Becky Menn-Hamblin, 67, Knoxville, TN
People think I'm crazy -- and maybe I am a little wacky -- but I love walking indoors. Even better: I do it. Over the years, I've tried walking on a treadmill at home (boring), walking in my neighborhood, walking on a trail, and walking around a track. I even joined a big-box gym (twice!), but paying for it still didn't get me to stick to any walking or exercise routine. The epiphany came a year ago when I realized that my open-floor-plan house offered space for a pretend track, and I wouldn't need to get dressed, whine about the weather, or drive somewhere. I got so pumped that I created my "routine" that day: Eat less, walk more. That's it. I picked early morning to walk before work. Love the privacy and convenience! With the exception of two breaks (once for an emergency appendectomy and again when a 3-week-old kitten kept getting underfoot), I've walked 5 or 6 days a week for a year.
My routine: Get up at 5:15 a.m., feed the kitties, put on my walking shoes, and begin fast-walking on my "track": kitchen, living room, dining room, kitchen. For me, that's 30 steps or 1 lap. I walk 70 laps for a mile, 140 for 2 miles, 210 for 3 miles. Yes, I do have to count! I actually really like counting. It's kind of soothing.
What I wear: My nightie, socks, and walking shoes. Really. This is why I like walking at home. No mirrors, no pressure, no paparazzi!
What keeps me company: I turn on both the radio (NPR) and the TV (Morning Joe on MSNBC) and then switch back and forth -- thank heaven for remotes.
My inspiration: I realized that I might get old and sick if I didn't get in shape. I don't want anyone to take care of me. Plus, I hated the way I looked. In the past year, I've lost 35 pounds!
What my kids and friends say: Some of my friends think walking at home in a nightie, counting laps, is a little weird. But my kids are my cheerleaders and are happy I'm active. And people see that I'm more fit and have lost weight.
What's next. I'm going to add some stretches and weight lifting to my morning routine. Maybe train for a community walk. I'm on a roll. But consistency is my most important goal -- to make walking as much a part of my day as going to work is. I'm not going to stop!
Kathy McCleary, 50, Falls Church, VA
I hate the treadmill. HATE it. So boring. Instead, I walk outside up to six times a week. Yes, even in the rain. If you dress for it, it's okay. Besides, after spending 12 years in Oregon, wet weather doesn't bother me. But really, I walk outside because it's a great change in scenery. I'm a writer, which means I work alone in a home office. Walking gives me a chance to get "unstuck" from my desk, and it always improves my mood and keeps me feeling healthy and good about my body. Also, I have walking "dates" twice a week with friends -- you can't do that on a treadmill. The chance to spend an hour walking with a pal always gets me out the door.
My routine: I walk a 3- or 4-mile route, 3 to 6 days a week, in the morning. On Tuesdays I walk with one friend and on Wednesdays with another. We alternate walking in each other's neighborhoods or at local parks. On the days I walk alone, I walk with an iPod (walking is the only time I listen to music, a nice treat) and follow a route that includes one or two big hills. I stop at a playground after 45 minutes and do a series of squats, lunges, push-ups, and dips, then finish the walk. I can now walk a mile in 14 minutes and am always trying to go a bit faster.
Why I like walking with friends: We yak the entire time. Our deal is: a) stay connected and b) commiserate over parenting teenagers so we don't kill our kids or ourselves!
What's great about walking alone: I have had ALL of my biggest writing breakthroughs on my novels while walking by myself.
What else walking has done for me: I don't know what to blame -- stress, postnursing hormones, genetics -- but I started having panic attacks when my youngest daughter was 1 (she's now 13). I was diagnosed with panic disorder and became afraid of "real" exercise because my heart rate got so high when I had a panic attack. My doctor suggested walking. I started out walking just a mile or so while listening to a book on tape to distract me from my heart rate. The books helped motivate me, too, because I let myself listen to them ONLY while I walked, so I had to walk to hear what happened next. After a year of increasing my time, distance, and pace, I got over my panic disorder and have been walking ever since.