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Just Start Walking

September 29, 2021

by Amy Krause 

"The best way to start is to just start."

Recently, while visiting my mother in the foothills of Colorado, I took a walk with her friend, Patty. What I thought was going to be just some fresh air and a walk through the rugged winding roads of Blue Mountain (14 miles south of Boulder), turned into an inspirational moment for me.

Patty and I set off on a 3-mile course and as we walked, she told me her story—a story of inspiration that I realized should be shared. 

A native of London, Patty moved to the U.S. in 1970. Not an athlete growing up, Patty found fun and exercise through tap dancing. As an adult, she tried jazz classes and then in the 1980s she discovered Jane Fonda videos. It wasn’t until her dad died that Patty, 42 at the time, started running. “I started running as a way to work through my grief. After a while I felt like running was my dad’s gift to me.”

Patty ran her first marathon at age 46. She was addicted. By age 49, she had run four marathons. One day while reading the newspaper, Patty saw an article on a triathlon training program. The article said, “If you can run if someone’s chasing you, swim the width of the pool or bike to the end of the block, I can train you to complete a triathlon.” Putting aside her nervousness, Patty showed up for the training class and found herself surrounded by women ranging in age from 18 to 80—every one of them proud of their accomplishments. The group welcomed her. Patty remembered the first time she swam to the other end of the pool without stopping: “I grabbed the side of the pool completely out of breath. It felt so good, and from there it all started coming together; I knew then that as long as I set my mind to my goals, I could do anything.” Patty completed her first triathlon at age 49. By age 56, she graduated to Olympic distance (1-mile swim, 28-mile bike ride, 10k run), participating in the Boulder Peak Triathlon for 10 years. 

At age 60, Patty began participating in half ironman triathlons. This race consists of swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles and running 13.1 miles, or a half marathon. “My proudest moment was when I won the race series for my age group at 61.”

Unfortunately, a bout with endometrial cancer in 2013 and then a 2018 hip replacement detoured Patty a bit, but she didn’t use it as an excuse to stop. “At first I wondered if it was all over. But after a month of rehabbing my hip, I was walking. And then I thought if I want to complete another race, I don’t have to run; I can walk the 5k.” She ended up incorporating little run segments into her walking rehab routine and has since completed three races. 

Patty’s advice on how to start exercising? “The best way to start is to just start. Start walking and add a little bit each week. Join a class and if you don’t like it, try another class. Once you get going you feel so good you don’t want to stop. Suddenly, you are there!” 

“During the height of the pandemic I didn’t bike outside because I was scared I would fall and have to go to the hospital so I improvised and set up my bike on a stationary stand in my family room. I attended online Pilates classes and walked every day.” 

Patty’s positive attitude influenced others, including my mom.  My mom was experiencing some anxiety and depression and was told by her doctor to start walking outside every day. The benefits of exercise, coupled with fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for the mind, body and soul, the doctor said. Doing it with a walking buddy is even better. So Patty started walking with my mom. First one mile; then they worked up to two miles. Now confident, my mom walks with Patty—or alone—2 miles a day. She feels better and looks forward to catching up with her friend.

Not sure how to get started? NSSC offers a variety of exercise classes—participate alone or with a group, online or in-person—as well as personal training with experienced professional trainers. Regular class offerings include Walking Club, Stay Fit at Home: Balance, Strength and Stretch, Yoga for the Rest of Us, Yoga for Those with Parkinson's, Better Balance, Sit and Get Fit, Ballet, Tai Chi and Nia. 

You don’t have to make running a marathon your goal. You can simply try a class or go outside and take a walk—a guaranteed way to start feeling better.