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

China Foresees the Fountain of Youth

Hey everyone, I want to give a huge thank you shout-out and kudos to Miranda and Dali, my amazing team from China who did a wonderful translation of my new book, How to Drink from the Fountain of Youth: 30 Steps to Everlasting Youth (available in English on Amazon). Here’s yesterday’s press release:

China Foresees the Fountain of Youth
Author and yoga guru shares his 30 Steps to Everlasting Youth (in Chinese)

LOS ANGELES, CA, December 08, 2020

The new motivational book, How to Drink from the Fountain of Youth: 30 Steps to Everlasting Youth, has been translated in Chinese (simplified) and will soon be formally made public. Just four months after the English version was released on Amazon, author/filmmaker and modern-day yoga master, Rich Tola, will soon be revealing the secrets of his youthful success to more than 800 million daily readers throughout the People’s Republic of China. This family-friendly and easy-to-read “how-to manifesto”, as the author calls it, promises to encourage anyone on the planet looking to achieve their best possible self.

In today’s pandemic times when being fit and staying healthy can mean the difference between life and death, the 57-year old author – who thinks he stopped getting older at age 30 – believes that anyone can turn back the hands of Father Time. If you follow his “practical and wise” advice, as one reader describes it. The book delivers an inspiring message of hope and self-respect and that anything is possible if you set your sights and try. How to Drink from the Fountain of Youth provides step-by-step instructions on living better and stronger, and for being your best and healthiest self. The book is ideal for anyone looking to lose weight, feel more energized, be more confident, define their personal goals and aspirations, plus grow mentally as well as improve their entire outlook on life. It’s also for aspiring Millennials still searching for their calling, and for baby boomers who finally have the money but not the motivation to pursue their passion.

Tola’s book also doubles as a handy note-taking journal with a 50-word glossary to improve your vocabulary. Plus, his writing style is just like his Tola Yoga, fast-paced and colloquial, not to mention laced with insightful anecdotes garnered from a half-

century of experiences. With Steps like Be Vain, Love the Scale, Embrace Failure and Self-Correct, the author’s quite the sage who respects the powers of karma. Because, as Tola believes, “Everything in life is circular, so our choices, both good and bad, definitely come back to us in the future.”

Why China and why now? “Because I wanted my universal message of hope, self- respect, and self-discipline to permeate the globe in a big way. And what better society of strong, focused people is there than China, where they’ve been embracing my tough love values since the Xia Dynasty,” says Tola.

Rich Tola is also known for his heartfelt and witty memoir, Simply Between Millions: From Wall Street to Hollywood, and films such as Boulevard Zen and Skateboard Bandits.

For more information visit RichTola.com

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Holidays are Made for Workouts…Really!

Happy Holidays everyone!

That means more time spent running around as well as more time spent lounging around the house, mostly before and after meals, right?

Wrong…because the holidays are a great time NOT to lounge around doing nothing but to instead, get your workout in. Whether it be the extra cardio – yes, zipping around the mall counts – or making use of that “lounging” time by hitting your gym or local community center for a quick 20 minute workout, just do it. That’s right, it’s easier to get your workout in during the holidays because who really wants you standing around the kitchen or taking up space in the living room hours before the meal. That’s how I look at it, squeeze every workout or group class or Tola Yoga class into your schedule, no matter where you are, and make that time all about maintaining your strong body – clear mind. No doubt good health always triumphs over bad. So make it good.

And if you need a little inspiration for some additional get up and go…or if you really need to Get Your Sh#! Together then watch my two films, Skateboard Bandits and Zen Diaries: The Lockdown. Sometimes we all could use a swift kick in the butt from badass attorney turned yoga master, Bobby D’Angelo.

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

Tola Talks with Surfer/Yogi, Mike Tammaro

Just a couple of East coast dudes talking travel, surfing, fitness, yoga and real estate, as Tola Talks with his good friend and Surfer/Yogi, Mike Tammaro.

We’re talking everything from surfing the treacherous waves at Black’s Beach to the perfect waters of Costa Rica, to selling multi-million dollar homes in The Hamptons.

Also get the scoop on some great movies that brave the shining seas including Justice League, The Wackness, Point Break, Blue Crush, Soul Surfer and the 1974 great white blockbuster, Jaws.

Millennials take heed from your brethren and don’t be afraid of life’s choppy waters. Because you never know, you just might marry a Prince!

Have an awesome day everyone, and check-out my 3 simple eating tips for losing those 5 lbs by New Year’s Day (at 18:20 mins).  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

No Judgment…Just More Resoluteness

Never judge yourself when it comes to fitness. Just forgettaboutit, and keep moving forward. Because what you did or didn’t do yesterday – or last week – or last year – makes no difference when it comes to exercising today. Because each dawn brings a new day, and with each day brings another opportunity to reward your body with fitness. With an emphasis on reward.

Case in point: Yesterday my friend says to me, “OK, this week I’m going to start working out every Tuesday and Friday for the rest of the year, because it’s two weeks into 2017 and my resolution to workout twice a week is, well, failing.” This coming from a woman who worked out 4 times a week for the past 20 years until last year, when an injury put her on the sidelines for nearly a year. Now she’s completely healed but just can’t seem to get started.

Is this you? Or perhaps you’re someone who’s never been into fitness and wants to start? No worries.

Really. Because each dawn brings a new day, and with each day brings another opportunity to reward your body with fitness. You get the picture.

And if you don’t already know it, then repeat after me: if I workout on a regular basis, I will look and feel younger. Just like I said to my friend lamenting over her inability to re-start her engines, look at it this way: if you workout twice a week for 30 minutes each for the rest of the year, by New Year’s 2018 that’ll be 50 hours of fitness. Better yet, if you can make it one hour and then turn that second hour into a Yoga class, that’ll be 100 hours…a helluva lot better than Zero.”

No judgment over failed resolutions people…just more resoluteness. You can do it.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day everyone! Peace – R

500th Yoga Class in the First 50 Weeks: Chicago

Rich Tola - One Armed PinchamayurasanaI’m heels over head for teaching my 500th Yoga class since arriving in Chicago last September.

I’m grateful to my courageous students, fellow teachers and managers, and the owners of Chicago Athletic Clubs for giving me the opportunity to spread my passion for fitness & yoga, and specifically my style of Tola Yoga.

Looking forward to inspiring the world with YogaStyles of RICH and the Almost Famous.

Peace – R