Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Listening to Your Body

It’s Wednesday already, and I’ve been meaning to do a post on wellness, or, specifically, listening to your body. In January, I decided I was going to get back into exercising, as I’d taken several months off—not by choice. I was sailing along, doing my cardio five times a week, but not losing any weight, so I thought I’d extend my exercise time by 20 minutes and bring it up to a full hour a day by simply walking around the track at the Y.

So I started walking. Pretty soon I was having trouble with my feet. They felt like they were on fire. I could barely walk any more. My walking time decreased to less than 15 minutes a day before I could stand it no more, and I had to stop with the elliptical machine too. Something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. I just knew my feet were experiencing some serious pain and walking brought it on.

So I stopped going to the Y. But after a while, the inactivity got to me, so I decided I wanted to start walking again. Something light, with a friend. Just once a week on Sunday afternoon. Baby steps. Our first walk we went one and a half hours. My feet didn’t hurt. The following week we did it again. No problem. The third week we took another route, through a development, and the road angled up at the edges for drainage, instead of down, like a crowned road.

My feet started burning again, and I realized it was because I was walking on a tilted road and it was forcing my foot to bend inward at what is apparently for me an unnatural angle.

What else tilts? The track at my Y. It tilts up at the top and bottom of the oval. And each day the direction we’re supposed to walk or run in changes, alternating between clockwise and counterclockwise. By going regularly, I was alternately tilting one foot, and then the other, at that awkward angle.

Now, I wasn’t supposed to be walking on the track to start with—walkers are supposed to walk around the outside of the track—but it was getting crowded in that walking area and so when the track wasn’t being used, I’d step down onto the track and walk there.

When did I start having burning foot problems? When I added 20 minutes of walking to my exercise regimen and walked on the track.

I went back to the Y and tried it again. Within minutes my feet were burning again. Interesting. I went to my chiropractor and explained what I’d learned. He said absolutely that could happen--radiated nerve pain from walking on an uneven surface--and put everything back in alignment. I went back to the Y and tried walking around the outside of the track. No problem.

So I started slow. 20, 30, then 40 to 50 minutes a day walking around the edge of the track. When it got to be that I was practically speed walking, the wind blowing through my hair like I was roller skating, and this older gentleman was making train whistle noises as I sailed past him, I started up on the elliptical again. Ten minutes to start, then 20 and 30, and now I’m back to where I started (or left off) almost a year ago, before I got the brilliant idea to start walking in addition to my cardio training.

Well, it was a good idea. How did I know the track would do my feet in?

In the meantime, I signed up for this 100 miles in 100 days walking challenge. One mile a day, how hard could it be? But then something strange happened. As the weeks passed, I started picking up speed and going longer and longer, 2-3 miles, then 3-4, and then 4-5. Suddenly I’m racking up five miles a day, and things are shifting around in my body. People are asking me if I’m losing weight. I’m not, the scale hasn’t budged, in fact my weight went up, but my jeans have gotten so loose I could easily wear them with half of my bottom hanging out like some teenage boys do.

So today I will pass the 100 mile mark, and I’m only on my 56th day of walking. But what’s even better is that walking is now a habit and I get irritable if I don’t get my ten miles a week in, between my Sunday walk with my friend and the Y.

I started out with a small goal, one mile a day, and as my body felt better (aka by listening to my body), I slowly increased that to five miles, but have since pulled back to a comfortable four miles a day, easily done between walking and the elliptical within the space of an hour.

If I’m having a bad day, a PMDD day, where my energy level is low, I pull back to two or three miles a day. And some days I don’t go at all. Things happen. Errands need to be run, I get involved in a writing project, or I need to go out of town. But overall, I’m able to put in my ten miles a week without any trouble, and I finally feel good again.

All it took was setting one small goal and taking some baby steps toward that goal. Calling a friend to see if she wanted to walk with me once a week. Now I’m working on doing the same in other areas of my life. Stretching for flexibility, eating well, getting enough rest and relaxation. The added benefit has been that while doing all of that walking around in circles, my mind was free to wander, and I’ve come up with some new creative ideas I’ve been busy putting into motion during my non-walking time.

But when I went back to the Y I started with just 10-20 minutes a day. Now I’m looking at posters for 5K walks and thinking of walking for causes, just to get out, socialize, exercise, and contribute to something positive.

If there’s a goal you have in your life that you’ve been meaning to get around to, there’s no better time than right now to start taking those baby steps toward it. Listen to your heart, and listen to your body. As long as you keep listening, and don’t overdo, neither of them will let you down.


Mona Risk said...

Liana a tilted road can do that to your feet. My DH can never walk with me on the beach because the sand slopes and his feet have to compensate and hurt.

Where did you sign up for the 100 miles challenge? I wish I could do something like that and be accountable.

Debora Dennis said...

I've been "talking" about walking for months now, and then I pick up my coffee cup and surf the net instead.

Bad girl.

You've just inspired me to get off my rump!

Good luck to you, and glad you figured out your foot problem! :)

StephB said...

Liana, I'm so proud of you and your walking. I love walking. I wish I could do it everyday. I usually get in 2 miles 3 times a week.

I didn't know that about tilted roads. Perhaps you could look into walking sneakers if you haven't already.

Congrats on the 100 mile challenge. Quite an accomplishment!


Karlene Blakemore-Mowle said...

As always-- an inspiration :)

P.L. Parker said...

Good Job Liana. I was walking a lot, now I'm just trying to exercise for 20 minutes a day. I can hardly move in the morning, but I'm hanging in there. I will lose those 15 pounds.

LK Hunsaker said...

Ah, I did that with my hands! Jumped into spring gardening then added two days of house painting. It was too much too fast. Now I'm backing up to let them heal and will work up slowly.

Sounds like you're doing great! I'm working up on the exercise, also, after a fall/winter full of injury/illness.

Mary Ricksen said...

Good for you. What great motivation you have. Congratulations on your meeting the goal. (I know you will)
take care of the body and it will last a lifetime.