We Belong to the Sisterhood of Shoes
Sisterhood of the Walking Shoe
Maybe you've noticed us, abloom along the suburban roadsides this spring. We were out before the snowbells, well ahead of the daffodils and the crocuses. We march along singly, in pairs, and in threesomes. We're safety-wrapped in Gore-Tex, feet sensibly shod, arms swinging. Most of us have been out here all year, in all weather. We've been layered in down, fleece, and wool; trussed into knee braces and sports bras; urged on by the digital tick of pedometers, iPods, and our own stubborn rhythms. We are the women who walk.
We do it to maintain our inner and outer landscapes. Briskly or in relaxedmoderato, we pace one another through the spiritual peaks and vales of middle age: bittersweet graduations, college entrance angst, pouty teen queens, empty nests, divorce, chemo jitters, and the straight-up blues, and somehow, we leave gales of laughter in our wake. Upright, up hills, we trudge to defy age, gravity, and bad LDL numbers. Up early, coffee mugs in hand, we call or e-mail walking buddies:Meet you at the stone wall by eight.
Together, we make the miles fly with talk: children, work, good books, politics, real estate, recipes. Men.
Ours is a revelatory avocation. We hear suburbia singing in all its seasons, in the rumble of school buses and thedit-dit-ditof backing landscapers' trucks, in migratory finch song and the frantic sub-pachysandra chatter of chipmunks telegraphing our approach. Out of the driver's seat and into the natural world, we inhale the attar of fallen wild roses beneath our Asics trainers.
Walk Off 2 Sizes in 6 Weeks
We have acquired our ambling habit in varied ways: boredom, doctors' prescriptives, DNA. I hail from a family of walkers. At eighty-six, my mother still heads out at first light whenever the darn arthritis will allow.
I first hit the roads as a runner. Walking did not become my default exercise mode until a swan dive off a ladder ten years ago. Intense physical therapy gave way to halting rehab walks. My main walking partner, Sali, was patient and encouraging when I'd have to stop, stretch, and moan. Better still, she is a registered nurse. Even now, when we haul ourselves up steep roads, I reassure myself: If I keel, she'll deal.
After three years I was able to run again but found I just didn't want to. There was no risk of reinjury with walking. And I was hooked on the roadside vignettes appreciated only at slowed pace.
Solo or in company, a good walk is a serene break. And now that this ancient and meditative form of exercise is finally earning its props from modern medicine, there are endless organized initiatives, from trekkers' clubs to charity walks.
Camaraderie is key. In some ways, our morning walk is a mobile update on an institution dating back to theMad Menera: the coffee klatch, minus the sticky buns and their empty calories. I am a strong and content solitary walker, but the more often I head out and the harsher the weather, the more insistent is my mantra:Gimme my girls.
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Some of us maintain a valued set of walking partners for different seasons and reasons. For slow-paced strolls by the beach, I call Ellen. Nancy, who has seen two teenage girls safely through college, can help me walk off the bursts of contempt emitted by our otherwise darling eighteen-year-old. Sali, my stalwart for several years, could justifiably bill me the going rate of any top-tier analyst.
And then there is the most committed walker I know. For the past decade, Sue, a writer, has been padding along the orderly, well-lit sidewalks near her home in New Rochelle, NY. Sometimes she drives east to join me for a good workout on our winding, hilly Connecticut roads. Recalling Sue's days as a manic gym-goer, I asked her what got her out into the green. "A natural aversion to pain," she said. "Before I started walking, I embodied a perfect history of the exercise trends since the eighties. I did all the hot aerobic studios. Then I did step classes. Lots of step classes."
A convert to walking, Sue found it an effective stress-reducer. "Healthier and longer lasting than pills," she concluded, "and a lot cheaper than a shrink."
Amen, sister. I know how much I need these walks and always will. I still bolt through early chores to meet Sali by 7:10. Sometimes, as we end a morning's trek, we are sweating like WWE wrestlers; some days it is so cold that we can no longer feel our thighs. We reach the finish line, having vented the outrages of the past week and arrayed the potential stresses of the day to come. Usually, we are laughing. And as we part, one of us intones some version of the walker's simple grace: Thanks. I'm glad we did that.
Video: Walking In Their Shoes!: "Red Shoe Salute!"
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