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

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

Good Things Come in Threes (like Tola Yoga)

Love that statement, and no doubt it’s true! Good Things Come in Threes is also the title of Chapter 60 of my heartfelt and witty memoir, Simply Between Millions: From Wall Street to Hollywood. You can find it right next to my new book, How to Drink from the Fountain of Youth: 30 Steps to Everlasting Youth. Both soon to be released in Chinese.

So much for the book promo, although they do make great holiday gifts for under $20, especially for someone who could use a little inspiration plus some fitness and weight loss motivation. Or simply join me for three more complimentary Tola Yoga classes on Zoom…then order the books on Amazon.

Have an awesome day everyone, and I’ll see you on the mat. Peace – R

Tola Yoga on Zoom – Saturdays in 2020

We had such a great time on Halloween that I decided to teach a weekly Tola Yoga class on Zoom every Saturday from 9-10a (LA time), through Christmas 2020.

No doubt if you take the class – and read my book – you’ll be that much closer to Drinking from the Fountain of Youth. Go to Zoom.us and “join a meeting”

Meeting ID:  917 1004 1603 Passcode: tolayoga

Have an awesome week and I’ll see you on the mat! 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

Have a Micro Presence with a Macro View

It’s always best to Be Present in everything you do, that is to say, have a Micro Presence. But it’s also best to set timely goals and have a big picture take on your life, and that is to say, with a Macro View.

Especially when it comes to business and fitness. Unless you’re independently wealthy or already retired, then just focus on the fitness part. And since you’ve already set your business goals – if not then get to it – let’s focus on fitness. Which includes getting on the scale – if you haven’t already – and setting a 5 pound range for yourself to maintain throughout 2020. That’s once you get to your ideal body weight, so get there quick. And if you need some inspiration, check out STAY ZEN: Episode #5 – Who’s afraid of the big bad scale? Because anyone can maintain a healthy and desirable weight.

So every morning get on the scale – yes that’s EVERY single morning – and keep that number within a 5 pound range or you’ll need to Self Correct. Remember that concept from my memoir, Simply Between Millions: From Wall Street to Hollywood, from Chapter 67. A fan favorite and no doubt one of mine. In this case Self-Correct would be to eat more good foods (or whatever you want for that matter) to maintain or gain if you’re at the low end of your range – in my case 145 – or completely fast a full-day if you’re at the top – for me that’s 150. Easy peasy, then you’re back on track. No BS..it works. Today I was 146, so bring it on!

As for the exercising part, well just do as I do…and do it everyday. That’s correct. We’re 15 days into the new year and fortunately I’m 15 for 15. Bodybuilding at the gym, doing yoga poses, stretches and abs, plus walking 5+ miles every day and teaching two Tola Yoga classes a week. And no worries if you’re less than perfect or even 0 for 15, just start tomorrow and go 350 for the remaining 350 days. You can do it, so just believe you can and try. With all the aches and pains in my body, if I can do it, anyone can.

Have an awesome 2020 everyone, and get your workout in. Peace – R

Working out with “Belle of the Ball”

Or shall I say, Belle of the Gym. Let me explain:

The other day I saw this elderly woman working out in the gym and I thought to myself, wow, this woman really knows what she’s doing and she’s definitely a regular. It was the third time I had seen her this week.

I was definitely curious, so I introduced myself and asked Belle a few questions. Because when a fitness dude like me who’s worked-out or practiced Yoga every single day for the past 40 years (that’s no bullshit), sees a fitness dudette who’s well into her 70’s, well, I’m impressed.

Check it out. Belle has osteoporosis and says she knows the importance of lifting weights to stay strong so she works out three times a week. Yes, three times a week, every week.

And it shows.

When I asked if she ever misses a workout, she said, “Sometimes I slip and slide around a little bit with my days, but I always go three times a week. I have to.” Belle also said her body is not what it used to be so sometimes she feels it the next day. Similar to my own Mom who goes to the gym every week and has done so for the past 30 years, her body often feels it the next day too.

But no worries, because you gotta keep going. Your strength and youth depends on it.

So take if from Belle and “have fun with it!” And even though my Tola Yoga workouts may be too intense for her (I agreed), Belle says “mix it up with different exercises like the machines, treadmill or these bikes that let you ride through the parks of San Francisco (her favorite).”

Kudos to you Belle and everyone else getting your workout groove on every week!

Happy Mother’s Day everyone 🙂  Peace – R

Be a Rockstar in Everything You Do!

Simply put, do the very best you can in everything you do and let the Universe decide what happens next. And if your heart and your mind are really not into it, then reconsider the task at hand and make another choice. Because making good choices is easier than you think!

And always remember to break all the rules except this one:  Another day, Another workout

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