We are all aware of the benefits of physical activity, and walking is a great example. Last fall I introduced you to Erik Bendl who combines walking with diabetes awareness advocacy. Today, I’d like you to meet another walking addict, Wendy Bumgardner, who has participated in and volunteered for thousands of walking events supporting various causes. Her motivational story may be just what you need to get moving.
Wendy was diagnosed with foot drop (a.k.a. drop foot), a condition that makes it difficult to lift the front part of your foot, at age 14 and found it difficult to exercise and participate in sports because of it. But, in her early 20s, she participated in her first American Volkssport Association walk in 1984 and hasn’t stopped walking since.
“Going out on that first walk and realizing that someone like me, who had a limp and didn’t walk so great, could complete a six mile walk with no problem felt great,” Wendy said. “When I made it to the finish line I got a medal which was a great triumph! I felt like it was something I could continue doing and was an immediate convert.”
Wendy enjoyed it so much that she started her own walking group and later joined the Board of Directors for American Volkssport Association. Now, Wendy walks marathons and participates in three day charity walks. She trains by adding a little bit of distance to her walks each week.
“In the winter I go out and walk for an hour at most because it’s cold and wet,” Wendy said. “Then every week or two I add another mile and by mid-summer I’m ready to walk a marathon. It’s amazing how the body adjusts to things if you build up slowly and steadily.”
Although Wendy trained for her first three day walk in 2001, she wasn’t prepared for the difference in temperature between Portland, Oregon, where she lives, and Washington, D.C., where the walk was located.
“I was used to being out in 45 to 50 degree temperatures,” Wendy said. “It was in the low 80s in D.C. and I got sick from the heat on the first day. I knew the symptoms of heat sickness and I took them seriously. It’s important to listen to your body and put your well-being first. Some people get caught up in doing every last mile, but if you’re walking for health, you should only walk every healthy mile.”
Signing up for walks keeps Wendy motivated. She walks nearly every day and even goes outside to walk during breaks at work. Then she puts in more miles on the weekends; sometimes walking up to nine miles a day. She’s currently signed up to do a half marathon for almost every month for the rest of the year!
“Walkers do the same things to prepare for a half marathon or marathon that runners do,” said Wendy. “It’s the same equipment, same nutrition and everything on the road is the same; it just takes us twice as long to finish.”
In addition to being an avid walker, Wendy is a certified marathon coach and writes about walking for About.com. She says that the biggest challenge for people who want to start walking for exercise is actually getting out and doing it. Before you start walking she says it’s very important to have the right pair of shoes.
“You want to go to the shoe stores where the really serious runners go,” Wendy said. “They won’t look down on you because you’re a walker versus a runner and they really look at the way you walk. They can tell you if you need motion control or neutral shoes and may recommend something sturdier for those who are overweight. Proper shoes are the biggest key to being comfortable when you are walking.”
Beyond shoes, Wendy also thinks posture is very important. “You have got to stand correctly,” Wendy said. “You should be looking up and not hunched over so you can be aware of tripping hazards. Usually you want a little bit of natural arm swing with a bend in your elbows. If you do that, pretty soon your body will fall into the motion we were born to walk in.”
Wendy has certainly found her stride and I am so appreciative she took some time to share it with us! Are you motivated to begin walking for your well-being?
All the best,
Disclosure: Wendy Bumgardner received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.