Walking The Walk
Years ago, more than I care to admit (ok, I think about 28 years), my neighbor and I decided we really needed to get more exercise, and we determined we’d walk together. It sure worked to kick us into gear to be accountable to each other, especially when life got in the way. We were mostly successful. Through the ebbs and flows of life with kids, work schedules, school demands, illnesses, and moves, I’ve continued, though I’ve ‘worn out’ a few walking partners!
My longest lasting walking partner, a new neighbor, had heard of my “reputation” and asked if I’d walk with her, be her coach to help her train for a 3 day cancer walk. My ‘yes’ initiated a 12+ year dedicated walking relationship and routine through several 3 day events and beyond, with plenty of stories.
Negotiating a time was a biggie for our drastically differing work, volunteer, and kid schedules. Adjusting paces for our levels of wellness or energy was often a challenge – I learned to slow the heck down and she learned to speak up in between gasps to ask me when I didn’t notice! Discovery of yak trax led us to seek out icy snow amidst cleared walks as we trekked our 5 miles in the winter dark and single digits draped in full length down coats, calling ourselves crazy with a certain level of pride. Countless sunrise pics and Starbucks lattes along the way became part of our experience, including a resident ‘Cheers’-like community at our stop-ins. Occasionally, an unsuspecting tag-along who quickly learned this was no stroll, we meant business!
Those 6:15am alarms were often a dreadful jolt, especially in the dark cold winter months, and honestly, sometimes the ONLY thing that got us up was knowing that our partner was up too, waiting for us, and we couldn’t NOT show up! Rarely did we arrive at the other’s doorstep and choose not to walk – admittedly, temps in the 30’s and ice cold rain would do it and we’d just make tea. Through two bouts of cancer, family traumas and dramas, several volunteer commitments, and a couple jobs, we managed to continue our routine.
We live in different states now, and our ‘walks’ together are Skype talks instead. She’s been living with cancer for 23 years now (some of it we didn’t know at the time), and we actually attribute her vitality in part to the walking. We both still walk, each with a new walking partner and a different ebb and flow. After the debilitating chemo and struggles to manage a simple city block, she’s thrilled to be back up to 2 miles, energized, with a sense of ‘getting her life back again. And I have discovered that those sunrise times for me fill my cells with oxygen and my soul with the energy to share myself with the world. It is my peace, my relaxation, my therapy, my fresh air, my creative process.
There are really three aspects of creating healthy movement that we can sustain over a lifetime. Function, accountability, and inspiration.
Use it or lose it – our bodies are created to move. You’ve probably seen an atrophied limb just out of a cast and temporary disuse, right? And notice the eldest in your circles, how able bodied – or not – they are. For the most part, those who have continued to move are quite likely (barring a debilitating physical trauma) to be walking rather than wheelchair and walker bound. Did they spend years in a gym or pilates program? Probably not, unless they were friends with Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, or Jack LaLane. Nope. They moved. They had physical jobs, or actively managed their home, or sought out fun everyday activities to do alone, with friends, or with family. Everyday stuff, but moving rather than sitting around at a desk, in a car, or in front of a screen. Find your function. Walking’s a great one, you can do it almost anywhere, anytime, and with most clothing. Other than getting an excellent (DON’T scrimp on this!) pair of shoes, no special equipment is required. Five minutes or 4 hours, it’s readily available. Find a place to go and don’t use the car to get there. Or use the car but park it a distance from your destination. Walking is just one option, there are plenty of other ways to be active. Find one that moves you both inside and out, is available to you on a regular basis, and serves another purpose. What’s right for you in FUN and function will stay with you to support your health for a lifetime.
We are, for the most part, not designed to be solo creatures. We are social by nature and nurture. We can use that to our advantage to bolster even the strongest self determination when it weakens. For some of us, it’s really difficult to go alone, but time and discomfort passes easily with an accomplice for distraction and socializing. An agreement with a friend, or, if you need more added incentive and accountability a paid coach like me, can help override the temptation to give in when hit by life’s turns or simply lured by a warm cozy pillow! Self accountability is strong, but a partner in your physical life is rewarding in the sharing of the challenge, the experience, the growth, the celebration of accomplishment. Finding that accountability partner and making that agreement is setting yourself up for far greater success.
Inspirations are very individual. For me, it’s the glow of the sunrise, the ability to leave my stresses along the trail on the way out and the creativity that comes to me on the return. Kind of a spiritual endeavor, and social for an extra ‘win’. For another friend, it’s the ache of lactic acid buildup and tiring muscles (twisted, I know!), the deep breathing required, and the euphoria at the end of the effort that drives him. A neighbor, a very active gardener, works up a sweat and sore muscles hauling, pulling, raking, and more, to attain an amazing retreat to revel in each summer evening. It can be as familiar as walking, running or gardening, or something off beat unusual that speaks to you. You don’t need a gym or a program to “Walk the Walk”, though those are certainly an option. Just find the activity that gives you inspiration. It will serve you for a lifetime of joy and physical health.