Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Walk therapy
November 7, 2018
I am not sure exactly when it began, but for at least the last five years, I have enjoyed spending time with a workout partner.
We first began meeting at a local gym for small group training classes, averaging three to four times a week for a 45-minute class. While we enjoyed the camaraderie, we found ourselves often being recognized — not for our effort or for our muscle tone — but for our non-stop chatter, as we did our best to socialize between reps. We dubbed ourselves "workout for life partners" and signed up for contests, outdoor summer classes and even tried a 5k or two.
At our peak we would finish our class and then go for a run — eventually working our way up to one mile of continuous running. A feat neither of us had accomplished on any previous fitness venture.
But on one of those 5k's, one of us took a tumble, resulting in a sprained ankle and nasty contusion to the knee. We at once regretted ignoring one friend who had warned us of the dangers of outdoor exercise. Our running careers ended abruptly.
Trying to stay motivated
We left our initial club and joined another, thinking we would trade in our weights for water. We both like to swim and decided we could do a few laps and then try our own version of water aerobics while talking our way up and down the lane.
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We soon found our time at the pool was compromised by sheer numbers of others wanting a stint in the pool as well. We became discouraged and pretty much stopped going. I did not do the actual math on my membership, but estimating my average cost per visit worked out to about $159 over the course of the 12-month obligation.
Eventually, we decided to just try walking together. The price was right, and we were free to talk at will.
We tried some local trails and walked through towns, parks and across creeks. We found too many required single file trekking, making conversation stilted. While the ever-changing scenery was pleasant, we decided to move on to the local high-school track which was an enjoyable way to walk and talk on a flat, measured surface.
We climbed stadium steps when we felt the need to push ourselves. Some days we would walk laps while recreational soccer teams practiced. Other times we watched the local football team run drills. Occasionally, we would happen upon a tournament or other competition, rendering the track off- limits. We would turn to a local coffee shop, enjoying a beverage and making the most of the situation.
Then, in September of 2017, we happened on a brilliant idea.
Instead of meeting up at various locations across the county, we decided to try walking on my street. My dear friend is an early riser and agreed to drive to my house. We would walk from my driveway to the end of my road, which is gated, continuing around the gate onto the adjoining road, lumbering up and down slopes until we come to an intersection. We stop at the stop sign, turn around and walk back.
The entire route is about the same distance as a 5k. We take our time — usually about an hour. Some days the minutes go by quickly, other times the hills seem steeper and the house, further away.
We have consistently met for as many as seven and as few as two, but we average closer to five mornings a week. We have walked in blazing sunshine, cool fog, torrential downpours and on slippery terrain. We have watched one season turn into another and another and another.
We have watched a house built from foundation to finish. We have watched houses go up for sale and have met new neighbors. We have watched loggers clear land and landscapers improve other parcels. We have experienced encounters with deer, squirrel, and all manner of birds of flight. And we have become waving acquaintances to early commuters and other walkers. Dogs love us.
Walking through life together
And each of these encounters has been wonderful, but the real benefit, far beyond our healthy hearts, maintenance of weight and strong muscles, is the gift of getting to know each other on the deepest, personal level. Because all along, we have become sounding boards, cheerleaders, advisors, and counselors to one another.
We have made each other laugh. We have let each other cry. We have celebrated our victories and mourned a loss or two. We rarely spend time in quiet reflection. We talk about our relationships with our partners. We talk about our kids. We talk about our work. We talk about our community. We talk about mutual friends. We talk about failed relationships. We talk about our government. We discuss our fears, our hopes and our visions.
Really, we talk. Really, talk. It's not a walk. It's therapy.
It has been a wonderful gift. At some point, we realized the by-product of exercise has been a lovely relationship. And we are proof, exercise truly is good for the heart.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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