40: Walking to a New Me

40: Walking to a New Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

Walking to a New Me

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.

~Henry David Thoreau

“The finish line is just ahead! You’ve got this, girl! Don’t slack off now!” I panted to myself. My heart beat rapidly and beads of sweat covered every inch of my body — still, my self-cheerleading did not stop.

Although I had been fitness walking (about four miles) for six months, this was my very first 5K race. The feeling of competition was exhilarating, and the thrill of it pulsated through my entire being. I was not going to let myself down! I would NOT give up!

After moving into my mother’s home to care for her following a stroke, I found myself neglecting my own health. Although my new duties kept me somewhat physically fit, my emotional life had become rather stagnant. It was obvious that I needed to find something that would inspire me to get out of the house more often.

I found my answer while standing in line at the grocery store checkout one sunny spring day. Bold red lettering on the cover of a magazine caught my eye — “Walk Off Weight!” I picked up the magazine and tossed it on the counter with my groceries. Who couldn’t stand to lose a few pounds?

That special edition changed my life! After reading about the multitude of benefits derived from walking, I knew I had found the perfect activity that would not only get me out of the house more often, but would also improve my overall wellbeing.

I read that walking was a great way to get rid of the blues, tone the body, lose weight and cut the risk of heart disease. It could even ward off cancer. The publication also professed that, although any walking was good, a faster pace was better. The possibilities intrigued me, and I couldn’t wait to start.

I didn’t start walking four miles right away; I began slowly, taking my camera on long leisurely strolls. The walking and fresh air were invigorating, revitalizing me. Within a couple of weeks, I challenged myself with a more intense exercise regimen.

Calculating distances and speed, then writing them down on a calendar, inspired me to increase my workout a little more each day. After a few weeks, I progressed from walking two consecutive miles to between four and six several times a week. My speed increased from about three miles per hour to over four.

My walking routine was intoxicating, and it wasn’t long before I began to notice the many positive changes in both my physical and emotional health.

I lost weight! As the excess fat I’d been carrying around my waist melted away, my self-image improved. I felt less sluggish, and the added bonus of lowering my risk of having a heart attack elated me. Even my chronic lower back pain had completely disappeared!

I made a conscious effort to maintain good posture while I walked, and that carried over into my everyday life. My legs strengthened and my calves became more attractive and shapely. I was ecstatic when people noticed the changes in me, remarking on my healthy glowing appearance and the new bounce in my step.

Prior to my new routine, I had been diagnosed with osteoporosis. My doctor was thrilled to hear that I had taken up walking because it’s one of the best exercises to help strengthen bones and maintain bone mass.

The benefits to my emotional wellbeing were equally impressive. My spirits lifted with each passing day. I could hardly wait to get up each morning. I finally had a goal! With my newly gained self-confidence, I also found myself to be more sociable and outgoing.

Caring for my mother became less of a chore — feeling completely refreshed, I was able to tend to her with renewed enthusiasm. I encouraged her to strive to become as healthy and as happy as I felt.

For the first time in ages, I felt great! Wanting to challenge myself even more, I started looking into organized walks with my daughter-in-law, Jo.

Our first walk was the Tofurky Trot in Portland on Thanksgiving Day 2014. What a thrill it was to cross the finish line in record time!

On New Year’s Eve Jo and I walked in First Run 2015, which began at the stroke of midnight. It went along the waterfront and across two bridges in downtown Portland. We couldn’t have chosen a more wonderful way to enter the New Year, and at seventy-two years of age, I looked forward to a healthy and happy year ahead of me.

~Connie Kaseweter Pullen

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