Walking is my thing. I love it. I used to be a runner, but I decided a few years ago that my body needed something different. I switched to heavy weight lifting, plus walking. That evolved into becoming a personal trainer. After meeting so many clients with chronic pain, I searched to find ways to help them. I discovered Katy Bowman’s work and my life was forever altered.
After 2+ years of studying, I’m now a Nutritious Movement™ certified Restorative Exercise Specialist. I often joke that I’m the only personal trainer that teaches clients “how to walk more”. Of course that’s not the only thing I teach, but it starts there.
Early in 2017, I made the decision to walk as much as I could every day. The idea sprang from a comment made by Katy Bowman at an epic week-long training in Sequim, WA. She conveyed to my group of students that to be a good movement teacher, one must do a LOT of movement. You learn how to move, when you actually move. This resonated with me, and I started walking every morning. I absolutely loved it. It became my meditation, my education (through podcasts), and my healthy obsession. I starting fantasizing about walking 48 miles for my 48th Birthday. Could I do it? What would I learn from doing it?
My first long training walk was 20 miles, in July. Although I had run marathons, this was the longest I had gone in years. I felt accomplished, and I kept walking every day. I was very consistent. I was averaging 23K steps a day. I finally made the decision to go for my goal of 48 miles in November.
In October I walked 20 miles on a Saturday, followed by 10 miles on a Sunday. That was my test to see if I could do a back-to-back feat. It was no problem. I recovered just fine the second day. The miles almost didn’t matter. I just had to have the time to do it. And having time was a challenge for me. My children have high needs and the only consistent time I can pull away is 5:30AM. I kept at it with my eye on the prize.
On Saturday Nov 18th, the weather forecast was great so I set out to walk 24 miles, and I planned to repeat 24 miles on Sunday. Two days totaling 48 Miles. I was so nervous, which cracked me up! It was all self-imposed. I got started at 5AM with two of my dog clients. We walked 2 miles and then I dropped them at home. I grabbed my gear to walk 6 more miles before meeting Veronica. We walked and talked for 12 miles together. It was glorious. The sun was out! We saw bald eagles, and lots of birds flying south for the winter.
I felt great! My kids were doing fine at home with my husband, so I decided to keep going as long as I could. After a marathon (26 miles), I met my friend Emily for 12 miles. I felt fatigued but NO PAIN! There were big hills and they didn’t hurt. In fact, they felt satisfying. I was quite suprised at what my body could do. I finished the WHOLE 48 miles in one day – in 12 hours. My kids did the last mile with me. They were proud of me and I was proud too! I reached my goal. I had no pain. Yay Restorative Exercise! All of my hard work paid off. What a tremendous gift I received. The ability to use all of my body, prove to myself that I’m stronger than I knew, and share that experience with my friends and family.
And now I share with you some of my strategy in case you wanted to try a birthday feat of your own.
5 Months of Training:
- Walking Plan – Just like I tell my personal training clients, consistency was key. I made it a habit to walk every day, many times twice a day. Unlike my marathon running days, my training plan was less formal and I normally decided how far to go when I stepped out the door. Yes, I tried to go extra long on the weekend and it was a gradual build up, but normally I did what I felt like. In the early morning, this ranged from 3 miles to 6 or 7. If I walked shorter in the AM, I might try to fit in 2 to 10 miles in the afternoon. I had to constantly work around my kids’ schedule, and I became a master at fitting in extra steps at a moment’s notice. Having a dog walking business helped a lot in this area. It was my pleasure to take them all on walks with me. I was happy to walk their pace and it gave me variety. I also tried to do hills on every walk, and I didn’t try to stick to any sort of pace. Over time, I developed a rhythm for all my regular routes. I didn’t put parameters on the speed, it was cool to feel it happen naturally. I knew that I was less winded going up hills, and my pace got faster over time.
- Healthy Feet – I knew my feet were critical to finishing the 48 miles. If I developed any pain, it could derail the whole effort. I pulled out all of my knowledge from being a Healthy Foot Practitioner™. I mobilized and challenged my feet intentionally, for 5 months. I walked barefoot on many different textures all summer. I used a Yoga Tune Up Ball to massage my feet every day. I also nursed some plantar fasciitis pain and was able to heal it in time, which brings me to my shoes…
- Altra Shoes – Because most of my walking is on sidewalks, I invested in a pair of Altras. Specifically Men’s Torin’s. The women’s are too narrow for my feet. The extra cushion from my Altras allowed me to walk long on hard surfaces without feeling pain. Altra shoes have no heel rise, which is something I look for in all my shoes. It took a little while to get used to the feeling of walking on marshmallows, but I definitely needed that to keep my feet pain-free on my long walks.
- Tracking – It’s pretty cool that I can estimate distance really well now. I feel more connected to my neighborhood from so much exposure on my walks. I know exactly how far things are from my house. I primarily used my Fitbit to estimate miles. I didn’t use a mapping app on my phone to measure it, except on my 20 mile walks. I based things on time and steps.
- Corrective Exercise – I learned over time what areas of my body were in need of more strength or movement as my miles increased. I was able to use my knowledge as a Nutritious Movement™ certified Restorative Exercise Specialist to target my weaknesses or areas that were having pain. For example, after my first 20 miler, my lateral hips were really sore. So I started doing more monster walking with a band, pelvic lists and calf stretching. My shoulders tend to have a variety of problems, and when I carried a backpack I had a flare of some chronic pain. I quickly focused on my correctives to alleviate it. I enjoyed this process as it gave a context for my daily movement practice in my studio, and I was definitely learning a lot about myself.
- Podcasts – I have been asked how I can walk so long and not get bored. The answer is – podcasts. I have a lot of podcasts I listen to regularly on a variety of topics. They keep me informed and provide a lot of education. Podcasts have changed my life. It was my portal into Nutritious Movement and a whole bunch of other things. I get excited to walk out my door at 5:30AM with some new episodes ready to go on my iPhone.
The BIG 48 Mile Walk Strategy:
- Water – I drank LOTS of water. I carried it with me, and also stopped at fountains to refill. I added these electrolytes to it. This was so important. Especially because I eat a ketogenic diet, I need extra salt, potassium, and magnesium. In fact, I did suffer the next morning as a result of my electrolytes being out of balance. I should have had more during my walk. The next morning I almost passed out when I woke up, and I ended up on the floor of the bathroom asking my 11 year old to bring me the SALT! Admittedly, this was my only mistake. The last 10 miles were fairly dry and I should have refueled immediately when I got home.
- No Limits – I didn’t limit myself to one way of accomplishing 48 miles. I left the option open to keep going. I knew that getting up on a second day would be mentally harder for me than doing it all in one long session. I tested the waters with some back-to-back long walks leading up to it.
- Hills Were My Friend – I learned this in my marathon running days, but hills gave my body a break. I need variety on long walks or some muscles will take a specific beating vs. my whole body experiencing the work.
- Clothing – I wore the same type of clothing I trained in, and layered. I was so lucky that I didn’t have to deal with rain. In fact, I planned my 48 miles around the weather. I had 2 weekend options open in case we had classic PNW rain. Rain adds a big extra challenge, and it’s not as much fun. I prepared for chafing. I learned after doing my longer walks that I was succeptible to chafing in some areas. I dealt with that before I decided to go even longer. I had some anti-chafing lube ready in case I had a problem.
- Backpack – I ended up carrying a small backpack with my water, nuts and electrolytes. I was careful to make it very light so I didn’t get shoulder pain. I made sure to walk near lots of public places to get water or go potty. I purposefully chose this over going on a hiking trail to make sure I had access to anything I might need.
- Food – Ironically, I hardly ate during the 12 hours of exercise. Because I’m a “fat-burning keto machine”, I can go a long time without food. Especially during low level, sustained cardio. If you don’t eat a ketogenic diet, you will probably need to pack more food than I did. I ended up having macadamia nuts, almonds, and cheese. I didn’t really get hungry. I just ate to ensure lack of food wasn’t going to prevent me from finishing.
I hope you are inspired! Download your favorite podcasts and go for a Long Walk! Let me know how you do! Find me on Facebook at Coach Brooke.