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By Lisa Browdy
After my youthful aspiration of becoming a ballerina passed, I didn't exercise at all. My friends ran, biked and joined gyms but if it wasn't dancing, exercise simply wasn't my thing.
So what got me off the couch at the age of 35? I guess part of it was seeing my father's diminished quality of life from being diabetic, and my mother's limited mobility from osteoarthritis exacerbated by being overweight. Genetics are hard to argue with. And then there's vanity. I was nine months post-partum after my second baby, and those last stubborn baby pounds seemed to have every intention of staying on me until the kid went to college.
But like many of us can attest, knowing that you need to exercise is one thing, and actually doing it is another thing altogether. What got me on the road to fitness 13 years ago this month is when the moms on my block started a walking group.
Some of us were stay-at-home moms desperate for adult conversation. Others had jobs and precious little time for themselves. We put the munchkins to bed (in the care of our husbands) and met outside every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 8:00 p.m. for a three-mile power walk. There was safety in numbers, so even though we usually worked out after dark we felt secure.
While huffing and puffing along our north-south route, we shared the joys and frustrations of our days. Sleeplesss babies, office and world politics, home improvement and book recommendations were some of the fodder for our chat. As time went on, we added school and homework management, disrespecful teens, and aging parents to the roster. One thing we never did was kvetch about our husbands. Well, hardly ever.
Around my house, a 13th birthday gets a religious service and a party – so the least I can do is give a shout-out to the walking posse of Clarence Avenue. Some of the participants have changed since September of 1998, as has that regular time schedule. We're going a little farther and a little faster than we did at the beginning. And in addition to getting fitter physically, we have dealt with a lot of stress and blown off tons of steam in a healthy, constructive way.
Want to start a walking group of your own? Here are some helpful hints:
1) Find walking buddies through your block's email list or at your next block party.
2) Two or three people will be enough for a start, but it helps to have four or more. Conflicts come up, and you don't want to leave one walker out there alone. Try the next block over if you need more participants.
3) Have each other's phone/emails to confirm participation and decide if the weather conditions are suitable for strolling.
4) Try to stick to an agreed-upon schedule while the group gets established. Pick someone's front steps to meet and stretch at the appointed time.
5) Go ahead and walk after dark, in light rain, or when it's cold. Be smart and wear something reflective, though.
6) Aim for a three-mile walk in one hour. That will get your heart rate up but still allow conversation.
7) Light hand weights can add some upper body resistance to your workout.