Things Happen for a Reason

On Saturday, February 28, 1987, I ran my last marathon.  It was the Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth, TX.  I never ran again.

It all started and ended one beautiful sunny day in February 1987.  I had spent the 2 weeks before the marathon nursing a painful and swollen knee that resulted from over-training.  The sensible, clinical “me” knew I should skip this marathon, but my stubborn and vain side won out.  I was convinced taking 2 Excedrin before the race would get me through it.  Besides, it was the last local “qualifying” marathon before the Boston Marathon.  If I didn’t get a good qualifying time, I wouldn’t be running in Boston in April with my friends.  But like most 30-something athletes, I thought I was invincible.  Instead, I showed up at the starting line at 7:00 AM and started the race at a 7 minute /mile clip (so stupid).  Miles 1 – 5 were painful, but then the endorphins kicked in, and for the next several miles I felt great.  By mile 17, I was really hurting.  Every step felt like a knife stab through my knee.  Finally, I hit the proverbial “wall” at mile 22 and went down; the pain was too great to bear.  Embarrassingly, I had to be driven by cart back to the finish line where I was treated with Advil for the pain and swelling in my knees.  Sadly I never ran again.

Live and Learn

My knees, especially my left knee, never fully recovered.  Subsequent knee arthroscopies showed severe bilateral chondromalacia (another name for runner’s knee and joint damage), significant joint-space narrowing, and almost complete bone-on-bone knee arthritis; the shock-absorbing cartilage was worn away.  My sports medicine physician announced, “You’re running days are over, my Dear – unless you want bilateral total knee replacements before you reach age 40.”  After 4 surgeries, a desperate attempt to save my left knee, I finally resorted to a left total knee replacement in 2008.

If you are a dedicated, die-hard runner like I was, you can imagine how devastated I was by the news.  Running was my daily “fix!” What would I do without it? Running got me through my long hard days and all the activities involved with being a wife, mother, student and career professional.  I was seriously depressed until one of my professors at UTA introduced me to an awkward-looking sport called Power Walking (PW).  Power walking is a more seriously intense form of walking that requires controlled and timed bodily movements.  It took me awhile to embrace the sport with the same passion and enthusiasm as running, but after I mastered the walk, I never looked back.  To my surprise, the health benefits were not only greater than running, they were more noticeable and profound, and virtually zero injuries.  I started power walking in 1987 and haven’t stopped.

Power walking is a completely different style than plain walking or running and, in the beginning, I think it’s much harder.  But like any new activity, it becomes 2nd nature with practice.  If done correctly, you will effectively and efficiently work every part of your body, especially your stomach – without the joint damage often associated with high impact sports, such as running.  You will, however, achieve the benefits of a more kindler/gentler impact that naturally increases bone density.  When I first started the sport, I lost ≥ 5 pounds in 3 months without changing my diet.  More surprisingly, I lost my baby belly, something years and miles of running never accomplished.  My arms took on new definition and shape, and with practice, I achieved the “high” I once experienced from my daily runs.

Why Choose Running?

Walking a good distance for a sustained period of time is one of the best forms of exercise to improve overall health.  The claims made for power walking are all true.  Power walking will help you lose weight.  Why?  Because it is a slow, steady, continuous and more sustained, aerobic exercise.  Aerobic exercise burns fats, not glucose.  Power walking burns the same (or more) calories as running.  Power walking will strengthen, shape and define muscles, especially if you wear 1 – 1.5 pound wrist weights when you’re pumping your arms.  It will reduce belly fat and strengthen abdominal muscles for better heart health and lower blood pressure.  It will improve circulation for clear, glowing skin and promote a stronger, healthier immune system.  Power walking will alleviate your morning aches and back pain.  I try to walk every morning just for the relief it brings to my back; all-day pain relief and good mobility.  In doing so, I have avoided epidural injections.

Power walking is convenient; it can be done anywhere at any time, weather permitting.  It’s cost-effective; all you really need is comfortable clothing and good, supportive walking shoes – no membership fees involved.  Power walking can be done solo or in concert with friends, family, or neighbors.

Getting Started

First, start your new exercise on a nice day; this always helps.  Then, get yourself into the correct power walking position; GOOD POSTURE!

  • Stand tall, as straight as possible
  • Tuck in your tummy
  • Tighten your buttocks
  • Take short, not long steps and walk in as straight a line as possible, using the heel-to-toe rolling method
  • Lightly cup your fists and start pumping your arms, one at a time until you attain a comfortable rhythm. *Your arms are the driving force because they control the speed of walking.
  • In the beginning, count your pumps. This helps establish rhythm and speed.
  • Remember to breathe, as normally as possible
  • Keep your eyes focused and looking straight ahead
  • Build up speed slowly

Once you have the technique mastered and you’re comfortable with your walking style and pace, push yourself further.  Buy an inexpensive, safe and comfortable set of wrist weights (no more than 1.5 pounds per wrist).  Strap them on your wrists and start walking, pumping slowly until your torso is used to the extra weight, while remaining mindful of good posture!  And last, enjoy your walk, improved health, and especially, your newly toned body.

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