I love to walk and struggle physically and emotionally when I can’t do this simple activity which makes me feel better about life. I started walking in 1998 and with the exceptions of a few health hiccups during the last 23 years, I’ve never stopped my walks or reaping the benefits from it. The length of my walk ebbs and flows depending on how my body’s doing (legs and feet/blisters).
I resemble an uncoordinated, inflatable advertising ballon fighting gale force winds when I walk. If I’m being up-front about it, I need to own that statement. The first 5 years I was in great shape and I was fast. For a couple of those years I dipped my toe into lighting a fire under my big butt and added a bit of jogging to my 5 mile repertoire after watching the local high school cross country team train across the street. But I hadn’t hit 50 yet, had no arthritis or bad joints causing me grief.
I’m deaf and suffer from Meniere’s which affects my balance, so I’m a weaver-walker. I have to closely monitor where each foot lands or I’m flat on the ground. Earbuds sound like tin cans so I wear humongous, expensive headphones which make me look like Mickey Mouse (our similarities don’t end there, I have his muscle-less arms, a big belly and butt but lack his cute little tail which could possibly help with my balance issues).
I love watching walkers and joggers, especially those who look like they’re floating-just above the ground. Gliding effortlessly, muscles flexed, head up, back straight, feet lightly pounding the pavement, arms bent at the elbow like a train on the track. A fine tuned machine. I look like every belt on this 1950 straight 6 has cracked, broke in half or slipped off it’s pulley under the hood. And fluids are leaking from every orifice. It’s not pretty.
I am a loner and an introvert, except when I walk. My inhibitions go out the freakin door. I sing loudly (off-tune, I blame my deafness) to whatever playlist is throbbing in my one semi-hearing ear. People honk and wave, but for the most part I don’t pay attention. I’m definitely in my own little world when I walk. I like it there.
After knee replacement in 2019, I was determined to start walking again ‘with purpose.’ But it took me a full year to recover (which is a major reason I’m putting off having my other knee done. After my cortisone shot this week, I told the surgeon I’d be happy to die with one new knee and one original).
After I got psyched to start walking I decided for safety’s sake I needed to use a walking stick (Hubs was instrumental in this decision). I was determined not to let this change in my routine be anything but a helpful tool to keep my feet moving, my face off the pavement and my capped teeth still in my mouth. Had to swallow my pride and accept this change in my aging process. My balance is shit and I’d better to deal with it.
I installed an app on my phone to track how many steps I walked a day and set that sucker at 10,000-at first. Lofty goal which dwindled down to 9,000, then 7,500 as my leg worsened. The tricky part was trying to keep my new knee limber (ha-my range of motion is awful) but not do any more damage to my missing cartilage, sore, worn-out left one. For the first time in my life, I became inexplicably obsessed with an app. It owned me.
For a period of time during 2020 (everybody’s favorite year) when my app posted I had not made my goal for the day and it was 7 pm, I’d scoot down the basement and do some laps, which is laughable. This would be cool in a normal house, but lapping my basement actually makes me dizzy it’s so small. But I was determined not to miss my daily goal and break my ongoing streak.
In the beginning of this miserable pandemic my life was not much different than before. I was home 90% of the time, cooking, reading, blogging, canning and making certain that little confetti parade showed up at the end of the day on my app, documenting another day’s goal had been reached and all was well in my little corner of the world.
But nothing ever stays the same and by Halloween my left leg was hurting. But I did not stop. (Curses on you app). Not my knee as much as the back of my leg from mid-thigh to mid-calf. If I stood for more than a few minutes, my leg would hardly bend when I sat down. When I sat longer than an hour, I could hardly get up and my leg felt like it wouldn’t support me. So there I’d stand, left leg bent enough not to buckle, waiting for my support system to kick in. It ached all night long. Every night.
My goal was 180 days without missing a day, but I missed it. We were leaving after Christmas for a couple months and I decided to rest my leg while we traveled. I love to drive, but there’s something about the way my leg rests on my Jeep seat that causes a lot of discomfort. It’s weird but the best remedy so far has been shoving a tennis ball under my thigh. Sounds like that should hurt like the devil but the ball relieves the pressure from whatever nerve/muscle/piriformus/hamstring/sciatica that’s causing my misery.
I made an appointment with my surgeon when we returned home to figure out the pain in the back of my leg. Walking in Alabama was sporadic but I tried most days. Sleeping with a pillow under my knee helped but it wasn’t getting any better. After some tests showed nothing wrong with my back, a round of physical therapy was ordered. Three times a week for 3 months and not much to show for it. My limp was worse.
As fate would have it, something medically unrelated ended up helping my gimpy leg. My ‘hand’ doctor sent me to a rheumatologist for a follow up to determine if my arthritis was age related or rheumatoid. After bloodwork he ordered a 5 day prescription of prednisone to see if it might help the swelling and inflammation and give my hands more flexibility and strength.
By day 3 on 20 mg. of prednisone I was able to wring out my dishcloth again and squeeze my fists tight. More surprising though, my limp disappeared and the pain in my leg was down from a 6 to a 2. I couldn’t believe how much better I felt when I wasn’t wincing in pain or limping. But the side effects from prednisone are no fun and not something to take long term unless absolutely necessary.
So I’m trying a different medication which takes 8 weeks to start working. To tide me over he prescribed a decreasing dosage of prednisone. While I’m not overjoyed with taking 2 new prescription medications, I gotta say I’m feeling really good and grateful something is working-finally.
I haven’t used my fabulous walking path since heading to Alabama at the end of 2020. Six months without walking after we left Gulf Shores. But the other day I dusted off my New Balance shoes, made sure my Bose headphones were charged, started my Wednesday playlist, grabbed my walking stick, sunglasses, lip balm, a Kleenex, mace and my knife and lumbered out the door with the speed of sloth.
But there’s no way I’m capable of 10,000 steps a day, and I’m trying not to fall into old habits by checking that damn app 10 times a day. I’ve lowered my expectations and humbly accept that 5,000 steps is more suitable until I have more stamina and see how I feel. Doesn’t mean I’m without a goal. Just 163 more days in a row and I’ll break my own record. Piece of cake…