After writing this column for a couple of years, I still feel the tension between knowing what I need to do for my health—and simply not doing it way too much of the time. I have a few strategies for those times when I feel down and unmotivated. One of them is to look for fun activities that I can join.
This past weekend, my daughter and I joined a group organized by a medical student who is currently working as an intern at First Choice Medical Center in Edgewood. Shana Drake-Lavelle is an energetic young woman who wants to encourage people to “fight the sitting disease,” and did something about it. The idea was to walk your dog—or for those like me who don’t have one—to walk a dog from Edgewood’s animal shelter.
This is my favorite kind of thing to do. It’s fun to get together with other people. Dogs from the shelter need human contact, and socialization with other dogs. It makes them happier, saner dogs and easier to adopt out and I get exercise at the same time. Win-win! I love it. My daughter has a dog, so she brought Fisher and off we went.
The group met at the soccer field in Edgewood. The idea was to walk on trails on Section 16, across the Bachelor Draw and in the undeveloped area between the soccer field and First Choice. A group of about a dozen people and about half as many dogs met for the walk.
That group included many medical students, colleagues of Shana, along with Dr. Sava of First Choice, who brought his Chihuahua.
Dr. Sava talked about something called a “prescription trail.” The idea there is that if a doctor tells a patient to get more exercise, it has less impact than if a doctor “writes a prescription” for walking. Dr. Sava said that the combination of that written instruction with a readily accessible trail to walk on really increases the number of people who do it. Common sense, right?
First Choice plans to develop some of these trails in the area we were walking Saturday, in cooperation with the town of Edgewood. As it was, the “trail” we were on was of the sort I like, meaning barely visible, littered with prickly pear and cholla, with powdery soft dirt which felt great to my feet. But I expect most folks would prefer something a little more developed, and both Dr. Sava and Shana said that’s the idea. The prescription trails are meant to be short, like half a mile to a mile, with quick loops and fairly easy terrain that just about anyone can navigate. Ideally, a patient could leave First Choice with a prescription to walk, and access a trail from the parking lot.
A second walk is planned for next Monday, April 16—this time starting from the Equestrian Center near Wildlife West in Edgewood at 5:30 p.m.
It’s easier to get motivated if I’m going for a walk with my daughter and her dog than to do any kind of exercise by myself, and it’s more fun, too. As the weather warms up (however fitfully) I’m planning ahead for some fun hikes, swimming, basketball and other outdoor activities. After trying one out last year, I really want to get a paddleboard, for example, and I know my kids and grandkids will enjoy that also.
If you’re looking for some kind of activity to do, and don’t happen to run across an organized walk like these, how about setting up a dog walk with a friend or two? I always do better in meeting my goals when I’ve promised someone else I’ll do it.
Find friends who will unfailing encourage you. I have a friend who no matter how many times I have slacked off or missed her workout, always invites me to the next one. I appreciate her beyond words.
You may also have friends or family members who doubt your willpower, (or who have seen you in unhealthy habits for their whole lives), and maybe have a hard time believing you’ll change and take your own health seriously. I expect this is true for some of my family, but in spite of that, they remain supportive and encouraging.
You may have an inner voice which says, “You’ll never make it.” I have one of those. She says, “You’re an addict. Sugar is like crack to you and you always cave.” I guess I should be grateful it’s not actually crack.
The truth is that exercise helps people to be healthier regardless of weight. I’m not saying ignore weight, but if the goal is health and not say, Size 8 jeans, the standard is different. Every little dog walk makes a difference and is better than sitting on the couch.