Put one foot in front of the other
Resident walks for her health around the lake
Joy Spence spends each Saturday morning walking around the Marion County Lake for one reason: her health.
“My whole body just feels better when I’m out here,” the 69-year-old lake resident said. “Who could not be re-energized by taking a stroll out here? It’s gorgeous; the sun’s shining and the birds are singing. It makes you feel glad just to be alive.”
Spence is just one of the millions of Americans who enjoy walking outdoors in their exercise regimen. Many, like Spence, wish they could do something more than walk – jog, run or use weights to amplify their workout – but recent studies have shown that the health benefits of walking are the same as a more intense workout, with one exception: it takes twice as long.
But that doesn’t bother Spence; she loves walking and time isn’t necessarily of the essence.
“I’m getting old; my grandchildren live far away and there’s really not much else for me to do,” she said. “I refuse to be the crotchety old woman who just sits in her rocking chair and knits. I’ve got to be active. I’ve always been an active person and I refuse to go out like lard on a hot pavement.”
So, strapping on her walking shoes, she walks out the door at 8:15 a.m. sharp and starts her five-mile walk along Lakeshore Drive. She said it usually takes her three hours to complete the route, but that’s only because she takes a break every once in a while to enjoy the lake and the visitors it brings to its shores.
“I loved seeing all the pelicans when they came,” she said. “They are gorgeous creatures. I’m afraid I might have scared them a couple of times, but after a while we had an understanding. I wouldn’t get too close and they wouldn’t fly away.”
Spence said she only walks in the daylight, afraid that someone will run her over with their vehicle.
“It’s dangerous walking around the lake if you’re not careful,” she said. “People get going 35 or 40 miles per hour; they don’t realize they’re doing it. But, even in the light, you see them slamming on their breaks to avoid hitting you.”
Steve Hudson, Lake Supt., said he has already had to pull over several visitors and lake residents to tell them that they were going too fast and need to slow down before someone gets hurt. Spence said she was glad when she found out that people were just driving too fast period – and not trying to kill her.
“I usually hear them before they see me,” she said. “I just walk so I’m out of their way, but it doesn’t always work. I’ve had to jump sideways a couple times. I’m getting pretty good at that. It’s definitely helped my flexibility.”
Even with the dangers in place, Spence said she will continue to walk around the lake, reasoning that it was close to her home.
“I find that if you can’t just walk out your front door and go, you’ll never do it,” she said. “One of the biggest complaints I hear about exercise is that it’s too hard to do. This isn’t. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. I can’t afford to give it up. I’m not a young thing anymore and I know I’ve got to take care of my body if I want to stay active into my 70s, 80s and hopefully beyond.”
Spence said she sometimes listens to music on her iPod during her stroll, but even when she does she finds herself taking off her headphones and listening to the sounds of nature around her.
“My walking time gives me a chance to relax my whole body, mind and spirit,” she said. “Stress makes you old — and I want to stay young as long as possible.”