There by the grace of God go I. During my life taking care of myself through exercise and spiritual living has ranged from the bad to the good. Early in life as young male making bad decisions, I took up the habit of smoking. My boneheaded thinking at the time was “it added to my role as a cool black sheep and rebel”. It was also “in” in my group to be a smoker. After graduation from High School I worked as a steel worker with a job that, at times, required working multiple stories up in the air. The physical challenges and danger of this type work brought about a shift in my thinking, lifestyle and motivation in life. Shortly afterwards, I moved to Tallahassee to attend FSU and get a degree; but I had not yet given up smoking.
Not too long after my arrival, a high school friend named Tim Kelly introduced me to running. Something in my macho thinking thought running a mile or so would be really cool. I remember going to the FSU track where Gulf Winds track club was putting on some type of training program. At the time, running a mile seemed like an unachievable goal. But slowly I chugged around the track and after a period of time, I completed 4 times around; I actually ran a mile! While I still smoked Camel cigarettes; one benefit of this exercise, was I could not smoke when running. Another benefit was giving up the beer habit after work because it would prevent me from my growing love of running.
Over a period of time, I was able to run 5K races. There was a bit of foolish pride amongst some of us testosterone driven males to brag about how we stayed up too late; then ran a hard 5k in the morning. After settling down with my second marriage and four children, I still ran and actually finished four marathons. Fast was never a label assigned to me, but I could finish in a bit over 4 hours, kind of middle of the pack. But I still smoked. I foolishly thought, somehow this did not seem to have a bearing on my ability to run.
I remember when I met a childhood friend to run the LA marathon. The night prior to the race we toured the Sunset Strip and stayed up too late. On race day the temperature was in the 80’s and it was brutal. At mile 23 I hit the wall; I started weaving back and forth on the road but somehow I staggered to the finish. I am not bragging but a bit embarrassed when I tell you we went back to the Hotel room and had a smoke and a beer.
As I grew older, smoking started to have a negative influence on my running. My mother died from smoking and after several attempts, I kicked the habit. Lucky for me, exercise helped me bring an end to this terrible choice in life.
In my youth, I may have looked down my nose at walking; but I really did not know how walking would impact my life. It started with my wife dragging me to walk the 500 mile Camino.
While walking has transformed my life both mentally and physically, I have grown to really value the physiological Impacts of walking.
For me, walking brings about connection. There is something magical about being outside taking in the beauty of this great big beautiful planet. There is not a better way to spend time with a friend or family member connecting and solving all the problems of the world. Walking brings you back to the now and brings back the wonder of life. Last but not least, walking has connected me to a higher power or God.
Maybe it was best said by Thoreau. He believed that one becomes a walker only by the grace of God: “It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker,” he wrote in his essay, “Walking,” published in the June 1862 Atlantic Monthly.
I now know what he meant.
Why are you still sitting? Grab a family member, friend or go solo. Get outside and go for a walk. Check out what this great big beautiful planet has to offer.