tolatalks).

We’re just two weeks away from the R &R, release and relaunch, so I won’t give any more away other than my next book is about Everlasting Youth and is definitely a one-of-a-kind creation. And the talk show is, well, ditto.

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

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