Time for another of Julie Lawford’s inspiring posts on lifestyle and weightloss and this week a look at walking. Something most of us do automatically from about the age of 18 months to two years and continue to do so until we die. There are times when we push ourselves physically to lose weight and that is incredibly hard to sustain day after day.. But walking briskly every day is less of a punishment and more a pleasure… as you will discover from Julie today.
With the proliferation of boot camps, gyms and celebrity fitness DVDs, one might easily imagine that exercise is hard work. But I’m getting healthier and steadily losing weight, on a very moderate exercise regime. I would hardly even call it a regime.
Until the last decade or so, I’d been moderately but consistently active all my life. As a child, I swam (enthusiastically), played hockey (unenthusiastically), netball (defensively), tennis (ambidextrously) and rounders (exceedingly well, if I say so myself). I also walked everywhere, as young people used to do before parents became unpaid taxi services. In my twenties I bounced round a sports hall to the tune of ‘Cecilia’ (Simon & Garfunkel, great bouncy tune) in what used to be called Popmobility classes (that’s before aerobics was even heard of).
Since then, over the years, I’ve been a member of no less than four gyms, including three stints with a personal trainer – and that’s not including the one I dated; I’ve cycled (including, just once, doing the London to Brighton Bike Ride), played squash on a weekly basis, gone swimming with the same frequency, walked a mile each way to and from the train station every day, and joined my neighbours for energetic Sunday morning walks.
Yikes! A walkie selfie – complete with bug-eye shades
My periods of supervision by gym-based personal trainers and the London to Brighton notwithstanding, my approach to exercise has been consistent; moderate in preference to extreme, and gently glowing, in preference to sweating-like-a-pig. But if I think back, I realise that over the years I’ve always done something, to aid my physical fitness and counterbalance my largely desk-based occupations.
Until, that is, it all stopped.
Grinding to a Halt
In 2001 I fell victim to a damaging personal relationship and in the middle of that chaos, I was made redundant; a double-whammy that spawned a crisis of confidence. Determined (that’s a bit of a theme in my life) not to let circumstances and my tattered self-esteem beat me, I joined Weightwatchers. Through 2002 I managed the biggest weight loss I had ever, to that point, achieved. But for reasons I don’t fully understand even now, I couldn’t sustain it and the weight piled back on with staggering rapidity. That was when I lost the impetus to take proper care of myself – I gave up. Then the menopause showed up, slamming into me around 2007 and putting paid to what was left of my energy, motivation and self-discipline – and all bets were off.
I spent much of the next eight years sitting for endless hours on my ever broadening bottom, at one desk or another, in one car or another, or in front of the TV. The fact is, when it comes to general fitness and wellbeing, the less you exercise, the less you want to exercise. And the more you sit, the more you need to sit.
Worth saying, the one thing I kept up, right through from 2007, was a weekly one-to-one Pilates training session, and the modest amount of Pilates I did at home, from week to week. Pilates, whilst rarely aerobic, continues to make a vital contribution to my physical wellbeing. I got into it because of chronic back pain (brought on by carrying too much weight – duh); I stayed because I loved it. But more about Pilates on another occasion.
Cranking up the Engine
When I began my new healthy lifestyle last September, I sought help from a number of different sources. One of these was a Great White Elephant which had, a few years previously, taken up residence in my spare bedroom.
The Great White Elephant
I had, in a moment of madness several years earlier, purchased a full-size gym-grade treadmill. I had, with a burst of good intention, converted my spare bedroom into a mini exercise studio, with wooden floor, a TV mounted on the wall, and a fan for comfort. I installed a couple of pieces of Pilates equipment and a vibrating plate thing – and I bought the treadmill. My rationale was, the easier I made it for myself to exercise, the more likely I was to do it. And you can’t get much easier than stepping on to a treadmill in your own spare bedroom, can you?
As it turned out, even that wasn’t easy enough. But that was more about attitude of mind than anything else. And back then, I didn’t have the right one.
So last September, as I began to nourish my body with better food, I turned to my ignored and abandoned treadmill. I couldn’t quite face walking outdoors. I felt enormous and lumbering and it took only a few hundred yards before my face turned blotchy red and oozed with perspiration. On the treadmill, I could begin gradually, walking slowly for a few minutes – 5 at first, but I got to 15 without too much trouble, and kept going. I gradually increased the speed and length of time I used this instrument of torture, until I became thoroughly bored with staring at the TV and going nowhere.
My local park – not bad for London suburbs
I was deploying positive affirmations by then, which made me feel more engaged with the idea of getting out into the fresh air, and gradually I migrated my (nearly) daily walks from my spare bedroom to three or four circuits of my neighbourhood, varying distances depending on time and inclination, whether it was light enough to walk through the park, and whether I needed to pass by a shop. A few months in, and I added a longer walk into town, which, when combined with a bit of wandering around the shops, got me to 10,000 steps for the day.
I know that’s not a lot – but that’s my point. [Yes… I got to it at last…]. I’ve been losing weight and getting fitter on a modest 6,000 or so steps a day, with maybe one day a week on 10,000 steps. For a home-based worker, a 6,000 step day is a walk of somewhere between 2-2.5 miles or between 30-45 minutes, plus incidental wandering around at home. It’s really not a lot.
Once I got a taste for being outside (frosty, dark mornings in the winter, crisp springtime sunshine, now warmer lunchtime wanderings), I began to actually enjoy my daily walk. Now sometimes I stroll – stop and smell the roses – and other times I walk as fast as I can, using an App to check my pace. Sometimes I rock it with an exercise playlist, and other times I immerse in an audiobook. I go first thing in the morning, or at lunchtime, or when I’m fed up with staring at my PC. I’m trying not to slip into any kind of routine, because I know how all-or-nothing I can be, and I know that the moment I fail at my routine, it will knock me off course – and I don’t want that to happen. I’m just listening to my body, and making sure I enjoy what I’m doing, and never doing it under sufferance.
Now, with summer beginning to show up (odd days only, so far – this is the UK after all), I’m looking forward to getting the sun on my face and arms, to natural Vitamin D, to watching toddlers in the playground; to the scent of wisteria, honeysuckle and fresh mown grass; to the fact that I won’t be bringing in soggy leaves on my shoes, a curse to my cream carpets, for the next few months.
I have friends, slimmer and fitter than I, who regularly walk 5 or 10 miles a day – for fun. Imagine! I’m comfortably able to walk 3 or 4 miles with no undesirable outcomes, and I could certainly do quite a bit more now, though I haven’t yet had the occasion. Later in the year I’m going on a healthy retreat which will involve much longer walks. Meantime, I’m being urged to do the ‘Couch to 5K’ App, and learn to run.
Maybe I’ll get there, I don’t know at the moment if that’s something I’m prepared to put my 56-year-old body through. But in the meantime, I believe the most important thing is not running, nor jogging, nor even how far you walk, but that you walk – every day, or as near as possible. Because once you walk – once you enjoy the experience of putting one foot in front of the other outdoors, you can always walk more, or faster if you feel so moved, and then there’s no end to how far you can go.
©Julie Lawford – first posted 29th May 2016.
About Julie Lawford
Always engaged with the written word, Julie Lawford came to fiction late in the day. Following a career in technology marketing she has been freelance since 2002 and has written copy for just about every kind of business collateral you can imagine. By 2010, she was on the hunt for a new writing challenge and Singled Out – her debut psychological suspense novel – is the result.
Julie is based in London in the UK. Whilst penning her second novel, she still writes – and blogs – for marketing clients.
Singled Out by Julie Lawford
‘There’s something delicious about not being known, don’t you think?’
Brenda Bouverie has come on a singles holiday to Turkey to escape. Intent on indulgence, she’s looking for sun, sea and … distraction from a past she would give anything to change.
But on this singles holiday no one is quite who they seem. First impressions are unreliable and when the sun goes down, danger lies in wait. As someone targets the unwary group of strangers, one guest is alone in sensing the threat.
But who would get involved, when getting involved only ever leads to trouble?
Singled Out subverts the sunshine holiday romance, taking readers to a darker place where horrific exploits come to light, past mistakes must be accounted for and there are few happily-ever-afters.
A simmering psychological suspense laced with moral ambiguities, for fans of Louise Doughty, Sabine Durrant, Gillian Flynn, Elizabeth Haynes, S.J. Watson and Lucie Whitehouse.
The latest review for Singled Out.
Author Julie Lawford and I got chatting originally on twitter where I was envious of her new bookshelves! She had tweeted a photo. On discovering that she had published her debut novel earlier this year, and because I am always nosey where books are concerned, I took a look at its reviews and decided that Singled Out might well be a read for me. I was right – it’s a really good book!
Set on a singles holiday in Turkey, Singled Out is much more than a light beach read. In the very first chapter we meet an anonymous man who is preying on women. We soon learn that he is part of the holiday group, but not which male character he is or which of the female characters are at risk. Lawford deftly presents her story from two perspectives – a straightforward third-person recounting of the tale is interspersed with chapters from the point of view of The Man – and this creates a chillingly creepy atmosphere. I enjoyed trying to pick up clues and then discovering they could be applicable to multiple men. Great writing!
My favourite character is our heroine Brenda with whom I found it easy to empathise. She has a degree of the obligatory tortured soul persona, but is also warm and caring. She loves her food and the frequent descriptions of Turkish cuisine had my mouth watering and almost a plane ticket booked! It is refreshing to read about a woman who is not a stick insect and also not desperately trying to become one, and I liked that she is portrayed as strong, independent and desirable. Jack’s existence is nicely veiled and explored in an intriguing sub-plot.
Lawford’s presentation of people and places makes it easy to envisage what is going on and I know people just like Adele and Veronica. Singled Out is a good crime mystery read that is more about the participants than just the chase. The writing and plot have an interesting splash of originality and this book is definitely a cut above the identikit mainstream norm.
Read all the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Singled-Out-Julie-Lawford-ebook/dp/B00RO1GH28/
Connect to Julie Lawford at her website and on social media.
You can find the previous guest posts in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/guest-writer-julie-lawford-health-and-weightloss/
Thanks for dropping in today and I would love it if you would share Julie’s post – Thanks Sally