Confessions of a Walkaholic

Hello, my name is Wendy and I’m a “walkaholic.”  The first step toward recovery is admitting that you have a problem. However, being addicted to walking doesn’t seem like an unhealthy issue requiring a steps program. Seriously though, walking is a really easy and healthy way to exercise. It’s low-impact, easy on your joints and muscles, making it hard to injure yourself, right? Wrong. You can get hurt while walking. I learned this lesson the hard way.

I typically walk on my treadmill daily. Recently, I heard a strange noise while on my machine and I discovered that I had worn out a part on the treadmill. I replaced it and commenced with my walking routine– thinking everything would return to normal. Apparently, fixing the machine had changed my pacing. I increased the speed and incline to compensate for the change and tried to find a comfortable pace. Unfortunately, I set the incline too high and the speed too fast. I felt pain in my hip and instead of stopping, I kept walking, believing it would work itself out. Then, when I got off the machine, I could hardly put weight on my right leg. I had injured myself.

I had never hurt myself like that before, and after failed attempts at trying to diagnose my injury online, I went to a specialist. I suffered a hip adductor strain after an x-ray ruled out a stress fracture. Stubbornly, I kept trying to use my treadmill despite my high pain level. I refused to listen to my body and I didn’t rest as instructed. I knew that I needed to completely stay off the treadmill until the pain subsided and I was well again, but my treadmill was calling to me. I needed to be walking.

Avoiding my treadmill was especially difficult. Walking is really important to me. I walk daily as a way to clear my head, relieve stress, and prepare for the day. I finally accepted that I needed to rest the injury in order to get back to walking the way I wanted to, but it was exceptionally hard. Much to my chagrin, I stayed off the treadmill for a couple of weeks and tapped into my collection of fitness DVD’s, which are very low-impact.

These past weeks have taught me a valuable lesson about the consequences of ignoring my body’s cues and the painful effects of body strain. I am much better at listening to my body, and if something hurts, I stop doing it right away. I’m also taking the time to stretch both before and after walking (especially afterward, when the muscles are warm). I’m careful not to make sudden changes while walking either. Quick, jarring movements can easily cause muscle strain.

Now that I’ve admitted to my walking addiction and how it hurt me, I’m committed to walking smarter. I keep on a much slower and easier pace than before and pay attention to my body.

Here are some of the things I’ve done to help in my pursuit of a more conscious and careful walking routine.

  • Wear proper footwear. I made the mistake of wearing athletic shoes a half-size larger than my actual foot size. I had thought it would be better to have extra room in the toe area. Instead, I got blisters on the back of my heels.  So, I had my feet measured and bought a pair of properly fitting shoes. Talk about a difference! Also, you know the extra shoelace holes at the top of the shoe near the ankle? I never laced those before.  These days, I do lace them up. Now, I have a more secure fit with my shoe; less sliding around means less friction, which, in turn, means no blistering! I also found some really cool toe-socks to help with blistering.
  • Listen to my body. If something hurts, stop doing the exercise! Rest it, get it checked out, and with an expert’s direction, ease back into your activity.
  • Stretch. Proper stretching reduces injury. Plus, it feels good!
  • Be aware of treadmill safety tips

For those of you who don’t want to walk outside (or on a treadmill) but want to get moving, try Leslie Sansone on DVD. As always, you should consult your primary care physician before attempting any kind of exercise program. Happy and safe walking everyone!

Wendy Camassar is an Instruction and Research Specialist at the Central Branch of the Howard County Library System.  Prior to joining HCLS, she worked as a freelance makeup artist for several years.  She enjoys hiking with her family, exercising, reading, and organic foods and skin care products.