How's that for "reinvention?" Actually, I'm much too
uncoordinated to dance. I just love the great quote. I've used it
previously but it really fits this series of entries about adapting to
changing circumstances and carrying on with new or modified goals.
I've already discovered, for example, that there are some real
advantages to walking that running doesn't afford. Whudda thunk?
A bit of humor along the Trail in VT on Day 109
[Note: all but two photos in this entry are from our
Appalachian Trail Adventure Run/Hike in 2005. You'll see why I featured
COMING FULL CIRCLE ATHLETICALLY
I have lots of time to think now when I'm "just walking" and don't
have to worry as much about foot plant, breathing, drinking, and other
things that occupied my mind when I was running and had to worry about
One of my insights on a recent walk is the realization that I've pretty much come full circle with the walking-running continuum
in my life.
My first thirty years I did quite a lot of walking, hiking, cycling,
swimming, tennis, golfing, and other active sports for fun. I didn't think much about the fitness
angle; I'd always been active and I just continued to be active.
That's who I was and will always be.
Bright fall berries in NH on Day 116
Friends at work who were already runners influenced my decision to start running. That, and
"suddenly" gaining weight in my late twenties. I needed an
effective way to lose it. I'd always been a String
Bean; I felt fat with the extra 20 pounds I added as I focused more
on my career than on aerobic exercise.
Out with the daily milkshakes, in
with my new running routine and healthier eating habits. The pounds melted away
in a few months and I felt the best
I'd ever felt in my life -- not just physically, but in every way
Running will do that if you give it enough time to become a habit.
Fence line in NC on Day 25
outlined the various running stages I
went through during my Second Third. I also did a fair amount of
cross-training for variety and to gain strength in other parts of my
body that weren't used as much in running: walking, hiking,
cycling, weight training, yoga, pool running, cross-country skiing,
snowshoeing, various cardio machines, etc.
Now I'm back to walking as my main aerobic exercise in my Next Third,
but with more purpose and awareness than I had in my earlier years. My
life literally depends even more on it now than it did when I was
younger. It's a slippery
slope downhill in your 60s and 70s if
you don't maintain enough exercise and strength training.
If you don't believe me, you will after reading the men's or women's
version of Younger Next Year:
My athletic goal is to remain fit and happy in my senior years.
There isn't much point in living to 100 if I'm not
healthy enough to enjoy it!
I know myself well
enough to know this pursuit must involve as much aerobic physical activity
There are several reasonable options for
someone like me who has virtually no knee cartilage left. They include
moderate (not ultra-distance) amounts of walking, hiking, road cycling,
mountain biking, swimming, pool running, and cross-country
Three insects take a nectar break on a
flower in VA, Day 43
I also have indoor options using cardio equipment like
elliptical machines, but those are at the bottom of my list of
Fun Things to Do to Stay Fit.
I will also continue to do yoga and other strength/flexibility
training. Those activities are important as we age, too.
Although I've run my last training run or race of any distance, I have not run my
last step yet.
> GASP! < Don't tell my orthopedist!
That shouldn't surprise anyone. I've reached the acceptance phase but I'm not
totally incapacitated yet. Heck, I still plan to hike up a few more
mountains, too, as long as the trails aren't too steep coming back down.
Details of colorful quartz rocks
in NH, Day 115
Pretty layers of rocks in VA, Day 44; lichens
contributed to the color.
The purpose of the miniscule amount of running I'm still doing is not to produce endorphins,
get farther faster, or continue to call myself a runner. It's an
attempt to stay fit with short bursts of more intense activity than just
walking can produce.
On some of my walks that include moderate hills I still run a few up
hill sections to get my heart rate higher than I can manage otherwise.
All the short segments add up to only about one mile per week, sometimes
less. Nothing epic. Maybe that's not even enough to produce the
effect I want, but I figure it's better than nothing.
Balancing rocks in VA, Day
There are other ways to increase my heart rate, like walking up a steep slant on the treadmill, but that's not
nearly as much fun to me as being outside on a trail. I can go uphill all day
without feeling pain in my knees. Coming back down is the problem.
even walking/hiking up a mountain won't work unless there's a way to
ride back down!
More unusual rock striations: the Highway to
Heaven? NH, Day 115
I've reduced my mileage by foot from ~ 30-50 miles a week to ~ 20-35 a week. All but about a mile of it is walking, sometimes fast and
sometimes at a more leisurely pace. Most of it is on forgiving dirt trails that
are either smooth or not very hilly, rocky, or rooty.
For a klutz like me, this is a much
more sensible way to enjoy trails than running! With less momentum, if I
stub my toe I'm much less likely now to fall down and get hurt. It's
also nice to leave the ASO ankle supports at home; I rarely need
them now for stability.
After walking and hiking, my next favorite aerobic activity is cycling. I'm riding Jim's mountain bike and my Terry road bike several times a
week. The longest I've gone recently is ten miles but I'll gradually increase
the distance as my cycling muscles get stronger and the weather improves (even
southern Texas has some lousy winter weather).
This is the first trip we've brought the Terry bike along, knowing there would be
more opportunities this winter to ride on paved roads than where we go in the
It still fits me
perfectly; before I got it about ten years ago, I had a professional
"Fit Kit" done to see which make and model bike would fit me best. The Terry
Isis won. My knees never hurt when I ride it, even uphill. On the other hand,
as soon as I get on Jim's bike, my knees start hurting. One of these days I'll
get my own trail bike that fits me. Carrying three bikes may be a big hassle,
It's not as easy to spot little critters
on a bike. (Salamander in NC, Day 24)
On our winter trips I'm also able to continue doing weight workouts at local
YMCAs and military fitness centers every two or three days. It's much harder to
find free fitness centers I can use in the summer, particularly in Silverton
and Leadville, CO. I really appreciate
the generous YMCA "Away Program" which lets me use other Ys for free,
up to a dozen times a month in some locations. I mostly use the weight
machines, although indoor cardio equipment and pools are also available if I
want to use them.
I also do some free weights in the camper to maintain the strength
in my shoulders since I had rotator cuff problems a year ago, as well as yoga
and other whole-body strengthening/stretching exercises.
Not so well camouflaged that I couldn't
spot him . . . frog in MA on Day 105
I average a couple hours of physical activity a day, often more. Just
because I'm not running doesn't mean I'm turning into a slug!
SMELLING THE ROSES
I mentioned earlier in this entry that I've discovered some
advantages to walking vs. running. Here's another example.
I've always had the ability to notice quite a bit of my
surroundings on trail runs, even while keeping an eye on the
ground to avoid falling. I frequently would stop dead in my
tracks to take a picture of a gorgeous view or a tiny flower
beside the trail, to listen more closely to the call of a bird,
or to seek the source of a delightful fragrance --
Not real fragrant, but certainly pretty:
laurels in bloom in VA on Day 56
I am in my element out in nature, the more remote the better.
Being attentive to my surroundings has many benefits besides
I was almost hyper-aware of everything around me on my AT
Adventure Run in 2005. It was all so new and exciting!
In retrospect, I'm glad I wasn't able to
do as much running as I'd intended because I saw so much more by
going more slowly. All of the photos in this entry are ones I
took during that journey of discovery, from broad vistas that
made me suck in my breath because of their grandeur . . .
Day 14 in the Smokies in NC/TN
Day 118 on Franconia Ridge in NH
. . . to minute details I might have missed if I'd been
Lots of different things catch my eye along the trail,
especially if they are pretty, colorful, artfully arranged,
unusual, or humorous: flower details, fungi, moss and
lichens, ferns, leaves, tree bark, patterns in rocks, insects
and other small creatures, little vignettes in nature, unusual
objects like memorials to loved ones -- things both
ordinary and unique.
Small token at the gravesite of Nick
Grindstaff. NC, Day 29
How many of these things in this entry do you think the men and women going
after AT speed records saw??
Now that I'm forced to walk instead of run, I'm discovering even
more interesting things to see, hear, and smell. It's
old cliché of "smelling the
roses" as we go through life.
Wild roses in VA, Day 56
I have gained a more heightened sense of awareness simply by
literally slowing down my pace and paying even closer attention to the
natural world around me.
Without knowing the term until
recently, I've been practicing my own version of "mindful
awareness" much of my life.
I brought some old magazines
along on this trip to read again before recycling. I remembered
reading one of the articles a while back but it
didn't strike the same ah-ha! chord with me then as now. It's
interesting how something like that can suddenly become relevant
Always a sucker for unusual fungi:
VA, Day 58, above;
ME, Day 147, below; NH, Day
115, second below
There is a good description of
mindful awareness by Deep Survival author Laurence Gonzales
at the end of an article he wrote describing how
the practice can
alter our sensory perceptions to save us during an emergency.
entitled "Altered States,"
was in the September, 2008 issue of National Geographic
Adventure magazine, p. 26:
"As we grow older, especially in an environment that is
contrived to be (or seem) safe, there is less novelty. More and
more of the world becomes interpreted and categorized and falls
into the background. Time seems to speed up. As people age, the
years seem to fly by, partly because there isn't a lot that's
One of the tricks of mindful awareness, the sort of awareness
that can help you make correct decisions and protect you from
harm, is that you can make everything new again. You slow down,
examine things more closely, try to appreciate every facet of
what's around you. It's what Zen practitioners refer to as
It's also why we go to new places, why we seek out novelty
and excitement. When you go to the wilderness or an exotic
land, what you're implicitly saying is: Surprise me. Seeking
novelty and surprise, doing what you're not used to doing, is a
prescription for triggering that ancient perceptual richness
that helps us to live more fully."
Red leaves in June?? VA, Day 44
As hard as it's been for me to give up running, it's obvious
that there are plenty of other things that can continue to
enrich the rest of my life. Morphing from running to walking is my first step
athletically to "make everything new again."
I just need to keep my mind as open as my five senses and
convince myself it's even more fun than running used to be!
time for a new bucket list of adventures!
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil