By Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.
It's not easy being fit. If it were easy, everyone would be fit. And we all know that everyone is not fit. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, less than 10% of the American population exercises enough to make a difference in their fitness level. That means that 90% are not doing enough exercise to be fit.
What keeps us racewalking when most of the population is sleeping, watching TV, working too many hours, spending too much time on the Internet, or doing something else to waste away their precious exercise time? This month, I asked some of the racewalkers. Often I interview our National or Olympic Racewalkers to find out about their racewalking secrets to share with you. This time, I asked regular, recreational racewalkers. Some are locally or regionally competitive. Many are fitness racewalkers.
Vera Reinstein, from St. Pete Beach, is a 35-year old pharmacist and a mother of a three-year old and a five-year old. She says, "I racewalk because exercise is my Prozac." (Figures a pharmacist would equate exercise with a drug). "My exercise routine keeps me calm, relaxed, even tempered, overall much happier! Plus, it hopefully will help keep me healthy since my mom has diabetes and high blood pressure and my dad has high cholesterol. Racewalking helps me maintain my weight and allows me to keep up with my kids."
John Fredericks, from Orlando, is one of the fastest 54-year old racewalkers in the state of Florida. He racewalks a 5K in 9 and a half minutes a mile. Yet, John says that it's "health" that keeps him motivated to racewalk. John feels that racewalking helped save his life. "In 2000 I felt that my training was not going just right. I told the doctor that when I took a deep breath I felt something in my chest area. They took a scan and found cancer. After surgery, chemo treatment and radiation, I am now cancer-free, thanks to racewalking and knowing my own body. I will continue to racewalk to keep in shape."
Janet Heitler, 48, from Tampa, says what motivates her is simply having the ability to racewalk. Seven years ago Janet had a major blood clot in her left thigh - from her knee to her hip. "After it healed I had a tremendous ache all day and night long. I dreaded climbing up the three-story parking garage at the end of the business day. The doctor told me, “USE IT OR LOSE IT.” He explained that by babying it I was doing more harm than good. So, I took his advice and started with Avon Training for a 10K and then continued to do races. I wanted to go faster (so I could finish a bit closer to my running friends) and racewalking did the trick. I am not setting any world records -- but I am walking faster, and best of all -- my leg doesn't ache anymore."
Dottie Manley, age 65, an award winning racewalker from Largo, Florida also racewalks for the health benefits as well as "to stay trim." Dottie says she recently had her annual physical and takes no medication. Her doctor said, "Racewalking is better than any pill."
Sharon Summerall, age 44, of Brandon, Florida says that racewalking "sets the perfect tone for the rest of my day. On the days that I don't racewalk, I find that I don't have as much energy and I usually don't follow my eating plan like I should. The other thing that keeps me racewalking is my friend, Kay. I met her in the Intermediate Racewalking class and I now consider her a good friend."
"I know that every morning, Kay will be waiting for me at 5:30 AM. I look forward to our walks and our talks. Every morning, we solve the world's problems as well as our own. The time goes by so quickly, and before I know it, we have racewalked 4 or 5 miles! Kay and I keep a log of our miles and I do not like to fill in a zero under my mileage for the day."
"Some days I walk just to be able to fill in a number instead of a zero. Kay really motivates me because she lives 30 minutes away and makes the drive every morning. When I don't feel like getting out of bed, I think about how Kay is already in the car driving to meet me.
Claudia Graves, age 59, from Seminole, Florida says that to stay motivated, all she has to do is "look around at most others my age in the general population. Then I compare regular exercisers who are in their 80s and even 90s to others in their age group. The decision is a no-brainer that I'm going to keep racewalking."
Claudia adds, "Many years ago when I was getting divorced, I was really down and felt that life had little meaning and I was of little use. Then someone said, "If nothing else, you can always maintain your health and physical fitness and be a role model for other women your age. I have never forgotten those words and have made them an integral part of my life and motivation."
All good reasons to keep exercising. But, my favorite comes from Barbara Bryan who lives in Tampa. Although she won't tell us her age, she says that her "husband is 19 years younger and that's enough motivation to keep racewalking."