Last week I had coffee with a friend I hadn’t seen in months. It was great catching up with each other. Somehow our conversation turned to exercise, and suddenly we were making plans to walk together. Two birds with one stone.
Great idea. I need to get my raggedy butt out of the chair and start walking again. I hope my new walking partner needs me as much as I need her.
I used to walk every day. My primary fashion accessory was a red pedometer. I even kept a walking journal on Map My Walk. Back then I never laid my head on the pillow at night until I completed 10,000 steps for the day. I remember a few times when to reach my daily goal I walked laps around a well-lit parking lot at midnight with a Maglite flashlight for protection. (I thought I was committed – some thought I was obsessed and should be committed.)
But we all know about that road of good intentions. I got lazy and began making excuses. Too busy. Too tired. Too late. One day I realized I had somehow abandoned my walking regime altogether. My clothes still fit and I was active so I convinced myself I didn’t need to walk every day. Wrong.
Slowly a few extra pounds appeared, yet I continued to rationalize that running up and down two flights of stairs multiple times a day, playing with my grandkids, parking further away and walking the golf course was enough. Lame. I needed more discipline; I needed to start walking again.
Research at Duke and the Mayo Clinic (just to name a few) show that brisk to moderate walking 30 minutes a day, five times a week can do wonders. It can lower bad cholesterol and raise good, build muscle and strength, lower blood pressure and the risk of diabetes and help you sleep better. And it can put you in a better mood.
All that just from walking! I can do walking.
I tried Zumba once. It wasn’t my thing. I was certain I was going to have a heart attack and die before the class ended. I never tried it again.
But I was having trouble getting motivated, so when my friend agreed to start walking with me I jumped at the idea. It was just the impetus I needed to get back on track. What kind of friend would I be if I made plans and didn’t show up?
Our first walk was at Shoreline Park.
Have you walked or biked out there? I’d been there before, but I’d forgotten how enjoyable it is. Bikers, walkers and runners crisscross the trails (you can walk all the way to Palo Alto). Sailboats, paddleboats, windsurfers and kayakers dot the lake. (All for rent at the aquatic center.) And beautiful birds – egrets and cormorants and ducks and geese - swoop overhead. (Yes, lots of goose poop too.) If you’re lucky you might spot a hawk.
It was low tide when we walked. Low tides mean mudflats. I grew up on the east coast near salt marshes and don’t mind the smell – in fact, I miss it sometimes.
I have no idea how many miles we walked, but we walked and talked non-stop for two hours. The sun was shining, a cool breeze was blowing – a perfect day. Almost.
Everything was fine until we stopped at the Lakeside Café to sip an icy Arnold Palmer. Sitting down was my mistake. When I got up to walk again my hip joints balked. (They prefer couch slouching these days to active exercise.) I was stiff and sore. I am out of shape.
It’s moments like that that pull me up short, surprised. I’m not sure I like coming face-to-face with the fact that I’m not a kid anymore. That I can't just blast out of the shute at full steam ahead.
I lied, I am sure. I don’t like it.
Take the other day for example when I decided to rinse some black smudges off my foot in the bathroom sink. Can you picture it? That used to be easy-peasy. Not any more. And graceful? Absolutely not.
It also used to be simple for me to scramble up my attic access to switch the air duct valve from heat to AC or climb out onto the roof to clean my gutters. Not so easy any more. (And probably not sensible either.)
Look, I can’t change getting older, no one can, but I can avoid a sedentary lifestyle. I can walk – it’s easy and it’s free. Hopefully, it will increase my chances for a longer, stronger, healthier life and increase my flexibility. It can’t hurt. (Okay, maybe I’ll notice a little pain here and there, but hey – no pain no gain.)
So here’s my challenge. Lace up those sneakers and get out there with me. Grab your earphones and bring along some good walking tunes. No excuses.
Oh, need a walking partner?