On February 28 I began, in earnest, a walking program. You may think I suddenly became aware of the benefits, health and otherwise, and dove right in. You would be wrong. Like many sedentary people I was intellectually aware of all the good reasons to walk and still did nothing.
I knew that other than the cost of some good shoes walking is free. And easy. I knew walking is a key component of any sustained weight loss plan. Without being able to cite facts and figures, I knew walking would improve overall health and reduce risk factors for some of the big killers. Study after study shows walking lowers blood pressure, increases bone density, reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, improves flexibility and coordination, reduces the risk of diabetes, and reduces high cholesterol.
Hippocrates, no less, said ?walking is man’s best medicine.? The positive effects on mental wellbeing, stress reduction, and improved sleep habits are also worth noting.
Most of us have experienced the mind-clearing, problem-solving, insight-bestowing effect of walking. Thoreau said, ?I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least?and it is commonly more than that?sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.? My walking time started with 15 minutes a day and led to an hour and a half each day. I frankly can’t imagine walking four hours a day.
Before the weather got milder, part of each day was spent checking the forecast and wind direction, planning my route, and deciding how many layers of clothing I would need. After a blizzard when our road was impassable Roy cleared a path for me with the tractor. For a few days I simply walked around and around a huge figure eight that included a path around the stack of hay bales across the road. When the weather was unbearable I walked at Edmonton malls. I needed fewer clothes and had better traction but decidedly more distractions. It’s a good thing I couldn’t stop and shop!
Each day I hated the thought of walking but each day I forced myself to do it. I felt better each day for having walked but I still dreaded the process itself. It took me weeks to begin to embrace it. I reminded myself I was blessed to have the time, space, and great outdoors in which to get fit and commune with God’s creatures. I reminded myself to look up and enjoy the blue sky, the sound of birds, the eventual budding of trees. One day I came face to face with a coyote and luckily he was more scared than I was and simply retreated back into the bush. I noticed the tracks and scat of various animals I share this world with. I began picking up a small stone or two each day as a sort of talisman and proof of my daily outings.
I had been pounding out each footfall resentful of the time and effort this was taking. I would get more than a little choked when my stopwatch would malfunction and I would lose credit for some precious seconds I had walked that weren’t being counted. I imagine I walked with clenched teeth and tight shoulders. These weren’t my proudest moments. Yet I hung in there. Given enough time I’m sure walking could transform a person.
I walked through hurt and discouragement, pity and anger, fear and insecurity?the typical negative thoughts that creep insidiously into our minds. Each time walking made me feel better by providing an answer to a problem or a fresh, more positive take on the issue at hand. Some say I tend to overanalyze, overthink, everything but I’m not sure I agree because?ahem?I’m still thinking it about it.
I felt immense pride in my stick-to-itiveness. I was on a mission. I was facing an elective surgery and the surgeon strongly suggested I lose some weight to improve my outcome. I lost about 14 pounds, improved my overall health and stamina, and understand at a core level that I must (and more importantly, want to) continue to walk every day. I’m getting better, step by step, from where I sit.