Welcome to the second edition of “Walking with Jon.” Walking is one of the best exercises for people who are heavy. Research has shown that even short distances for a few minutes a few times per day can make a difference in improving metabolism, mobility and weight loss. For those reasons, and many more, walking is my main form of exercise, especially when I am at a heavier point in life, as I am now.
Research has also shown having a walking partner improves accountability and can result in better commitment to consistent exercise. It’s also nice to have someone to talk to along the way. I have found that when I have a walking partner, time and distance go by more quickly, and I’m often surprised at how many miles we clock together versus when I walk alone.
This is my friend Jim.
Jim and I met a couple years ago when we moved to Florida. He attends our church, and we share a common affinity for music. I like to joke that there’s even a chance we could be related, as his last name is the same as my mother’s maiden name. Never mind that it happens to be the 7th most popular last name in the U.S., shared by more than one million people! It’s also a common last name in our Mennonite denomination, as is Jim’s first name. In fact, we have three men in our church of about 100 that have the same name. We keep track of them by their wives, who all have different names. Thus, my friend Jim is also known as “Deb’s Jim.”
On this day, Jim called me up and said he needed to take his car in for servicing and wondered if I’d be interested in walking in a nearby trailer park. I was familiar with the trailer park he suggested, so I quickly said yes. While many trailer parks in Florida (and there are thousands of them here) have clever or creative names like “Nottingham Way” or “The Fountains at Palmer Pointe,” this park decided to keep it real but with a bit of bling. “Welcome to the Trailer Estates” the entrance sign happily reads.
Now, before you stop reading and wonder why we would want to walk in a trailer park, I’d encourage you to open your minds to why trailer parks are a great place to walk. First, many trailer parks have beautiful landscaping. At Trailer Estates, individual homeowners are responsible for their landscaping rather than it being maintained by an association. Thus, Jim and I saw many different flowering plants, bushes, trees (including mangoes!!) and the wildlife that accompanied them. It was a beautiful place to walk. Even the hoarders provided some visual interest. I saw an old VW Microbus buried under a pile of junk at one place and a person who chose to use marbles instead of grass for their yard. Quite interesting indeed.
Trailer parks often have streets that are narrower and designed for infrequent, slow moving vehicles, including the most popular vehicle in Florida – the golf cart. We felt a lot safer on the streets of the trailer park than we did on the sidewalk along the “NASCAR highway” that serves as the main north/south thoroughfare in our area.
Most trailer parks also have a well-established community. People know their neighbors and look out for each other. Jim and I had an opportunity to chat with several individuals as we made our way up and down the streets (all named for states in Trailer Estates). We found out that Trailer Estates was one of the first trailer parks in the region, opening in the late 1950’s. Residents owned their property (did not pay “lot rent”) and had access for a very low fee to a marina leading to Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Jim and I talked about lots of different things while we walked. Not only does this make time and distance go by more quickly, as I already mentioned, it’s also an opportunity to decompress and share thoughts, concerns, and problems with each other. Jim happens to be a licensed counselor, so I have the added bonus of a bit of free therapy when needed!
Jim and I walked 2.7 miles that warm and sunny afternoon. We may not have moved at a fast pace, but walking at any pace has benefits over sitting on the couch. I knew Nebraska Street was one of the last on the far side of the park, and I often thought about my many friends in Nebraska when I drove past it. It seemed like a good turnaround point for our walk that day.
I know it can be hard to think about consistent walking if you are 100 pounds or more overweight. But I encourage you to consider the following:
1. Something is better than nothing. Start out by walking to the end of your driveway or the end of your street – any short distance – and then keep doing it. I promise your body will eventually want to go farther.
2. Find a friend who can meet with you consistently to walk and talk. Both are beneficial – one physically and one mentally.
3. Don’t be afraid to walk in unique places! You never know who or what you might discover!
4. Commit to walking 4-5 days per week, and focus on consistency, not distance. Distance will increase gradually, but it’s the habit-forming consistency that is the hardest part for most of us.
Let me know your thoughts and ideas about walking in the comments section below! I’d love to hear from you about what has worked well (or not well) for you. Remember – one day, one step at a time – you CAN do this!