Many years ago there was a television programme on Channel 4 Called “Too Fat to Walk”. When I watched that programme I was filled with admiration and complete amazement at those who took part. It also planted a little seed of thought. Whatever my weight I could walk; and I don’t mean just round the corner. As a kid I loved sports but as I got older I felt that my weight stopped me from doing what I wanted.
Like many women in their early 50s I’m overweight – quite a lot overweight I admit it. I’ve tried every yoyo diet out there but this isn’t about diets – it’s about feeling good and enjoying something that I wanted to do whatever my BMI was, or my age.
About five years ago I was walking up a little hill near my home and I was shocked by how much I struggled. I thought ‘what has happened to me?’ I was even prepared to accept that this was my life from now on. However, I did decide that I would try to do a little bit more exercise and get a bit fitter. My idea of a little exercise was a little exercise, but then I had this absolutely crazy idea: totally off the scale crazy. At work they wanted to do the Three Peaks Challenge and I decided I wanted to as well. The first walk we did I thought I was dying going up Helvellyn. If it wasn’t for the fact that some of the younger walkers had been drinking heavily the night before and struggled as well then I think I would have given up. Except, I didn’t actually feel like giving up. I’ve always said that it might take me a long time but I’ll get there. I soon realised distance wasn’t the issue; it was the incline that was my problem as at the end of the walk I felt great. We did a lot of other training walks and I got to go up Snowdon and Scafell several times, getting fitter every time. The total elation I felt on reaching the top of those mountains was amazing. For the actual challenge I fell and hurt myself on Ben Nevis. Then a friend of my daughter, a young fit experienced walker died walking on Snowdon round about that time. That put me off walking for a while, plus by this time my kids had left home and I’m a single so I really wasn’t sure it was sensible to walk on my own.
One beautifully sunny Sunday I randomly decided to walk up Kinder Scout from Edale. It was on that day I realised you are very rarely on your own out walking. Not in the Peaks anyway. It was a lovely day but there were so many walkers up there that when it came to stopping for a lunch break I struggled to find a rock to perch on. From that point I stopped worrying about being on my own. I’m sensible and always text my son or daughter my route when I start and confirm with them again when I’m finished – It’s not about being careless.
A couple of years ago I started wanting to do one of the long distance walks. It’s taken me a few years to get to my current fitness but I finally feel I’m ready. It actually doesn’t matter if I do it or not; it’s the walking and the scenery I enjoy. It doesn’t matter how long I take. I’m still very overweight so on really steep hills I have to pace myself. I just tell myself I will walk so many steps and then I’ll stop to get my breathe back and I can look at the view. If I’m aiming to walk a long distance I very rarely look at the distance until i‘m nearer the end of the walk: I judge how far I can walk on how I’m feeling.
Occasionally I get the odd comment from other walkers who see my weight first and think I’m crazy. I might be but I love it. Plus as my doctor said to me this week ……keep on walking!