How listening to books on tape became the needed distraction to keep me walking for good health!
When I arrived at my new home north of Boston at age 52, I was unemployed, sad, and overweight. Then I sprained my ankle and put on five more pounds. My back began to hurt. My doctor gave me three months to get my cholesterol down or go on medication, which I did not want. I had to find an exercise regime I would stick to despite my aversion to exercise. As a writer, I’d always rather be at the desk than in the gym. Still, I know that exercise sustains my life at the desk.
I like dance and yoga, but I wasn’t up for driving through suburban Boston traffic to get to classes just yet, never mind the cost. I also like walking. For years, walking had been my main exercise, but never as far as I was going to have to walk now to get myself fit. I had to find a way to motivate me for 3-5 miles a day.
It should have been enough that I was living one block off the longest, most beautiful stretch of Atlantic coastline in our hemisphere. But even the glorious waves glinting in the sun weren’t enough to force me to go the distance. I’d start out, feel overcome by exhaustion and turn back before long. I needed something to propel me further.
I found it in listening to audiobooks. Something I call, “Reading with my feet, walking with my ears.” I motivated myself to walk by listening to audiobooks, but the catch was I would only listen as long as I was walking.
If you have never been able to listen to audiobooks, I have to tell you, I couldn’t before then either. Not even when I had one to two 26 hour car trips to make every month for two years. Traffic or something would distract me. I would lose the plot, the characters, the everything.
There weren’t so many distractions in walking. I found the nineteenth century novels, which I had mostly skipped over except for high school assignments, terrific for walking. Plots—which previously hadn‘t motivated me much— now moved me. All those cliff-hangers in Dickens to keep the people reading, to keep them standing at the docks to get the ending, kept me going because of my one rule: I couldn’t listen if I were not walking.
By this method, I walked my way through nearly all of Hardy and Elliott, Dickens, a lot of Jane Austen, and then, some modern works too. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, available on download from my local library, kept me moving for days. By then, I had transferred my listening from cassette tapes to CDs to an MP3 player, still getting downloads of classic and contemporary books free from the library or online, which is another advantage to my “Walking with My Ears, Listening with My Feet.” It is very low cost. No fancy clothes, just warm ones for winter. No getting in the car.
I left the East, fitter, healthier, and happier, still not on any medicine, to move to the Midwest. I now walk and listen, to podcasts as well as novels. These days I walk three miles a day through a county park to my local library on a lake and back home. Now, it’s not the waves but the change of seasons which accompany me: woods full orange and yellow in the fall, returning birds in spring, and the glitter of winter. I do some yoga and some weight lifting, but it is walking, that has changed me, an exercise I know I can maintain through all the rest of the seasons of my life. And I found it in books!
Editors’ Note: Here’s the link for the kindle version of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. Amazing story, great for reading and/or listening. The kindle version lets you add-on the audible version for a small fee if you want to do as Diane does, and read with your feet, walk with your ears!
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