Change for the Better: Creating a Walking Routine

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With my second arm surgery, I made a decision to reclaim my body. I couldn’t control what happened to my arm, but I could take control of the rest of my body and make changes to better care for it and improve my health and well-being. I didn’t want to throw myself into something I couldn’t maintain, I’ve done that too many times before. This time was about small, lifelong changes that were not about dress size but longevity.


One of these changes was walking. I could walk with a cast, I can walk no matter the season, and it doesn’t cost additional money. I committed to 30 minutes a day (though life happens and it’s usually more like five times a week than seven). No goal distance, no goal speed, and no need to take a path full of intensity. My 30 minutes could be slow meandering down the street, or power walking up the highest hill in town. I started at the beginning of June, and two months later I’m still walking almost every morning. Still, some days are a slow meander down a flat road, and some days I push myself and go a harder trail or a longer period of time.

I started keeping my shorts, tee shirt, and bra in the bathroom to prevent getting distracted and losing motivation. When I started, I just wore a pair of capri yoga pants or my J. Crew twill shorts and a tee shirt. I knew if I worried too much about the “right” attire I’d lose focus. But with time, I realized proper athletic gear would make for a more comfortable walk. Graced by Grit was kind enough to send me a pair of their Land & Sea Knickers and they’re fantastic. They do run small (I have XL and think they’re no bigger than a 12), but they’re super comfortable (no rolling down, no bagging), the fabric feels good even in the heat and smooths out lumps and bumps, and there’s a pocket in the waistband on the front AND the back so I can slip in a key in one and my iPhone in another. Every pair of Graced by Grit apparel also comes with a safety whistle that is lightweight enough to wear when exercising without being uncomfortable. I also ordered two pairs of running shorts from Old Navy. I was worried about shorts riding up and my legs rubbing together but it was way too hot and muggy to spend every day in my Graced by Grit knickers. The Old Navy Active Perforated Shorts are pretty much what I expected – ride up, don’t fit my curves well, not flattering. However I got their Side Mesh Running Shorts and I love them. They have a tiny pocket for a key or ID, they don’t ride up even when I’m really sweaty, and they’re comfortable and work with my curves.

When I started walking, I listened to a playlist I made on Spotify. Then I tried an audiobook and now I'm hooked and subscribed to Audible. I lose track of time with the book, while music I have the desire to pause after the end of each song. I mix it up, sometimes it's a novel, sometimes it's nonfiction.  I've really enjoyed listening to motivational books on my walks; #GIRLBOSS, Brené Brown, Thrive by Ariana Huffington. By only letting myself listen to the book on my walk it's extra motivation to get up and move each morning.

I didn't start with an app to track anything because I know that I can get obsessed with numbers. After a month I did download MapMyWalk to see how long I was actually walking. Like I expected, next day I went longer and harder to “beat” my previous day and I worked so hard I lost motivation and didn't walk for two days. Since then, I stick to the same path if I use MapMyWalk so I don't make it a competition and keep it just a daily habit. I do NOT connect it to social media because that just gets me into competition mode instead of lifelong change mode.

I haven’t weighed myself since I started because I don’t want to get too focused on weight loss or defined goals, but after two months of walking almost daily I feel more… lubricated. I don’t wake up stiff, my back doesn’t hurt at the end of the work day, and I sleep so much better and wake up more easily. Now, waking up this early is a habit, and a pleasure. I like walking, and find myself getting up from my desk and taking a trip around the block when I feel stuck on a project or overwhelmed by my inbox. I sneak squats in the elevator (oh what the front desk person must think watching the security video!), take the long way to a coworker’s office, and enjoy dancing and running around with Emerson.

I’m okay with being this size for the rest of my life, but I’m not okay with having my body fall apart around me. Choosing new habits like walking that I can do no matter my size or age can create a lasting change that will improve my health, my well-being, and improve the quality and length of my life.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. I’m finally going to be in a normal work routine again after two grueling and hectic years of graduate school, so I’m VERY excited to adopt an exercise routine as well! I also read a very inspirational article about one of my former elementary school teachers who is in her 70s and has been walking 3+ miles a day for 20 years straight (over 7000 days!!). If Mrs. Monson can do it, I can do it too!! 🙂 I’m glad to hear you focusing on it being a lifestyle change and not wanting to focus on how your body is changing, as well as not wanting to make it a competition. I definitely know I tend to fall into those two camps, which are not healthy. I have a ton of podcasts on my iPod that I used to listen to in the car when I’d commute to school and my internship, but my new job is just 7 minutes away so I won’t be listening to them in the car anymore…I better start walking so I can keep cranking through them! 😉

  2. Great post. I think what most people don’t realize is that small changes end up with big results and it’s not just about weight. It’s a peace of mind, a calm, and an overall feeling of healthfulness. Once I started exercising regularly, my body just felt better like you mentioned.

    I’m a huge fan of Zella workout pants, mostly because they do not have the dreaded see-through butt when you bend over. I also love Onzie b/c they dry superfast and I wear them working out and in hot yoga. Plus the prints are super fun.

  3. I believe in the power of walking. I have a chronic pulmonary cardiac disease and after finally getting on the right medical therapy was able to start walking (I was too winded prior to that). I walk every day, tracking my walks with my fitbit. I’ve lost 55 pounds and countless inches, going from a size 18 to a size 10 in the past year. My muscle tone has improved, my core strength has improved and my mental outlook has improved. I blog about living with a chronic illness and walking at if anyone wants to check it out.

  4. This is inspiring Allie. I’m glad it works so
    well for you. I’ve made some positive changes recently that have become habits and
    things I look forward to, which was unexpected. What they say about habits is
    true: it doesn’t take long for what you do to become a habit.

  5. Good for you! I made a change a few years ago after I let myself get almost completely sedentary. Nowdays even in my worst weeks I tend to walk at least 30 min four days a week. It depends how much I’m doing a long commute versus a short walk to work but I also walk a lot more in the weekends than I ever used to. I love the feeling of being quite happy to walk and move, rather than feeling like I’d rather not do things ‘cos they’re too tiring.

  6. This is so inspirational, precisely because you are doing a (relatively) small thing consistently. Not making it competitive is very in keeping with your goals and, I’m guessing, takes the stress off. Thanks for telling us not just what you did but how you are doing it.

    1. I can build things up in my head, let myself down, and quit far too easily. I’ve learned the less chance to compete, the longer I’ll last so I’m doing everything to make this NOT about weightloss, looking a certain way, accomplishing some sort of goal, but making it as everyday as… well walking!

  7. Oh, this is great, and right where I’m “at” these days, too – a gentle, easy walking program. I am LOVING it when I get up early before my hubby so I have some time to myself to read and ease in to the day – and if I walk that’s even better. My plan for winter is either to walk back at our cheapie gym (haven’t been there in months – yikes), on a treadmill or elliptical, with earphones (podcasts!), or to walk in place in the house – either in front of the TV or DVD, with a Lesley Sansone walking DVD (she’s great), or again with the podcasts.

    Can’t agree enough about how I love my podcasts (or audible books _ done some of those, too). They will actually get me out of bed and out the door, if I know I’m in the middle of a good one. Really look forward to them, and I, too, save them mostly for walking. Sometimes I associate a book with where I was walking when I was listening to it (and vice versa).

    I like the Emerson quote about conversation and quiet both being good for walking. I mostly like to walk alone – weird, isn’t it? My asthma may have something to do with it. I get a teensy bit out of breath when I try to talk while walking and I don’t enjoy it as much; otherwise usually love a good leisurely conversation.

    Have you heard of I was interested in what he had to say about starting with tiny steps to make big changes. That’s how I see the 30-minute walk.

    1. Isn’t a quiet morning alone delicious? I haven’t fully planned out the winter, there is a gym in my office but I don’t want to be sweaty and showering/doing my hair etc. at work seems complicated and I wonder if I’ll stick with it. Karl runs year round, now that I have spikes for my boots I may just walk all winter outside. My neighbor is 87 and walks every day come rain or shine, if she can I can too! 🙂

      I also like walking alone, having Emerson and my job, the only other time I’m alone is in my car and my commute can be stressful (and the only time I have to call my mom and friends). It’s nice to go at whatever pace I wish, go off course, literally stop to smell the flowers!

      And thanks for that link, it’s too how I see this walk! 🙂

  8. Higher waisted-running shorts work better for me too. I find that shorts/pants that are supposed to sit on the hips droop if they don’t have enough elastic, or, if they have elastic then then migrate upwards as I move. The model in the one picture appears to have a boyish figure.

    I think the mark of someone who is enjoying their workout is that they ditch hot long pants for shorts when it gets to be summer. When it becomes more important to be comfortable than to hide yourself you know that your priorities are shifting in the right direction.

  9. I need to take care of myself, I am lazy but I should commit to 30 minutes walking a day. I’ve got plenty of Audible books (have you tried the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon – historical romps, very long listen time which makes them a very good buy?), and plenty of time. Your list has inspired me to get out there before the weather turns!

    1. My sister has been telling me to read the series for eons and I haven’t but I caught the premiere of the series on Starz and now realize what I have been missing! I’ll start that next, and heck even 15 minutes is a good start for walking, you deserve it! <3

  10. That’s a smart idea to only let yourself listen to the book on your walk as motivation; I feel like that might work on me! (Maybe… 😉

  11. I’m starting Whole30 next week and I’m curious about how it affected your energy level. Did you have any trouble keeping up with your walking routine? I’m very much looking forward to your post on how you felt about the program. I have a friend that swears it has changed her life, and I’m hoping it will help me too.

    1. The first week of Whole30 you can feel a bit off and tired near the end of that week, but I was never so tired from it that I couldn’t get up and walk. And after that week my energy level increased to where I no longer needed coffee to get going!

  12. I have been trying to work out every day and eat smaller portions. The weight loss hasn’t been dramatic but I feel tighter, toned. I sleep better at night and feel more rested in the morning. The true test is keeping it up through the winter! I always seem to slack off then.

    1. I think it’s all about feeling good, being thinner is an accessory. I’d rather live a life with less pain and more years than look good in a dress. And yes I hear you on winter, I actually started this in March after my first cast came off and was bundled up, but there wasn’t any snow or ice to deal with. I wore a headlamp around my waist and my husband’s reflective jacket 🙂

      1. Your first line hits the nail on the head. I turned 40 in June, and I’ve noticed that I am really and truly more concerned with how I feel rather than the size of my clothing – but when I feel good my size reflects that by settling at a comfortable weight (not skinny by media standards, but one I feel good at.)

  13. Good for you! I’ve enjoyed walking with all sorts of music and books and podcasts, also sometimes with someone else or alone in silence. Different needs, different days! I am in my 50’s and a few years ago decided I was tired of the diet/beating myself up routine every time a few pounds packed on,so I just said “No more” and focused on healthy routines…weight maintenance became SO much easier! Keep up the good work!

  14. Hooray for making a healthful change in your way of living! I started C25K last year and for the first time in my life, started to look forward to exercise. A few thoughts:

    SPIbelt – it is a really unobtrusive fanny pack. Just big enough for my iPhone in its Otterbox, and ID, and a house key. The hem of my shirt falls over it.

    YurBuds for women – these actually fit in my tiny ears and stay put.

    Road Runner Sports underwear and socks – so comfy and stay put. I really like their tops, too.

    Old Navy skirted capris and tights – cover the rear, no chub rub, good quality for the price.

    As we go into fall and sunrise gets later, think about a reflective arm band or vest. I wear an LED armband, that is also reflective. I still have had two close calls with cars turning left while I was in a cross walk, but who knows if there might have been more otherwise.

  15. Can you say more about the Graced by Grit knickers? I’m trying to imagine how having things in pockets wouldn’t lead to a downward drift? How high up to they go? They look low-rise-ish on the model. I’m apple and carry all my squish in the middle, so things tend to roll or fall down. Also, how early do you get up to do this? I’ve been rocking the 5:30am jog (doing the C25K) because that gets me home and showered in time to do breakfast with kids before school/work. I always like hearing how other parents fit these kinds of htings into the puzzle that is kids and work.

    1. They are low rise, but they have a wide waistband and don’t roll down on me at all; they’re not so low that they fall under the belly like really low rise pants, just below the belly button. The pockets are in the waistband, there opening on the top seam, so the pocket is the depth of the waistband. One front right over the hip bone, one right in the center of the back, which is very comfy place for my iPhone.

      I get up at 5am and am out the door no later than 5:30, back by 6:15, showering no later than 6:45, and if all goes well out the door by 7:30 to be at my desk by 8:30. Any later of a wakeup time and things go south because Emerson’s awake. She usually sleeps until 6:45, 7 but can wake up earlier if there’s noise, so I don’t come upstairs until 6:30, 6:45 so i have that bit of freedom to eat and all that stuff 🙂

      1. I think I might add these to my wishlist. Thanks! Any recommendations on awesome exercise underwear? (Perhaps another blog post)?

        1. I’d like to know too! I wear my Knockout! panties because they have a moisture-collecting/wicking crotch, and my shorts have built in underwear. But I’ll likely have a follow-up post on gear and attire when I’m more comfortable with it all! 🙂

          1. I am a die hard hanky panky lover for workouts. Even though it’s a thong, I can’t feel them and I never have a panty line. FWIW 🙂

  16. It’s so funny how if you just do something as simple as walking it make such a huge difference. When we adopted our dog in November I committed myself to being the one to do the majority of her walks and by February I had lost 30 pounds!

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