Starting Your Walking Routine

This year has been exceptionally cold outside — especially now that it is already May. Today was one of the first real “the sun feels warm on your skin” kind of days.

I took advantage of this and went for a long walk to the mall.

Walking is one of my 3 components to fitness. I love the feel of walking — I find that the natural rhythm helps clear my thoughts and makes me feel better. It also seems to help keep the digestive system in better order — probably some aspect of the regular up-and-down motion keeps things moving properly through the guts.

I wasn’t always able to walk long distances. In 2000, before I was hospitalized I was bedridden most of the year with intense back pain. After my third hospitalization of 2002, I was too fat and weak to even be able to walk to the bathroom. So I now appreciate being able to accomplish a few miles of walking.

How does a person with Crohn’s start to add some walking? It all depends on how well you are doing. If you are relatively healthy, of course you can start with whatever seems reasonable and just start to work it into your daily routine.

If you are not comfortable straying too far from your bathroom, you might try just walking around the block in your neighborhood. Or try some other very short distance and keep coming back to your house in case you need a bathroom.

If you are doing better than that, you can try longer walks. As with all the things I suggest, aim for a progression. Don’t overdo it on your first day. But do look to see what a reasonable walk is. If you already know you can go shopping and walk around a store for an hour, then you already know that you should be able to go for a nice recreational walk for an hour.

If you are comfortable being out in public, large stores (Target, Walmart, etc.) and shopping malls offer frequent bathrooms and year-round shelter from the weather.

Otherwise you can just stay around your neighborhood, perhaps walking in wider circles each day as your confidence expands.

I like to get in at least an hour of walking per day — which for me usually makes for about a 4 mile walk.

That’s where walking to the mall is useful. Instead of looping some path around the neighborhood, I’m heading to a destination. The mall is particularly useful since it has plenty of food and bathrooms available. Spend some time at the mall, and then return home.

To increase the exercise value of your walking (instead of just walking for more and more hours), you can try carrying some weight with you. You can start with something as simple as a backpack with a water bottle in it. You can then gradually carry more. This builds up the intensity of your walking while at the same time enabling you to carry whatever supplies you might need.

At the peak of my fitness in 2005 (just before the car accident) I was going for hour long walks while wearing a 50 pound weighted vest. Building up to that was a significant accomplishment for me since it was only in 2002 that walking from my bed to the bathroom was impossible. Knowing that you have that kind of reserve capacity is a good feeling. As I always look at it, knowing that I can cover a distance carrying 50 pounds means that even if I am feeling weak and sick I will hopefully have at least enough strength to carry myself.

Here’s two online tools that are fun to play with because they help you measure the distance of your walking route:

Sometimes I walk and listen to motivational audios like the audio version of Think and Grow Rich. Sometimes I just walk and observe everything around me and let nature clear my head. Both are good options.

I encourage you to try some daily walking, especially now that it’s almost summer. It’s good for your mind and your body.