It all started with a Fitbit. That, and the fact that I just turned 60 and felt like I was wandering unknowingly into uncharted senior citizen territory.
What do I mean by that? Well, at the time I received my Fitbit, I was thirty pounds overweight, extremely sedentary, and everything hurt. I couldn’t keep up with anyone. Not my kids, not my friends, and certainly not my athletic, toned younger sister.
A trip to NYC with my sister showed me the error of my ways. Yes, she is a runner, triathlete, and body builder, but it didn’t matter. We were going to walk all over Manhattan. I couldn’t even come close to keeping up with her as we walked. My feet! My legs! Stiff, painful, slow, I measured my pack mule gait against her gazelle like stride and came up 10 feet behind her at all times, until she mercifully offered a taxi ride back to the hotel. Oh, the shame.
Then there was a trip to Costa Rica with my kids. Everyone walks in Costa Rica, and why not? The weather is beautiful, the scenery picturesque and mountainous. Again, like an old shuffling burro, I lagged behind, hot, tired and sad. And this time there were steep inclines. I just couldn’t keep up.
My feet were a constant problem. So much pain. Finally I got the hint. At 60, unless I did something about this physical decline, it was going to pick up speed until I woke up one day, hunched and unable to navigate across a room without a walker.
It was then that I decided to use the Fitbit that my kids had given me for Christmas, and just start walking 10,000 steps a day. Everyone from the Surgeon General to my very own doctor had been recommending that for a very long time, so I decided to begin.
It was a non-descript day, Tuesday, May 10th of this year that I rolled out of bed early one morning and went for my first walk. I saw the sunrise, and I was astounded. Sunrises had been happening everyday of my life, why haven’t I seen more of them?
It took a large commitment to reach 10,000 steps that day. My morning walk gave me 4,700 steps. So, I walked on the treadmill at work (I work for a very health conscious company) and then had to finish up with a walk after dinner. 10,000 steps is no joke.
The next morning, I did it all over again. Another beautiful sunrise and fresh air, treadmill at work, and after dinner walk. I loved it. But my body did not.
By day three, my ankles were killing me, my feet hurt just looking at them, and I was sore and stiff all over. But I didn’t stop. I bought over-the-counter orthotics for my sneakers and two elastic ankle braces.
Day four. Ankle braces were in place, but the orthotics took up too much room in my sneakers. I made my 10,000 steps that day, but the pain was incredible. I guess now is as good a time as any to mention that I have dermatomyositis, fibromyalgia and arthritis. So, when I say I had pain, I am not just whistling Dixie.
I kept going though. The sunrises, and peace and quiet of the countryside were so welcome and such a new experience for me. It was like I finally woke up to what life is. And every night, I hobbled to bed, wracked with pain. Everything flared. Joints, muscles, ligaments were on fire. Two nights I cried in bed, and I’m not a crier.
But I still didn’t stop. And little by little, I noticed, I didn’t need the ankle braces, my feet didn’t hurt quite as much and there was nothing I liked better that waking up before the sun and hitting the road.
Today is August 28th. I have walked over a million and a half steps and I’m not stopping anytime soon. I’m stronger, faster, and even though my feet still hurt, I am getting out there everyday.
I believe that this will keep me mobile as I age and all that other health and wellbeing stuff. But, the most important benefit of all? I can finally keep up with people!
Join me as I continue on this journey, because there is a sunrise every morning and miles to walk before I sleep.