Heartbreakingly, age, overused joints and ongoing knee issues meant that my soccer days were over earlier than anticipated and, consequently, my regular running routine also came to an abrupt end.
Then in 2015, a health scare forced me to rethink my health and wellbeing. Major surgery left me hospitalised for two weeks and I was faced with no option other than to rehabilitate through walking. It began as a slow process every morning in the hospital corridors and continued for the month I recuperated.
On returning back to work, I ensured that the routine continued despite the super early starts in the dark on cold winter mornings. My raincoat was a necessity and was finally getting some good use!
Initially my morning walks were about fitness, but I soon realised it was more than that; it allowed me to have clarity around family, mortality, personal relationships, travel plans, finances and career goals. It was my thinking time. I physically and mentally gained strength to move forward again.
As time went on, I discovered other benefits from this routine. I would mentally plan my day ahead and focus on tasks that I needed to achieve for work and home. I also rediscovered music and felt uplifted with tunes of my younger years and discovered new genres inspired by my son’s music mixing as a budding DJ. Other times I listened to podcasts that were motivational or intellectually stimulating.
The walking became an integral part of my life and helped my mental wellbeing. Although the usual local circuit involved some beautiful bush trails and river views, I was ready to explore other surroundings in my city. I joined a walking group and experienced many hidden bush trails, coastal walks and harbour walks around Sydney. Being close to nature calms me and gives me gratitude for the beautiful world we live in.
COVID-19 required me to work from home full-time. The challenges of this new way of living brought on feelings of isolation and I missed face-to-face interactions with others. The biggest challenge for me was trying to separate work from home. Maintaining a healthy headspace became challenging once more, and to add salt to the wound, the creeping kilograms were beginning to frustrate me.
This gave me more reason to ‘up my game’, so I extended my walks to an hour-and-a-half in the morning in a bid to shed the unwanted weight gain. Less commuting time allowed me to steal back hours in the day. Race Around Australia, an initiative of the NSW Premier’s Sporting Challenge, allowed me to compete in a virtual staff team to race around Australia. Given my competitive nature, this inspired me to walk both mornings and evenings and motivated my initially reluctant partner to develop a weekly fitness routine too.
I have recently incorporated more strenuous exercise from my home gym into my regime, but I am always planning new hikes to do. I continue to walk most evenings and on the weekends alone or with family and friends, allowing me the added bonus of sharing the experience with others.
Walking is more than getting from one place to another. It has helped me gain perspective, focus and gratitude. It will always be an important part of my life.
How do you care for your own health and wellbeing? Do you have a story you’d like to share with Wellbeing by Teacher? Here’s a handy guide on how to get started.