When I got home from the hospital, I had only been walking for a short distance – only 10-20 feet at a time. Dr. Childs told me that walking was one of the best ways to build up my strength, so that’s what I did. On the first day home, I decided to walk….all the way to the next door neighbor’s mailbox.
I never thought that 80 feet seemed that far, but that day, it was like a trans-continental journey. Even getting out of the front door was an adventure…because I had to take two steps down to the sidewalk without any hand rails to hold.
Even though I had ran a lot previously, just a few steps winded me. I had to take breaks every few feet as I got light-headed and took time to catch my breath. At this point, I was less concerned with being an Olympic athlete than I was just reaching my own mailbox without keeling over.
Once I reached my mailbox, I held on and rested, and eyed the neighbor’s mail box, 80 feet away. Now, that might not seem very far, but for me, it seemed like it was more than I could achieve. I told myself that, if I had to, I could call someone with my cell phone if I got tired, or if I felt like I couldn’t make it back to the house. I hated to think what would have happened if I fell down.
I set my gaze on the neighbor’s mailbox in the distance. Pushing off of my mailbox, I started slowly moving forward, step by step. I kept my eyes locked on it, and once I passed the halfway point, I knew I had to get there so I’d have something to push off and get me back home. It’s the same feeling I had when swimming laps in the pool. Having that wall to push off from made me feel a lot better about making it to the other side.
I was very unsteady, gently rocking back and forth and I kept taking steps. With only a few more to go, I knew I’d make it there….but wasn’t sure if I’d be making a final reach at the finish line. With one more lurch, I reached out, and held on to the neighbor’s mailbox as if it were my long-lost friend. Sweaty, and shaking, I was happy to make it unscathed.
Now…I had to turn around and do the same distance back home. Another 80 feet.
Each day, I’d do the mailbox relay. I got to know the neighbors really well. If I wasn’t out there, they’d remind me that I needed to get my steps in. I started with one, mailbox…then two. Each time, I’d try to go a little bit further.
Some days, I’d push a little too hard, and wonder if I was going to get back. I was pretty shaky by the time I got home. The reward was sitting in my leather recliner and watching television. I never was a big TV watcher, and I didn’t pick it up as a habit, but collapsing in a chair after that effort and turning on some mindless entertainment was a nice reward.
Each day, I’d try to get one more mailbox. One day, I got to my turn-around point…and thought – “I’m going all the way around the block.” I slowly walked to the corner, and instead of turning around, turned left……now there was no turning back.
There were a couple times I had to stop…but each step got me closer to the house, which I used to keep reminding myself that the distance was getting shorter and shorter. Besides, I didn’t have my phone with me. I’d have to ring a doorbell and ask for help, which was the last thing I wanted to do.
I got to the next corner, and turned left again. Now, it was just a short trek to my house. As I got closer, I gained a little bit of confidence. I also noticed the slightest change in grade or elevation. It might not seem like a hill, but even a single degree change was noticeable.
The last few yards towards the house were a slight (VERY slight) downhill grade. I picked up a minor bit of ‘speed’, and turned into the driveway. Feeling a bit stiff, I lumbered up the sidewalk, reached the front steps, turned around, sat down on the steps and cried.
I knew that I wasn’t ever going back to where I started.
Every day after that, I used it to push further. The block was 1/2 mile – I got up to 3/4 mile…then one day, I did a full mile. I moved up to 2 times around the block. The neighbors gave me encouragement by honking their horns as they drove by. Some neighbors honked at me when I was crossing the street. I couldn’t tell if they were offering support, or wanting me to get out of the way. I told myself that they were just being helpful.
I kept getting more confident, and further from home. I couldn’t do much more than a mile at one time, but I’d go out multiple times a day, and got my totals to 2 miles, 3 miles…and by December, I was up to walking 7 miles every day. Looking back, progress was slow, but it was always forward.
With all the walking, I was sleeping much better as well. I’d come in from the last walk of the day, hit the shower, and once I dried off and climbed into bed, I was out and sleeping faster than the time it took to get into bed.
I’d occasionally wake up sore from the previous day’s effort, but all in all, I felt good when getting out of bed in the morning. I wasn’t adding so much effort in any one day that I had a setback, but the little increases in distance added up over time.
The hardest part of doing all this walking wasn’t the walking itself. It was getting up, getting off the couch, and getting out the door. Once I was in motion, the rest of it felt much easier. The most difficult part was convincing myself that I was getting up NOW.