Sunday, February 13, 2011

Walk to Work. Get Fit. Save Money

I've been walking the 19.5km round trip to work since mid-November. It's my new "normal".

The advantages are non-trivial.

  • It takes me the same amount of time to make the trip, rain or shine.
  • I see pretty things.

      07:20am Monday - You see some beautiful things walking to wor... on Twitpic
  • I have no problems parking.
  • There is no such thing as a traffic jam on the footpath.
  • I get two significant "workouts" each day. I typically listen to "trance" music with a consistently fast beat...and I walk conforming to that beat as much as possible - up hill or down. The route I walk is not flat. There are some hills that really get your heart pounding if you attack them at speed. I've lost about 12kg in the weeks I have been walking. The loss is gradual and I feel lighter and stronger with each passing week.
  • I save money. About $1,440* / year. It costs me nothing to make the trip. My petrol bill for our 1.3L car is now about $120 / month instead of $240 / month . In other words, I fill the tank every two weeks instead of every week. We still use the car in the evenings and for longer recreational trips on weekends. On this basis, though, I'm still saving about NZ$1,400 / year by associated wear and tear on the car that isn't happening because it is being used half as much. (*Petrol at NZ$2 / litre assumed)
  • I get to experience the joys of weather in all seasons and have the freedom to stop and look at things, take photos, do...whatever...along the way.
  • A person on foot can go places a car can't go, which helps reduce the distance a wee bit. In my own case, walking saves me about 1.5kms over driving the car, due to being able to take short-cuts not possible in the car.  

The disadvantages are more about attitude than any real problems.

  • The most obvious is the weather. If it rains or is cold - or is cold and raining - then I may get wet. In August last year I walked to work several times and was not at all uncomfortable provided I wore  loose, long pants and a couple layers up top. Even if you get a bit wet, you're still warm. I dress to the conditions, carry a light umbrella for defraying the effects of the occasional heavy downpour. I don't even notice drizzel. Everything that needs to stay dry (work clothes, phone, etc.) is either in a  plastic grocery bag or a zip-lock plastic bag in my backpack.  I carry spare socks and underwear. The weight of it all is no big deal and, if anything, adds to the value of the workout as I walk. If it's hot and sunny or a bit rainy, I wear a broad-brimmed hat for shade or to shelter my headphones from the wet.
  • Probably the biggest disadvantage is the time. I have to be out the door by 6:45am to arrive at work by 08:00am. I have to leave work by 4:45pm to be home by 6:00pm. A car would be much faster. The bus would be only 5 minutes faster (taking 1:10 mins compared to my walk time of 1:15) as the ones available do a tiki-tour around the North Shore, while I walk a much more direct route. When I get to work, I relax for a few minutes at my desk, checking my email or whatever, while I cool down, then go have a quick wash in the loo and change into my work clothes.
  • More washing to do. I wear one t-shirt to work and a different (clean / dry) one home. I tend to wear the same pair socks to / from work and wear a second, lighter, pair while at work.  I carry a change of underwear.
  • I can't make any trips from work during lunch hour that can't be made on foot. Fortunately, there is a post office and Kiwibank across the street and several places to buy food or personal necessities nearby. Generally, I carry my breakfast and lunch with me. 

In summary, I've found I very much prefer walking to work. The gains far outweigh the losses. It's safer than riding a bicycle.

If you're within 12km of where you work,  it might be worth giving walking a try. Age needn't be an issue. I'm over 50. You  may even want to think about shifting to somewhere closer to work.....but not too close. :-)


  1. You must be setting a fair clip if you can walk 10km in 75 minutes - what is that, 7.5 minutes per km? Good God man - you could do a half marathon in well under three hours!

    I walk to walk three days a week (I cycle the other two days) - it is 5.6km and it takes me (depending on mood and inclination) 50-55 minutes, which seems a more realistic 8-9 minutes per km... Are you sure the distance is 19.5km? I use to measure distance. Check your route!

    I agree with the rest of your conclusions - it isn't that cold in Auckland - I am originally from Napier and the cold up here is nothing like the roaring frosts of Hawkes Bay. And I can't believe the amount people spend on petrol. I spend maybe $35 a month on petrol, and begrudge every cent!

  2. Hi Sanctuary

    Google Maps says the route I walk is 9.7km. I leave for work at about 6:30am and arrive between 7:45 and 7:50am. So it's an hour 1:15 to 1:20. I listen to 130bpm "trance" music and try as much as possible to walk to the beat. I'm 190cm tall, so have a reasonable stride. I get quite sweaty. This isn't a stroll. :-)


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