It has been said that “One does not simply walk into Mordor…”
And yet, that’s exactly what courageous Frodo and Sam of the Shire did.
Through endless fields, expansive caves, and dense forests. All the way to Mordor to destroy the One Ring.
I have never been more enthralled with just walking than after reading (and watching) the Lord of the Rings. In this day and age of planes, trains, and automobiles, it’s easy to neglect one of our most primal and genetic advantages as bipeds.
Walking is not only a great way to burn calories and stay active, but it’s an incredible stress reliever and gives you a chance to explore your surroundings in much more detail than through a car window.
Today, we’re going to put on our furry hobbit feet and start walking.
To Mordor and back.
Starting at the Shire…
Did you know it’s 1779 miles between Hobbiton to Mount Doom? Thanks to EowynChallenge.net, we can actually determine how far Sam and Frodo walked, and then set out on the journey ourselves!
It’s one thing to go for a stroll around your neighborhood. It’s another to know that, “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.”
So let’s take a look at how far we need to walk first:
- 458 miles: Go from Hobbiton to Rivendell.
- 462 miles: Set out with the Fellowship from Rivendell, through Moria, to Lothlorien.
- 389 miles: From Lothlorien, down the Anduin, to Rauros Falls.
- 470 miles: Follow Frodo and Sam on the quest from Rauros to Mt. Doom.
- 535 miles From Minas Tirith to Isengard
- 693 miles From Isengard to Rivendell.
- 397 miles From Rivendell to Bag End.
- 467 miles: (bonus!) Follow Frodo to the Grey Havens and return home with Sam.
Following this path, you need to walk a total of 1779 miles to get from Hobbiton to Mt. Doom. At which point you destroy the ring and get carried to Minas Tirith by giant Eagles. Then you’ll walk 1625 miles back to Bag End (and an additional 467 miles if you’re interested in doing a round trip to the Grey Havens.
Obviously, you don’t need to move at the same speed as the hobbits (18 miles in the first day! Damn those hobbits covered some ground!), but it’s still fun to track your walks and your total miles to see where you’d be on your journey.
Onward to Rivendell: Why should we walk?
After setting out from Hobbiton, Sam and Frodo walked to the house of Elrond: Rivendell.
But why would we walk when we could take a horse, car, train, or segway?
Because we are designed to walk.
Every day, it’s recommended that we walk around five miles, or 10,000 steps. Unfortunately, according to a study conducted in 2003, Americans tend to average HALF that, 2.5 miles or 5,000 steps. And I’d imagine that people who work outdoors or have more physically active jobs drag that average wayyyy up.
Which leaves us desk jockeys.
We use our feet to get us from the front door, to our car, to our desk, to the vending machine, to our car, to our front door, to our couch…where we put them up while watching four hours of TV before going to bed.
Unless you’re my friend Nate, who walked completely across the United States, you probably don’t put a tremendous amount of thought into how much you walking you do each day.
You should. Here’s why walking is as important to you as it was to the Fellowship:
Walking burns calories without exhausting you: If you walked the recommended mileage each day (5 miles instead of just 2.5), it could lead to a tremendous amount of weight loss over time. You’ll burn an extra 100 calories walking just ONE more mile each day than normal: When that’s multiplied out, it’s an extra 700 calories burned per week, which results in approximately a pound of fat lost every five weeks, or 10 pounds in a year. You can scale up your distances to get your desired results!
Walking doesn’t add to training stress: If you are training like crazy, adding in more weight training or running can lead to getting worn out, broken down, or injured. If you are trying to look like a super hero, extra cardio sessions (or long distance cardio sessions) will kill your gains. So just walk. You can walk great distances and not get burned out or sore – walking (especially outside while soaking in some sunlight) can make you feel better, not worse.
Walking is low impact. Unlike running, which can wreak havoc on people’s joints if they run improperly or are severely overweight, walking doesn’t have those impact issues. If you go for a walk and your feet or joints hurt, you’re doing it wrong – read the next section!
Walking burns fat. Because walking is low impact and low intensity, your body doesn’t need to pull from its glycogen and glucose stores to fuel itself, which happens when you strength train or push yourself into ‘aerobic’ training with higher intensity cardio. Proponents of intermittent fasting suggest walking in a fasted state in the morning before eating anything in order to help burn extra fat. This will have to be something you attempt and measure for yourself.
Walking relieves stress. Seriously! When you put on your iPod with your favorite playlist, and can go for a pleasant walk around your neighborhood or through the woods as the sun is going down, you have a recipe to forget the worries of your day. I find that listening to “Concerning Hobbits” makes me want to strut through a field with a big smile on my face.
Walking improves mental health (especially in older hobbits). Walking can improve mental health, increase brain size, improve memory, and is correlated with improved, longer lifespans.
A quick note: don’t expect miracles from walking alone – your focus should STILL be on healthy eating decisions, but walking is a great way to start a day off right and continue thinking healthy.
From Rivendell to Lothlorien: How walking can change your life
If you are severely overweight and can’t run or strength train, walk on.
If you are building muscle and bulking up, walk on.
If you are trying to lose weight, walk on.
If you struggle with following a routine, or have failed in the past with weight loss, walk on.
Why? I’m a HUGE fan of small habit change and tiny victories – walking is the PERFECT habit builder. If you’re brand new and starting out, go for a walk TODAY and begin your journey to Mordor.
This afternoon, go for five-minute walk. Tomorrow morning before work, before breakfast, as SOON as you wake up, put on your shoes, and go outside for a five-minute walk. No snoozing, no lying in bed, no checking email or Twitter. Put on your headphones, pick your favorite song, go outside, and start walking.
- Walking for just five minutes a day is the start of a new habit. Every morning for a few weeks, you’ll have to force yourself to walk. Initially, it will take effort and willpower to walk instead of snoozing. However, with each passing day of success, you’ll need to use less effort and willpower to get out the door. After all, it’s only five minutes, right? Once it’s something you do automatically without thinking, you can add onto it by increasing your walk time.
- Walking briskly outdoors in the fresh morning air will wake you up more than any cup of coffee. If you make walking the FIRST thing you do in the morning, especially if you’re doing it before anybody else is awake, there will be zero distractions and no reason to say “sorry, I didn’t have time.”
- Walking will give you a chance to gather your thoughts and clear your head before the day begins. We’re constantly distracted at home: TV, iPads, iPhones, etc. Walking is so primal – no gadgets, just walking.
- Walking and successfully building a habit will give you a habit blueprint to follow for anything else you’d like to accomplish: “Hey, I was able to make walking a habit, what else can I tackle in the same way?” Slow and steady wins. One foot in front of the other, my friend.
From Lothlórien to Rauros Falls: How to walk properly
“Uhhh, Steve, I know how to walk. I do it every day.”
Welp, if you’re starting from only walking from your car to the office, we need to make sure you’re walking the right way for when you push that mileage up.
If you want to be a TRUE hobbit, walking barefoot is the way to go. Of course, hobbits have big hairy feet, so that’s not really an option for most of us. Instead, I recommend walking in shoes that have a minimal shoe: I’m a HUGE fan of Vibrams, low profile shoes like Vivo barefoots, Merrell Tough Gloves, etc. You might not be used to walking with minimal cushioning under your heels, so walk slowly and land softly. Walking on softer surfaces to start isn’t a bad idea either.
Do not pay attention to any of those stupid ads that talk about “toning up” your butt with special shoes with massive heels to promote “proper heel toe striking.” Those shoes are about as likely to improve your health as Gimli scoring a hot Elf bride (not likely).
We were designed before the invention of big clunky shoes…thus, we should be able to walk without big clunky shoes. If you are interested in going barefoot as a runner, get started by walking short distances first. Your feet will toughen up (though they probably won’t grow hair like Frodo and Sam), your joints and muscles around your feet and ankles will strengthen, and your knees will deal with less stress.
When going for a lazy stroll, focus on landing softly, which is much easier when you don’t have thick soled shoes to cushion your stride: land softly with your heel barely touching before rolling onto the middle (ball) of your foot, and then push off. You might need to take shorter strides than you’re used to if you were a big heel striker with a long stride.
If you’re aiming to walk quickly and up the intensity, shorten your stride and aim to land in the middle of your foot while pumping your arms. This is more easily done when walking uphill (which is also a great way to burn extra calories).
From Rauros Falls to Mount Doom: Walking tips and tricks
Focus on posture! Head up! Shoulders back! Walk with a confident stroll – practice this one in the morning if you’re not used to walking like this. It’s also a great way to appear instantly more confident; us nerds and hobbits need all the confidence we can get! Look around at your surroundings with a head up, arms swinging in rhythm.
Walk uphill to burn more fat. If you are walking on a treadmill, set it to an incline to increase the intensity and thus increase the amount of fat burned. Just don’t be that person who sets the incline way up, then holds onto both sides and leans their body back to be perpendicular with the incline. Keep good posture, lean forward into the incline, shorten your stride, and pump your legs.
Hiking is a great way to practice walking, enjoy the scenery, and play Lord of the Rings in the woods with plastic swords and capes. Not that you should do that (you totally should). Here’s a beginner’s guide to hiking!
When walking downhill, especially while barefoot (or wearing minimalist shoes), keep that stride short and be careful on how you are walking. Make sure your knee is bent when you land and absorb the impact rather than jamming the impact through your heel, knee, leg, hips, and lower back.
Get yourself a sturdy walking stick, if only so you can use it to battle imaginary ogres, goblins, cavetrolls, etc. It can also make you feel far more adventurous than if you’re just walking, and help you get up hills and land softly when going back down.
There and back again…
After destroying the One Ring, it’s a long journey back home.
However, like Frodo and Sam, it starts with the first step.
I’ve created an google doc that you can copy for yourself to track your distances to follow Frodo and Sam on your journey to destroy the One Ring. (thanks to Barefoot Dawsy of Beginning Barefoot for actually making the doc look pretty and functional!)
Here’s how to do it:
- Open the document, and then click on “file,” “save,” and then you can edit your own copy of the document.
- Track your distances with a pedometer, FitBit, your iPhone or Android phone (the consensus for favorite App is Run Keeper), or ”map my run.”
- Input your distances and work towards completing each section of the journey over months. As you input your distances, it will automatically let you know when you reach each destination so you can get you started on the next one. 5 miles a day on average will have you destroying the Ring within one year.
- We’re gonna try to walk to Mordor as a group too, so we’ve set up an identical spreadsheet where everybody can pick a slot (starting in Row 18), add up their distances over time, and it’ll tell us how quickly we visit each location. Eventually we’ll cover the whole distance as The Fellowship of the Nerds. I call Gandalf!
Now let’s get started.