Monday, October 28, 2013

Getting Spiritual On You

The subtitle of this blog is 'walking the neighborhood and the Twelve Steps'.  If you're not familiar with the Twelve Steps, bing it and learn a little.  The Twelve Steps I work are those of Al-anon.  The original Twelve Steps are for Alcoholics Anonymous.  There are other Twelve Step groups, from Alateen, to Overeaters Anonymous, and groups for Gamblers, Sex Addicts, and others I'm sure.

Why do I include the Twelve Steps here?  Well, years ago, when I began my walking journey, I was also beginning my Twelve Step journey.  I had family members who were in treatment for substance abuse and I was overwhelmed, in a great deal of emotional pain, 75 pounds over weight, addicted to sugar (and food in general), and had no spiritual life at all.  I hoped there was a God and that S/He would help my beloved family members.

As I began to work the Steps with the help of others who attended the same meetings I attended, I began to learn about a Higher Power and how that HP acted in my life and in the lives of my loved ones.  At first, I was skeptical.  I was, at best, an Agnostic.  I had never needed or accepted emotional support from anyone and wasn't about to now.  I was too strong and too smart to turn my will over to anyone/anything else!

But, there it was.  Two family members who were foundering, lost, in pain, and in severe need of help that I had no idea how to offer.

I put my dog on a leash and walked out in the cold, the rain, the snow.  I walked twice a day.  I walked because I was running away from my pain.  Little did I know that I was running (by walking) toward solutions for myself.  Since the Steps teach us that we did not Cause the disease, could not Control the disease, and could not Cure the disease - what was my role?  What was I to do?

I walked and began to talk to God as though He was right there next to me (because I was advised to do so by a very smart person).  The conversations were often not very pleasant.  I was angry, hurt, sad, overwhelmed.  I was PISSED!

You know the saying - No Pain, No Gain?  Well, it's true.  There will be no change (gain) unless one is in enough pain to seek help, a solution, or at least a road map.  There I was, large and in charge of my own life - and watching it crumble around me.

Those walks saved my life - and my relationships with my family members.  I can't say God talked back to me - but things began to change.  Walking itself began to improve my physical health - and certainly improved my mood.  Walking in cold, blustery, icy, gray winter weather is not fun.  But, it is WONDERFUL!!!  The gift of that day, each day, was immeasurable.  My family members began to get better.  They began to learn how to take care of themselves and to live without the false God of drugs and alcohol.

I walked my way right into a new life.  A life with a Higher Power who I still fight with from time to time.  A life with family members who were slowly learning how to live without the false strength of outside agents - to rely on their won innate strengths to deal with whatever life threw their way.  I was learning to live without the false need of sugar and too much food - an attempt to fill what had been a black hole of pain, despair, and self righteousness.

The joy of walking off 65 pounds was mine!  The understanding that my Higher Power was working in my life to do for me the things which I could not do for myself.  For a person like me, that alone was a miracle.  Forget the 65 pounds.  Know that I was one who ruled the world around me with the power of my own will, my anger, my intellect, and my forcefulness.  I could steamroll almost anyone to get my way.  But steamrolling makes you no friends, makes people want to avoid you, makes the black hole grow exponentially every hour to Edge God Out.  That's called EGO.

Once I learned that I didn't have to have ALL the answers - that it wasn't up to me to run the world - those 65 pounds dissolved from my body and were lifted off my shoulders and my spirit.  No Joke.  No Coincidence.  No Other Possible Reason.

I walked for a year that way - hoping that things would get better.  Setting a goal to walk to the grocery store ONE MILE from my front door.  Leaving the house when my teenagers were fighting with me or each other.  Refusing to referee or offer solutions.  Who was I to tell them what was right for them to do?  I did not abdicate my role as a parent.  I removed myself from their decision making processes so they could grow up and not need me to sort things out for them.

Whatever happened during that year (and there were ups and downs, I can assure you), at the end of it, I had learned some very valuable lessons:
1. I could walk a mile.
2. I could ask God to help me with any problem.
3. I could find solutions for my own problems on my walks because I was walking with my Higher Power even when I was yelling at Him (and that was not a rare occasion).
4. I could improve my eating and lose weight.  Notice I did not say diet or some sort of magic no more craving.  I am, above most everything, a realist.  One of the reasons I would never drink alcohol or take drugs is because, no matter how bad reality might be, I prefer it to the fuzzy brained result of imbibing alcohol or drugs.  I was a control freak and needed to be sober to be in control.
5. I could have - and did have - a better life.

So, now you know more about me than you need to.  My point is not to inform you of the details of my life.  My point is to encourage you to find your own solutions to whatever ails you (and we all have thorns)  - and that asking for that help is neither a sign of weakness nor an easy way out.

Doing for yourself what no one else can do for you is a very valuable insight.  Take care of yourself.  Nobody but your mom cares about you more - so do what's right for you.

These insights are what made me word my 100% Guarantee exactly the way I did.  It's the facts of life as I know them.   You don't need all the gory details of my life to prove it to you.  Improve your own life one step at a time.

*************************** Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It's from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

In Case You Need More Enticement To Take A Walk......

A picture is worth a thousand words?  These pictures are priceless - as was the wonderful afternoon walk though Emmenegger Park not far from my home.

The pictures were mostly taken by my friend and walking buddy Kris, pictured here with my beloved walking partner, four legged Lizzie.

Looking up through the young but tall trees, Kris spotted this burst of yellow against the sky.  There is not as much color here as many previous Autumns, but we are grateful for the occasional splash of orange or yellow - and the beautiful red barberry bushes that are so common in these parts.

This lovely little park is tucked between two interstate highways and the Meramec River in southwest St. Louis County (MO).  It is underused since it was seriously damaged int he flooding of 1993.  All of the structures that existed before 1993, including a pool, several pavillions, lots of picnic tables, and barbecue grills, were all destroyed or damaged beyond repair and thus removed.  The park was rehabilitated by St. Louis County and is crisscrossed with paved, wood chip, and rock trails, including a rather rugged trail leading up to the Overlook above the Meramec River.  Now, the park is used mostly by dog walkers and the occasional picnic groups.  I'll be visiting it more often.

Wish I could make better advantage of these photos as Kris took them.  The spectacular colors and lush, serene paths don't really show up well.  You'll have to take my word for it!

Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It's from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Walking May Be As Effective As Meds

Great news in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper today.  A study (not the first) has demonstrated that walking may be as effective as medications in treating a variety of medical conditions, both physical and emotional.

Ah, hem.... I think I've written that before.  They could have saved themselves a bunch of federal grant money in funding the research simply by asking walkers what the benefits of walking are for them.

If you have fibromyalgia or arthritis, the gentle movements of walking aid in the lubrication of joints, warming and stretching tendons and muscles, and the release of nature's painkiller, serotonin.

If you suffer from back pain, knee pain, arm pain, etc, walking acts the way just described to benefit those conditions, often removing the need to take over the counter analgesics (painkillers) like Tylenol or prescription painkillers.

For the 'blues', SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and other mild depressive states, walking and other forms of physical activity are extremely helpful.  Again, the release of serotonin in the brain is triggered by the physical activity.  Whatever form of physical activity is enjoyable for the affected person, from bowling to dancing to walking to swimming to tennis, improves the positive outcome in these conditions, used alone or in conjunction with pharmaceuticals.  However, don't stop taking prescribed meds if you are on them without speaking to your doctor!!!

I am not a doctor.  I am not a nurse.  I am not an attorney.  But, I am a reasonably well informed adult with a brain and the ability to connect the dots in my own life.  For me, walking is energy.  Walking is good health.  Walking is social.  Walking is spiritual.  Walking is essential.

If you have doubts about any of this, you have nothing to lose - oh, and a great deal potentially to gain - by giving walking a chance.  If you have no serious physical impairments, get a good pair of shoes and walk at a comfortable pace for 15-20 minutes every day.

If you have been very sedentary, have physical limitations, or live in a place where you can't walk safely outside, strap on the most comfortable pair of shoes you own and walk in place in front of your television during your favorite TV shoe.

As I've written before, if you walk only during the commercials in a typical one hour TV shoe, at the end of the hour, you will have walked in excess of 20 minutes.

Start slow so you don't strain muscles or over exert yourself.  But, walk!  Walk for 2 minutes, for 5 minutes, for 35 minutes.  Start with the time you have or the time you can remain active without becoming short of breath.  To boost your work out, sing along to the radio or talk to a friend.  That increases the aerobic part of the exercise.  If walking is not for you - do what is for you!  Bowl, shoot hoops, hit a tennis ball against the garage door, throw a tennis ball at the front stairs, find a pool and swim, skate, bike (real or stationary), even use one of those $25 little bike pedal devices you can buy at any Walgreen's.

Move your body and you'll begin to feel better.  Move your body and you'll decrease your pain and improve your mood.  Just move!  

*************************** Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It's from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Walking In The Fall

I just returned from walking three miles on a glorious, sunny, Autumn morning!  This is such a great way to start a day.  While I'm not a 'morning person', I consider a walk starting between 9 and 11 AM to be a morning walk.  That starts my real day.

I am energized by walking earlier in the day.  Many days, I have no opportunity to get in my walk earlier than about 5 PM.  I'll take it whenever I can get it - but earlier is better.  And, sunshine is really fantastic!  Those Winter evenings when the sun is down by 5 PM are close to depressing for me.

But, that's when there are other options.  The gym, the mall, or walking in my own family room, right there in front of the TV.

Other easy ways to 'sneak in' some extra steps or pump up your workout will not be news to you, but may be something you want to rethink and mindfully incorporate into your schedule.  Take the stairs.  Park farther away from the door.  Pick up your pace a little.  Wear a backpack or carry hand weights to increase the benefit of your workout.  (A note of caution about this last one.  If you have arthritis, be sure to ask your doctor before adding weight to your routine as it can place more stress on your joints.) Walk on your break time rather than get a snack.  Walk your kid to school rather than put the little one on the school bus.  I'm sure there are other 'tricks' that don't come to mind right now.

One way or another, I am determined to get in at least 20 minutes of walking (or dancing) a day.   I bet you can too!

*************************** Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It's from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Bluff View Pay Off

Last week, the weather was absolutely perfect for lots of outdoors walking.  My friend, Kris and I have discovered some trails not far from home that we really enjoy.  A couple weeks ago, on our first trip to this particular area, we ended up walking a 5 mile loop.  We both slept very well that night!

But, on that trek, we spoke several times with a guy on a bike who was friendly and informed  us of the Bluff View Trail.  We decided that we'd give that trail a shot on a future date.  The cyclist indicated that the trip was not too long.

So, off we went on the Bluff View Trail.  It's not too long - but plenty long enough for us and fairly rugged, mostly uphill, and fairly challenging.  We judged that it was about 2 miles to the top of the bluff.  Then, that, of course meant, that it was another 2 miles down!  Normally, 4 miles is not an uncomfortable distance for us.  This 5 mile trek was pretty challenging.

But, there was a great pay off at the top of the trail  First, there was the long distance view of the beautiful country that is just 25 miles from the St. Louis Arch.   These are rolling hills, covered with all kinds of trees that are just beginning to show their Fall colors.  There are a few farms in this area, one under irrigation that we saw.  There was also a new golf course that is on grounds of a former estate owned by the family that owned and operated the local Pevely Milk Company.  Their estate was at the end of a 4 or 5 mile road that dead ended at the Meramec Road.  That family and its estate no longer dwell there.  Instead, there are high end subdivisions and 2 country clubs that are surrounded by the Tyson Research Facility ( heavily wooded acreage that is owned by Washington University), Lone Elk Park ( a county park where elk, deer, and other wildlife roam freely) and the Meramec River.

So, the view is amazing!  At the crest of the climb, we sat for a bit and drank some water while we took in the view.  Then, we each took a turn on the swing.  Can you see the swing in the picture?  Kinda hard to see it, but it's wide enough for a couple to snuggle on.  It was a refreshing, head spinning experience to push off on the seat and swing out over the rim of the bluff.  I love swings, and this one was such a reward for that rather difficult climb.

I bet you have a similar hidden treasure near your home where you could walk and enjoy not only the trek but also the spectacular view.  We'll climb this one again.  As with a lot of trails in heavily wooded areas, most of the trek is in the shade which is really helpful when you're tromping uphill for an hour.  Walking on a flat paved track is much easier and can be accomplished in a much shorter time.  But, we figured it took us about 1.5 hours to make the round trip.  Well worth it.

Don't take on a trail like this one as your first attempt at trekking outside.  But, build your endurance to be able to take on a challenge like this one.  One step at a time, a few minutes a day, and before you realize it, you can head up a country trail without being concerned with how long it will take you.  You'll be ready for the challenge!

Note:  Thanks to Kris for taking these pictures of the land surrounding the Bluff View Trail.

*************************** Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It's from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.