A Trip Down Evolutionary Lane With FitOldDog’s Walk-Run Trail Workout For Fun Exercise

Early spring trail in North Carolina.

In order to make your mind and body happy, you need to exercise, and the only way to really make this work is to invent fun exercise for yourself; you know what you enjoy. When I talk to people about exercise motivation, especially if they are obviously out of shape and stressed, which usually occurs when we’re raising kids whilst simultaneously trying to build a career, they react. This reaction is usually one that conveys the message, “I just don’t have time!” But really, in many cases, it is because they don’t see exercise as fun but work, they tend to think of the pain involved, and so training drops down the priority list. The good news is that pain is not a necessary part of healthy exercise! It is true that at certain times in life one just does not have a lot of time. It is critical for EVERYONE to take some time for his or her own health, but it doesn’t take much to kill one’s motivation.

I recommend the walk-run approach to trail running, which I even use for parts of my Ironman training, especially when I am feeling over trained and exhausted or I have a mild muscle strain. Here is what to do to have fun while you ‘run’ – find a nice walk that you really enjoy, and then run for short distances intermittently during the walk. You must be in a state where running is safe, and that is another story, but once it is appropriate, the walk-run approach really works.

For instance, yesterday I walk-ran 5 miles, running roughly half of the time in 100-200 yard segments, which means that I ran 2.5 miles. It didn’t beat me up anything like a continuous 2.5-mile run, and I got to enjoy the flora and fauna along the way. Here is a short video of my walk-run, which is followed by some photos that I took along the way – doesn’t sound like a stressful workout, does it?

I love the plant world, and especially it’s history or evolution. The beauty of evolutionary theory is that it makes all living organisms your relatives. I see slugs and daisies as remote cousins, which can make ethical food selection a little challenging! Take a look at the cladogram below, then the pictures that I took during the walk-run referred to in the video, above. The photos are arranged, as best I could manage, in order of each organism’s evolutionary appearance on Earth. Fungi presented a peculiar problem, being neither plant nor animal, apparently.

cladogram, evolution, FitOldDog's walk-run technique, FitOldDog's advice, plants, animals,

This diagram is a simplified representation of the evolution of the plant and animal kingdoms over the last billion or so years.

Without a microscope you cannot see our earliest ancestors, and I mentioned liverworts in a previous post, so the evolutionarily oldest relatives I saw were mosses, which abound in shady, damp, and sometimes not so damp, places.

mosses along the trail

Mosses create a beautiful ground cover wherever conditions are suitable.

Down a parallel evolutionary lane towards the animals come the fungi. Did you know that the biggest organism found on the earth so far is a fungus?

Mushroom, toadstool, fungi, mycelium, FitOldDog's love of biology, safe exercise for better health,

It is funny how mushrooms (or is it a toadstool?) pop up their heads (reproductive organs) out of nowhere, being the only indication of a large organism hidden in the soil. We popped up too and then ran around.

Next come the horsetails

Horsetail plant, plant evolution, FitOldDog's walk-run exercise approach, safe exercise,

Horsetails, of which only a few were seen on the whole trail, are sometimes very abundant and they have an ancient history.

and the ferns, almost simultaneously in evolutionary history,

ferns, plant evolution, FitOldDog's walk-run exercise plan, safe exercise,

Beautiful ferns are all over the place along this shaded running trail.

to be followed by the flowering plants,

wild rose, FitOldDog's running trail, safe exercise, flowering plants, plant evolution,

A delicate wild rose nestled under some larger plants on the edge of FitOldDog’s running trail. Makes you think of ‘The Little Prince.’

including the mighty oak tree,

oak tree, young oak, acorn, FitOldDog's walk-run workout,

The mighty oak tree, just hatched from a single acorn.

and of course, someone has to eat those plants, without which none of us would be here.

deer, FitOldDog's running trail,

There she is, almost invisible, standing quietly and watching me, as I come clattering around the corner.

That was a fun workout, don’t you think?

The morning after this walk-run, I noticed the effects of the exercise on my muscle tone and comfort, but not in that beat-up kind of way that one suffers after a continuous run of the same distance (2.5 miles).

FitOldDog’s advice is that you give walk-runs a try, in order to enjoy taking some time for yourself, and I think that you will find that your life becomes much less stressful. These walk-runs are also a chance to find balance, and become a nicer person to everyone when you get back home or go off to work.

You might even look forward to your workouts, and along the way learn some interesting Biology, including your family history!

-k @FitOldDog



  1. This is now my favourite blog post.

  2. I’ve always felt more comfortable walking (my excuses for not running are endless) but sometimes during a good walk I feel a very strong urge to run and so I do, even if it is for a 30-60 seconds. It’s like an instant happy pill! Thanks for the fun read this morning! Hope you are all well! We are missing all of your happy faces!

  3. Hi Becky,
    thanks for the comment, and I hope that you are enjoying your new home. Yes! Short running bouts are just like that.

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.