I am Joe Walker aka Joseph Beyanga, a road safety enthusiast raising awareness about saving lives on the road.

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Taking care of your body

By Joe Walker

When planning to do long distance walks, it is important that you prepare yourself for it. Without proper preparation, the body will struggle. The Kampala to Bushenyi walk proved that to me. It was a walk to save lives and we therefore couldn’t afford to lose any! Our bodies were the major weapons we had, so we had to take good care of them and make sure we arrive alive and healthy. Months before the walk started, I visited the famous nutritionist Dr. Paul Kasenene to assess my body and guide on the appropriate foods to give me the energy and endurance for the walk. I’m overcoming several allergies so I can’t eat everything. I therefore did not want to risk with some foods that would trigger undesired reactions while on the walk. I just had to eat the right food for my body. As Virginia Woolf said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

Dr. Kasenene worked out a complete plan which became the meal plan for everyone who came on the walk… Yeah we ate lots of sweet potatoes in all forms. In some places when they were the only food we could get, we had them for lunch, supper and breakfast and at times packed some as a snack for those long lonely stretches where we couldn’t easily spot an eatery.

With the food for the stomach sorted out, I focused on the body. Another good friend Janet that I met on Twitter, who is a marathoner and ultra-runner, worked out a four-week endurance training that included, swimming, running, jogging, sprints and aerobics. This training schedule took me to the gym and there I met another awesome guy DJ Ken Love at Sheraton Fitness Center. When Ken got to know my mission, he gave me his attention and did things to my body. At some point I was scared it would break but he was only preparing it to make sure it didn’t break down on the road in Lwera or that when faced with the “rions” in Lake Mburo National Park, I could defend myself in one piece.

You never know though how prepared you are until the rubber hits the road. A few kilometres after we had been flagged off for the walk, on February 29th, as we approached Natete, I felt a sharp pain on my big toe on my left foot. I don’t remember what hit me or what I knocked, but as we headed towards Kyengera the pain intensified. At that point, I sent a mental text to my body: “Thou shall not feel any pain that takes you to breaking point until we dock in Bushenyi.” With that said and done, I never felt any pain in that toe until the day of rest in Lyantonde. At that point the nail was getting dark. I trimmed it off and it is now slowly healing.
That mental resilience I built as I did the physical training plus lessons borrowed from Ross Edgley, got me through quite well. Ross pushed his body beyond limits to be the first man to swim all the way around Great Britain, on an epic journey of 1,780 miles through giant jellyfish and arctic storms, without stepping on land for a single day. The amazing story of this man was written in a book, The Art of Resilience which was a great gift from my good friend Angelo Izama, and helped me on this walk.

During the walk, I had a strict but very basic routine: Do five minute-stretches after bed, drink a litre of water before breakfast, have a cold shower during which I pray, have breakfast, have another five-minute stretch after breakfast, a group prayer and then set off. I also drank as much water as possible all through the day so as not to let the body to feel thirsty. On a normal day, the first break would be after the first 15km, then a lunch break after another 10km walk and then we would finish the rest of the 12-15km before 7pm. Stretches and putting our feet up at every break was as important as breathing in and out; they were essential. We also had major stretches and warm downs at the end of the day. It was at this time that we would also assess if anyone had any injuries that required medical attention other than first aid. Thank God that other than blisters on toes that plagued Pastor Micah Rwothumio and sores on the sole of Boaz, no other person had serious injuries. The evening routine was warm down stretches, media duties if any, a cold shower, supper, social media updates and bed.

Maya Angelou said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” And that showed true for us. At our age, to be able to stay course on the walk to raise awareness for road safety, it was important that on one hand we take really good care of our bodies so that we arrive alive, and also stay fit and energetic to pass on the message everywhere we went. So it’s important to take good care of your body if you are still counting on it for another day.