Turning Back the Clock: Bringing Back an Old Habit

I am in my 30s, as are many of my friends. It seems like a common experience that some of us feel nostalgic for our younger bodies. We would appreciate them so much more, we think (never mind that we hated our bodies back in high school too….). We wish for the energy we had when we were younger and could stay out late all the time.

Of course, getting a past version of ourselves back is impossible. Even putting aging aside, so many of our environmental conditions and habits have changed.  The hormonal climates of our bodies are different. We have different habits, different pressures, different responsibilities, different perspectives, and different values.

For myself, some habits and conditions have changed for better. Others for worse. So attempting to recreate my teenage health status would be pretty much impossible, and would not necessarily be desirable either. My mother rides her bicycle 100 – 150 miles per week, and loves it. She couldn’t do that in high school because she hadn’t trained for it. Similarly I can do some pretty awesome things that make me feel strong now, like squat, press, deadlift, snatch, clean and jerk. I couldn’t do that in high school – I didn’t even know what most of those things were. I like my strength better now, and the way my body feels. I also will take the wisdom that comes with life experience over the inexperience of high school, any day. I have more autonomy over how and with whom I spend my time,and over how I see myself and my body. All these things are great and I wouldn’t trade them to go back to my teenage body.

That said, sometimes I would like some of my teenage energy levels back.  Obviously I have no control over what my hormones do, or how many times my kid wakes up at night.  However, I look at some of my childhood/teenage habits, and one of them definitely jumps out at me as having drastically changed.

When I was a kid and a teenager I had a lot of walking built into my life.

I was not an athletic kid. I played no sports. I preferred art class and music class and pretty much any class to gym class. I did swimming as a kid, and some weight lifting on and off as a teenager.  But I had plenty of walking in my life:

  • Distance to elementary school (I walked to and from, 5 days per week):  0.3 miles
  • Distance to middle school: 1.3 miles (I walked home most days, sometimes carrying one or more instrument cases and a backpack)
  • Distance to high school: 1.4 miles (I walked home some days, carrying an instrument case and  a backpack)
  • Distance to parks where I hung out with friends: 1 mile or less (maybe once or twice per week?)
  • Distance from high school to the pizza place we sometimes went to for lunch: 0.5 miles
    Distance to drugstore where I would walk as a kid: 0.4 miles.  Probably walked at least once per week.
  • In high school, I often went for a walk with one of my parents. Probably at least twice a week. Probably a 1-3 miles.
  • In college, I didn’t own a car and walked everywhere I needed to go.
  • After college, I lived in a city without a car. The bus stop was two blocks away. The nearest grocery store was a quarter mile. There was some degree of walking involved, even when I took public transit.  I walked half a mile to the gym in the morning. I walked miles downtown at lunchtime. I walked to the grocery store, to the park, wherever I wanted to go.

As you can see, there was lots of walking built into my life (in case you were wondering, yes, I was fat).  Now, as a parent with a job and a car in a city that doesn’t have fantastic public transit and gets a lot of snow in the winter, it seems easier to just use the car sometimes. That’s not to say that parents living in my city can’t get more walking in – far from it! My friend Laura lives a couple blocks from me, and walks 6-12 miles per day most days! Pushing one or more children in a stroller! Walking to the grocery store, walking to preschool drop off, walking to the park, walking to the gym, walking to the library. Now, granted, her job is babysitting and she gets paid to cart kids around for some of those days, unlike me who has to drive to work and then cram all the errands in on days off. But the fact that I don’t have time to walk 6 miles a day doesn’t mean that I can’t walk 1 mile. Or 2 miles. Or even half a mile, if that’s what the day’s schedule allows.

As I’ve written previously, it took me a couple months to really get started on the walking habit. Then last week, I saw a story that got me really inspired, in an online group. I’m sharing the story here with the permission of the original poster, Andrea.

Today I want to share my story because I want to give some encouragement to those of you in a similar situation. I have always been “chunky.” Coincidentally, although most of my family is not only fit but on the lean muscular side, high blood pressure runs in our family. I have struggled with my blood pressure since my first pregnancy at age 24. At age 36 , during my fourth pregnancy, my blood pressure went up and never came down. I have been on various high blood pressure meds ever since. Over these past 12 years doctors have badgered me repeatedly to lose weight because that would magically lower my blood pressure. Last fall, almost a year ago, I went in for a check up and my blood pressure was 174/111. That’s deadly. My doctor told me I had six weeks to try to lose enough weight to get it down or he’d have to out me in dangerously strong doses of drugs.

He had recommended the South beach diet before and another doctor had me try the DASH diet. The DASH diet had been somewhat doable, but losing 20 pounds had not affected my blood pressure at all. So, I did what I have always done to handle stress, I started walking. But, this time, starting in December I really stuck with it. I walked every day, no matter how cold it was. I learned about Yaktrax for walking in ice and I joined online running groups to read tips and encouragement. I didn’t lose ANY weight. But my blood pressure started inching down.

Now, almost a year later, I have kept at it. I average 15-20 miles per week and usually get out 5-6 days, sometimes twice a day. Here’s the thing, I’ve stopped weighing myself. My blood pressure, which I monitor three times per day is now often around 107/60, ie, low normal. My balance has improved. I sleep better. I can keep up with other people when out and about. The whole idea that losing weight would magically cure me was untrue. Moving my body saved my life and gave me a life quality I could never imagine I would enjoy again. I am able to walk and move like I did in my 20s and 30s. My doctor? He doesn’t really comment much, just says my blood pressure is now “normal.” Whatever. Hope this encourages some of you. You don’t have to strong, or super fast, you just have to keep moving,

Wow! Are you inspired to take up regular walking? I am! I don’t have high blood pressure, but I have some other health numbers I’d like to improve. Making walking a regular part of my life again seems like a beneficial, enjoyable, and completely attainable habit to resurrect (unlike, say, fitting into the clothes I wore in high school). Let’s see what happens!


11 thoughts on “Turning Back the Clock: Bringing Back an Old Habit

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