Paddy Heaney: walk the walk, but talking the talk is vital too

Getting out for exercise has become even more important for most people during lockdown, but having a chat and interacting with others is also proven to be good for our health <span style="white-space: pre;">											</span>&nbsp;
Getting out for exercise has become even more important for most people during lockdown, but having a chat and interacting with others is also proven to be good for our health  

The whole country is walking. Everybody is getting their steps in.

Hit the pavements of Maghera at a certain time of the day, and it’s more like the streets of Manhattan.

It’s pedestrian gridlock.

My neighbour James Devlin, owner of Cooper’s Café, was walking long before it became fashionable.

Out running the other day, I spied James in the distance. I knew from about half a mile away that it was him.

James has a very individual style. I revealed this information to him last Thursday when I called into Cooper’s for a takeaway coffee.

This all came as news to James.

“So, what’s my tell?” he asked, somewhat in surprise.

“Your arm movement is almost imperceptible,” I said.

(I like the word ‘imperceptible’ and I knew James wouldn’t mind so I threw it in).

“Let me see,” said James.

So I gave James a quick demonstration, up and down the floor of his café.

James, as is his wont, watched, studied and observed.

“My da had a great walk,” he said.

“Let’s see it.”

Suzie was making my coffee so James came from behind the counter to impersonate the late Jimmy Devlin’s walk.

And he was right. It was a great walk.

One hand casually planted in the right trouser pocket, the left arm swinging breezily.

As James ambled across the floor, drifting back to another time and another place, I could picture his father swinging up through Main Street.

The idea of a ‘great walk’ put me in the mind of ‘great walkers’. To be more specific: ‘great Maghera walkers’.

James used to run a table quiz in Glen club on a Sunday night. It ran for years. It was a great time to be alive.

Jim still loves a quiz so I set him a test.

Based on my impersonation, he had to name the walker.

First up was the late ‘Red’ Andy O’Neill.

Andy walked with the knuckles of both hands facing forward.

And there was a very distinctive rhythmic quality to his march.

In his pomp, Andy had a great head of red curls, hence the nickname. As he bounced along, the curls bounced too.

On my third lap of his café, James laughed. “Red Andy”.

The second walker is also deceased. Mickey Bradley was knocked down by a car.

By all accounts, Mickey was an incredible athlete in his youth.

When he walked, he would have reminded you of the great runner, Michael Johnson.

Like the American 400m specialist, Mickey also held his torso ramrod straight.

All the action took place below as he took long, lunging strides.

It was too easy for James. He got him with a couple of steps.

When the café fully re-opens, I am pushing James to hold a table quiz.

James is open to the idea. He thinks now he could have a round on ‘Maghera walkers’.

I’m lucky that I can call into Cooper’s Café for a quick quiz, a chat and a coffee.

But I desperately miss the café stop with friends after a bike ride.

The last time I sat down in a café with a fellow cyclist was on the 22nd of December.

I met my friend Philip McGuigan in Dunloy and we rode up to the north coast and returned via Ballycastle.

I was getting photos taken for the gym the next day so I was trying to monitor my food intake.

For the last hour home, all I could think about was Pappy’s.

By Armoy, I had resolved to have only poached eggs and toast. For the last 10 miles, I toyed with the idea of adding a sausage.

I actually stuck to the plan.

Well, I stuck to it up until the waitress asked me would I like some warm apple tart with fresh cream.

“Yes,” I said instantly.

“Would you like a mince pie with that as well?” “Yes,” I replied, quicker again.

Philip smiled. He understands.

As much as cyclists love burning calories on their bikes, they also love consuming them during the café stop afterwards.

Despite the multiple cappuccinos that might be ordered after a three-hour ride, I have always firmly believed that the café stop is as important as the bike ride itself.

The café has an amazing restorative effect. No matter how tough the ride, within 15 minutes you always feel re-energised and refreshed.

My belief that cafes are inherently good for you was always just based on intuition. But it turns out, I am 100 per cent correct.

The book 'Peak Performance' by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness investigates all the factors which help to achieve success across a variety of fields.

Both in and out of the sports arena, rest has now been identified as one of the key drivers of great performance.

The better you rest, the better your recover.

The adaptations in your brain and body which govern future performance all take place during recovery.

The obvious question then is what’s the best way to rest after a hard training session?

It’s not massage, compression or cryotherapy.

t’s social recovery. The café stop.

The authors quote Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a Stanford University professor who is an expert on stress.

“The basic biology of feeling connected to others has profound effects on stress physiology,” said McGonigal.

This information didn’t surprise me at all.

While walking might be great for your health, talking is too.

In lockdown, that’s worth bearing in mind.