1MWW is excited to announce our interview series featuring walking women--women who walk on a regular basis. It's such a pleasure and privilege to be sharing their stories with you. Today's interview is with Walking Woman Cindy Warner.
Q: Cindy, what inspired you to start walking?
A: I grew up on a farm near a town of 1,500 people. I was outdoors much of the time as a child, and learned to love the natural world around me. Since my town was so small, I could get to pretty much everywhere on foot, and I loved the journey because it put me in touch with the community. Walking provides time to notice details and reflect on them. It provides closeness to friends seen going about their daily business. It was a very sweet way to grow up, but I didn’t realize how sweet until I moved to the city and began my adult life. As an adult living in apartments, I realized that something important was missing from my life, and one day, feeling frustrated and puzzled about what could be wrong, I decided to go outside and walk. THEN I understood! I understood that I would always need to walk if I wanted to be happy, if I wanted time to free my brain and refresh my spirit. I have always relied on walking as a cleansing, revitalizing activity.
Q: How long have you been walking?
A: I have been walking intentionally since I was 20, so not counting childhood, that’s 46 years.
Q: What changes (body/mind/spirit) have resulted from your walking?
A: I can only speculate on what my life would be like without the many years of walking, but I believe that my health would not be nearly as good if I had not walked so much.
As a 66-year-old, I have good muscle tone, healthy blood pressure, good circulation, and good skeletal and overall health. I do eat healthfully, get regular medical check-ups, try to get plenty of sleep, devote time to nurturing my relationships, and stimulate my mind and heart by being an active participant in my community and the world around me. I acknowledge the role of those factors in my health. Still, I know from experience that walking is unique in its ability to consistently calm and cheer me, clarify my thoughts, and give me a fresh perspective on the world.
Q: What happens if you don’t walk?
A: If I don’t walk, especially for several days in a row, I notice that I feel nervous and sometimes depressed. My brain feels “clogged.”
Q: What does walking mean to you?
A: Wow! How can I even begin to answer this question? In addition to the daily walks that I do for fun and health, I have solved thousands of problems while walking –all kind of dilemmas and thorny situations that we all encounter as part of daily life. One thing that stands out is a bad situation that my husband and I experienced with our home. We discovered that water draining from a housing development and into our backyard had done serious damage to our garage and basement, and had created a water flow problem that had to be addressed right away. This was one of those truly scary situations that could have resulted in the loss of our home. We walked, and walked, and walked. Every day, we walked a 3-mile route in our neighborhood; some days, we walked it multiple times. I remember so clearly the stress of those weeks when we were discovering the severity and nature of the problem, and looking for solutions. We would be inside working on it, and then periodically, we would look at each other and say, “Time for a walk.” We did survive, and our home survived, and for that we are very grateful. However, we had to accept the possibility that our home would not survive. During our walks, we made plans, sorted out possibilities, and – perhaps most importantly – we strengthened our bond as a couple and strengthened our bodies, which enabled us to think and function better. We realized that if we lost our home, we would still have our children and ourselves and our friends and so many other gifts. I believe that those hundreds of thousands of steps taken together saved us from despair, and enabled us to think clearly enough to achieve practical solutions and enjoy emotional health.
Something about the rhythmic motion is deeply calming when I feel agitated or preoccupied with a problem. It brings clarity of thought, and puts me in touch with thoughts and feelings of which I was not consciously aware. More often than not, it brings a smile to my face, or at least ameliorates a sour or frustrated state of mind.
Q: What are your biggest walking challenges/obstacles?
A: Weather sometimes makes walking difficult, but there is usually a way to work around it. I can walk indoors at the Y, or choose a time of day when the weather isn’t too bad. Also, I have learned that I don’t melt in the rain, and that with the proper clothing, a walk in the snow is invigorating and fun!
Work for many of us limits freedom to walk, but if we’re resourceful, we can find some way to walk at least a little during the workday. Many employers aren’t enlightened enough to understand how much better a workday can be if the workers get opportunities to move, so sometimes we have to be a little bit sneaky. I am lucky to work in an athletic facility, so I am encouraged to get up throughout the day and exercise. Previous jobs have more or less chained me to my desk for long periods, but I still found ways to sneak in exercise. I use stairwells to get my heart pumping if I have only a short time away from my desk. I have gone into empty conference rooms and jogged in place for five minutes, or done a couple of yoga poses to loosen up. A trip to the bathroom does not have to be just there and back. I take the scenic route.
Q: What’s your favorite place (or places) to walk?
A: I love walking nature trails, and am lucky to live close to the Warner Parks, and not too far from Radnor Lake. However, I usually walk wherever I am, whether it’s in neighborhoods near work or exploring the territory around me if I travel. If a park is nearby, that’s a great place to go because of the beauty of the plants, and the happiness of seeing people out enjoying themselves.
Q: What advice would you give to women who know they should be walking but aren’t—yet?
A: Discover reasons that keep you from walking. Is there a physical problem that can be fixed or improved with medical help? Would walking with a companion be more fun than walking alone? Lots of us walking addicts would welcome a chance to be a companion if it would make walking more attractive for you. If you don’t have a walking buddy, or relish the time alone, listen to a podcast or your favorite music. Walk on a treadmill at the Y and watch TV. It’s YOUR walk; make it just right for YOU.
How are your feet? Treat them like goddess feet all day – not just when you exercise. My husband ignored foot pain until it got so bad that he had to have surgeries. Foot problems will mess with the rest of your body, too. Shoes that give your toes room to wiggle and your soles plenty of comfort and support are essential. Invest in your feet. Have at least two pairs of great walking shoes to rotate. NEVER wear uncomfortable shoes or uncomfortable clothes.
Start small and make it fun. Several short walks can work wonders and build up endurance.
Cindy, you are a Walking Woman extraordinaire. Thank you so much for sharing your walking story!
Cindy Warner has called Nashville home since 1972 when she moved here from New York. She and her husband Byron have lived in the same home in West Belle Meade since 1978--the home where they raised their three children and put down deep roots into Nashville. Cindy works in Sport Science at Belmont University--perfect for her since colleagues and co-workers love health and exercise! Cindy says, "Byron and I both enjoy our jobs, enjoy puttering in our yard and flower beds at home, and love seeing Nashville grow into an exciting city."