Step. Puff. Step. Puff. Step. Puff. This is how my walking started. Having survived life-threatening blood clots in my lungs, multiple hospital stays, complications, and infections, as well as the ongoing issue of collapsing spinal discs that left me in excruciating pain in the 7 months prior to this, I was lucky that I was on my feet, never mind walking. The pulmonologist said that it was imperative that I WALK in order to prevent a re-occurrence of the blood clots that almost killed me. Well, if that dire warning wasn’t enough to get me out the door walking, I suppose nothing would.
Problem #1 was that I HATED walking. HATED it. Boring. Too hot. Too cold. Too much time. And there was the back pain…. That vise-like, twisting, squeezing, brutal spinal nerve pain that brought me to my knees, and was alleviated only by a cocktail of high potency medication. But there was also that dying thing looming over my head if I DIDN’T get off my tush and walk.
I was also bored senseless from being cooped up in the house due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. How many closets could I clean, especially with my severe back pain issues limiting my movement? I had no human contact other than the home health nurse who visited twice weekly.
So, in the interest of both my mental and physical health, at the end of March, pain medication keeping me on my feet, and my blue-flowered cane keeping me from toppling over, I took my first tentative steps outside. Despite my 100+ lb. weight loss (https://talktimewithjoan.com/category/my-weighloss-journey/), it did not go well. Step. Puff. Step. Puff. Another step. Another puff until I had walked ½ a block, then realized I had to turn around and walk another ½ block to get back to my house. That first day I collapsed into a chair when I returned home. From walking A BLOCK.
The next day, I tried it again. Step step, puff. Step step, puff. Oh, this was going better. I took two steps before I got out of breath. I returned home after about 3 blocks of walking. I was a little more encouraged. I went out at least every other day on these little excursions. Within a couple of weeks, I was walking to our community pool and back, which my Smartwatch recorded as ¼ mile round trip. From one block to ¼ mile is pretty darn good in my estimation.
At about the one-month mark, something strange happened. I noticed that the more I walked, the more my depression lifted. My mood improved. I thought that was odd. I had not yet read up on the positive effect walking has on alleviating depression (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/regular-walking-can-help-ease-depression/). My thinking became clearer. It is on these walks that I now use a phone app to record many of the ideas for these blogs and other website content.
And wait a minute. Something else. Where was the pain? I noticed that the longer I walked, the less pain I was feeling. For the remainder of the day, I was able to take less pain medication and still retain 75% pain relief. Wow. I didn’t expect that. (https://www.spine-health.com/blog/2-walking-tips-avoid-sciatica-pain)
Oh, wait. There’s more. One morning I was putting on my socks, and I noticed that my calf was rock hard. I looked in the mirror and these old calves are shapely and muscular without a bit of saggy skin from the massive weight loss (unlike the rest of my body, but you can’t have everything). Another pleasant, unexpected benefit.
By the middle of June, I was walking 3 miles. An hour and a half walk. 3 whole miles! ME. I could not believe it. My back pain had improved so much that I was able to come off all the heavy-duty medication and was taking only one minimal strength drug. I was walking these 3 miles without any tiredness or shortness of breath. I was ECSTATIC.
However, it was June in Southern Florida. Summer was descending upon us, which meant laser beam strength sun that seared one’s skin and steam bath humidity that had sweat pouring down my face like rain. The only solution to this problem was to get up at 5:30 am and be out the door before the sun came up. Although still soaked to the skin with sweat, if I made it home by 8:30, I beat the worst of the heat. So, this lifelong lover of late morning sleep actually got up at 5:30 in the morning to walk.
By the end of August, I was walking for FIVE MILES. 2 ½ hours. 5 miles. Me???? Yes, me. I had settled into a routine of walking four or five days a week for 4-5 miles at a time.
This monumental feat was not accomplished without preparation. One does not walk for 2 ½ hours without proper preparation. So here is a picture of me suited up and ready to go.
My skin is sprayed with insect repellent. I am wearing a neon yellow shirt with reflective stripes, so I won’t get run over in the early morning darkness, thus rendering all of this work useless. Baseball cap with an extra-long visor to keep the early rising sun off of my face; extra reflective bands around my ankles and hanging from my cane strap; a shoulder bag containing a bottle of iced water; a sweat rag; an umbrella, my house keys, and extra pain pills. Cell phone and earphones, so I can either listen to music, talk to a friend, or dictate website content. Blue flowered cane. How much more prepared can I be?
As November, cooler (relatively speaking) weather, and lighter mornings replace the brutal summer heat and dark mornings, I will no longer be forced to rise with the birds. But you know what? I have kind of gotten used to it. I like the quiet before the roar of the trucks, lawnmowers, and leaf blowers sully the peacefulness of the day. I enjoy watching the little bunnies hop across the lawns. Okay, this is Florida, and I do have to watch out for snakes and poisonous Bofu frogs, but all in all, this walking thing didn’t turn out to be so bad after all.
Joan- in my past life I completed 3 half marathons with my husband who was newly diagnosed with AD. Due to a stress fracture I no longer run. However I walk 10-20 miles a week. I find it easier to walk with friends as time goes by quickly. So glad to hear that walking has improved your health.
Oh Trish, it’s so good to hear from you. I hope you are enjoying my new blog…….a nice respite from the seriousness of my Alzheimer’s blogs. Good for you on the walking. We gotta do what we gotta do to keep on going. 😊
You are my Hero! You are truly an inspiration to all! No more excuses!
Ah, but Linda, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be alive to be doing any walking. Forever grateful.❤