When I first started working for Walker Tracker, I have to admit, I thought it was a little silly that people actually used the site as a means to motivate themselves to walk more. Then I started to do research. I realized that the use of corporate walking programs is huge these days. I had no idea.  Then it clicked. Just like people have different learning methods, they also have different exercise methods. Mine happens to be the solitary way, but there is nothing wrong with creating community to help motivate a more healthy and active lifestyle.

I had forgotten how scary and frustrating it can be while taking those first steps (yes, pun intended) towards getting active. Getting your body to do things it’s not used to doing is never easy. And there is nothing more frustrating than not seeing the results you want right away. It’s easy to forget that noticeable results take time. I think one reason a lot of people give up on attaining a more active way of life is because we live in a culture of immediate gratification. When pounds aren’t shed and fat isn’t lost fast enough for us, we just assume it’s not working.

I could make a laundry list of the health benefits of walking regularly. There’s been study after study documenting them. But I won’t insult your intelligence. If you want to know the benefits of walking (or of any means of exercise), I’m absolutely sure you can do a Google search and find that information yourself. I prefer a personal approach. Walker Tracker is by no means a diet site. We’re not here to help you lose weight. We’re here to help you stay active. So this is not a before and after story. Consider this a few motivational anecdotes from the life of your friendly Walker Track tech support guy.

Shortly after I started working at Walker Tracker, I received a text message from a good friend back home in Kansas. She had finally gone out and bought new pants, pants that fit. You see, a few months prior to my exodus from Lawrence, KS to Portland, OR, she had had a blood pressure scare. Her doctor told her she needed to lower her blood pressure and lose weight otherwise her health would continue to decline. She isn’t even 30 years old yet.

So she started to make changes. They were small at first, very subtle things like eating a couple more salads a week, walking to work, and mowing her yard. I recall at first how frustrated she was. More exertion made her more exhausted than she was at first. Then things started to change. The first thing she noticed was that she wasn’t quite so tired. After about four weeks, I began to notice her clothes were fitting her differently. She never really documented how much weight she lost. All she cared about was how she was actually feeling better than she had in years. About three weeks after I had left Lawrence, she posted pictures online of all the work she’d done in the yard of her new house. There was one of her cutting tree limbs with a chainsaw. I couldn’t believe how great she looked. Since I’d left her arms had gained some muscle tone, and she was practically swimming in her clothes.

Her results were absolutely noticeable to me, but my jaw still dropped when she told me how many inches she had lost of her waist when she finally went out to get new jeans. She had lost four whole inches in a matter of months. And to think if she had given up after a couple of weeks because she wasn’t noticing any difference, she would be exactly where she was four months ago.

Another friend of mine in Lawrence recently posted a split photo of himself online. One half was him two months prior, the other was a current photo of him. I wouldn’t say he lost weight (he wasn’t really overweight to begin with). But the muscle tone in the pictures was completely different. He just looked healthier in the more recent one. I asked him what he was doing to bring about such great changes. Two months ago he finally decided that he didn’t want to feel awful all the time. Apparently he has a wheat allergy, but wasn’t taking any steps to cut it out of his diet. So he started eating gluten free, drinking two liters of water every day, and practicing yoga regularly. He was saying the same thing my other Lawrence friend said: “I just feel better. I wasn’t even concerned about looking better. That’s just a bonus!”

I was inspired by my friends’ progress, so I decided to challenge myself as well. I already do quite a bit of walking and cycling, so I had to find a new activity with which to push myself. I chose yoga. I’m in the midst of my fourth week practicing. I won’t lie. I was completely frustrated at first – I still am, actually. I thought I was in fairly good health, but yoga forced me to realize how completely inflexible my muscles are. I assumed yoga would be less intense than taking on something like weight lifting, but boy, was I wrong! I was sore every day for the first two weeks. And I felt like I wasn’t improving at all.

It’s only been in the last week that I’ve started to notice positive differences. My body doesn’t hurt as much as it used to. My balance is improving, and I’m a bit more flexible than I was when I started. But the biggest change is in my presence, in the way I carry myself. Just last week a friend of mine told me I looked bigger. I immediately took offense, assuming she meant I looked like I had gained weight. Then she clarified: it’s not that I looked physically bigger, but that I looked as though I was taking up more space. After she told me this, I started to pay attention to the way I carry myself. Sure enough, I stand straighter with my shoulders pulled back instead of hunched forward. When I’m sitting, I notice that my spine stays straight rather than curling forward into a slouch as it used to. My difference in posture doesn’t feel any different to me yet, but I’m sure with a few more weeks of regular practice, I’ll feel all these changes in my body.

I’m glad my friends started sharing their stories. They inspired me to physically challenge myself again, rather than remain complacent in my current level of physical fitness. Hearing how other people have gone about getting and staying healthy is far more beneficial than reading about the supposed benefits of exercise. It’s too easy to forget that change, any change, takes time. With a little patience (or maybe a lot!) and some subtle lifestyle changes, anyone can start to feel better. We just can’t give up when things get hard!

I’d like to invite you to share your stories with us. Comment here. Tell us what’s worked for you, what hasn’t, how you cope with frustration, etc. We want to hear about your trials, your failures, your successes. Maybe your story will inspire someone else to make more positive changes!