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How Walking Saves My Life.

I'm Katy

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The year before I turned the big 3-0, I signed up, ran and completed my first marathon.  Dale and I had been married a few years by then and since trying for kids was on the horizon, I figured the timing was right. I’ve always been a sucker for Mondays, meaningful months and milestone years so, when my third decade was coming to an end, I decided to set this lofty goal. 

I had never considered myself a “runner”.  I had run a couple of 5ks and ran in my military life but never considered myself anything more than someone that needed to run from the cops if I had to. 

I so badley wanted to be a runner though.  I read book after book about training, subscribed to Runner’s World magazine and bought a treadmill. I signed up for my first half-marathon and was diligent about following Hal Higdon’s plans.  [Ironically enough, Miles was named after an author in Runner’s World.  The column was named Ask Miles where the author, named Miles, would answer questions from readers about all things running.]

So, now with a “half” under my belt, I felt confident enough to register for Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN.  We were living in Bayfield, WI at the time and it seemed like the obvious choice. 

I muscled my way through those first cold training days inMarch.  I ran through some of the most breathtaking countryside scenes and watched as Old Man Winter gave way to. Flora, the Sabine-derived goddess of flowers and Spring.  Some of my most pleasant memories are of those sunrises, the smell of the apple blossoms in the air and the peaceful sounds of nature.

 It gave me a way to clear my head and my heart and on June 29th, 2008, the sun rose again and I finished 26.2 miles.  I crossed that finish line and it was one of the proudest moments of my adult life. 

And while that sounds all awesome and amazing and sunshine and rainbows, fuck was it hard.  I chafed every day and probably went through more deodorant in between my legs than I did in my arm pits.  I burned holes in the crotch of all of my running pants on those long runs.  I cried while running, peed in the woods more than once and was so tired and sore some days I could hardly get out of bed. 

In the ten years that have passed since that marathon, I have run off and on.  I started a run club in my little town and helped a few others complete their first 5k with the Couch to 5K program.  I even ran a 10k with little to no training after my kiddos were born.  It was fine; I felt good, had fun, made some new friends.

In between all those start again, stop again moments of running, I was always walking.  Both of my kiddos were born in May (which if you have the ability to plan a pregnancy, try a lot in August and September.  It’s the bomb.  You can hibernate all winter and get the whole summer off) so I was able to get outside all the time. 

And, when you have a new baby, the first thing you do is walk with a stroller, right?  Well I did.  And I loved it.  Miles and I would sometimes go for two or three walks just to break up the monotony of the never-ending day.  I probably didn’t realize it then, but my love for walking was born.

As the kids got a little older, I found myself yearning to get out for a walk.  I’d wait until Dale got home from work, tie up my laces and hit the pavement, sometimes with the dog, sometimes not.  Often I would walk without headphones so I could hear all the sounds of our neighborhood, or the creek trickle, or say hi to our neighbors. 

Every so often, I would get this weird pang of shame or guilt that made me feel like I SHOULD be running. “There are so many benefits” and if “I can walk I can run” and if “I want to lose weight that’s the best way.”  It was exhausting.   

This is what I have learned since then:

  • My head still clears. When I walk, I don’t think about my pace or the hurt. I can pay attention to nature’s sounds, think about and let go of the things I need to.

  • Idea building. I consider walking to be part of my work day now. I have to take my phone with me most days because I get so many ideas I need to get them out of my head and in to my notes. Because walking is a relatively natural movement, I can allow my mind to wander, instead of thinking about whether or not my inner thighs are bleeding.

  • Consistency.  When I ran, I would dread it until I warmed up, which for me took almost three miles sometimes.  When I walk, I just walk out the door.  I never want to turn around and quit.  If anything, I find myself going farther than thought I would.  I can get lost so easily in an audiobook now that I don’t think about the length or the miles or my speed. And, if I miss a day, I don’t beat myself up about it.  I just get up and walk the next day.  No biggie. 

  • Chafe-free. If your thighs have never had the pleasure of meeting, you won’t know what I’m talking about, but I’ll do just about anything to avoid the chafe.

  • Walking saves my life.  I know that sounds real dramatic, but stay with me.  I can get in my undies in a bundle real easy and when I sit idle too long, I can get in to some real mental health trouble.  I have walked with tears rolling down my cheeks, cursed people out loud and worked through issues that I know would eat me alive if I wasn’t able to get out and move.

So, here’s my unsolicited advice to you:

  • If you don’t feel like running, don’t. If you do, run. Some days I start walking, run from one telephone pole to the next and then walk again. Some days the thought of running never enters my mind. I’m cool with all of it.

  • If you start running and it turns in to a walk, fuck it. Don’t turn around. Don’t quit. Just walk the route you planned on running. It’s totally fine. Slow down, breathe, take in the sight of a tree you’ve never noticed before or the warm wind on your face.

  • If you want to run a marathon, great.  Start walking.  No runner ever started without walking first.

It’s taken me years to remind myself, and actually believe, this one piece of fitness advice; just move.  It truly doesn’t matter how far, how fast or how long. Just keep moving.

And, you’ll be so much more likely to stick with something if you don’t hate it.

I haven’t completely given up the idea of running again.  I just refuse to feel bad about it anymore.

I hope you can too.

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i write therefore i am.

Hi, I'm Katy.
Your lifestyle designer and business mentor.

Writing is my way of unwinding and letting my thoughts roam free. Every so often, in the midst of this creative chaos, something clicks, and I'm like, "Hmm, maybe someone else will dig this too." So, I toss it out into the world, hoping it lands with someone who gets it.
I hope that's you.

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