Walking Success Stories: How I Got Healthy

Get inspired by these real women walkers (including two former Walking Challenge participants!) who took strides toward better health. Read their stories and use their tips to stay motivated, eat better, and make walking more fun.

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Featured Walker 2009: Karen Chitty-Boe


Karen participated in Family Circle's Walking Challenge 2009.

Age: 52

Hometown: Richmond, Texas

Occupation: Marketing Director of Memorial Hermann Sugar Land

I've Walked to Get in Shape For: 15 months

Why I Started Walking: I had become very inactive over the last several years. As a result, my blood pressure started going up and I needed additional medication to offset my heart disease.

My Walking Routine: I try to do two 20-minute walks in one day, three to four days a week. My husband purchased a treadmill for me so I can walk indoors during the very hot Houston summer months. I also take the stairs instead of the elevator.

How I Stay Motivated: By telling others how walking helped me lose weight and become healthier. I was able to lose 16 pounds in six months. I had been trying to lose 10 pounds for several years—I tried decreasing my portion sizes at mealtimes using weight-loss plans, but couldn't stick with anything! Family Circle's Walking Challenge set me on the right path, and I kept off the weight!

My Greatest Walking Achievement: I took what I learned and created an employee wellness program for teachers in the Lamar School District. Everyone was struggling with health issues including obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and didn't know how to start exercising. Our program, UHealth—an hour of learning for a Healthier U—has now been adopted by three other school districts around Houston. Employees have reduced their blood pressure, started exercising, and also have wonderful stories to share!

My Favorite Walking Fuel: Protein bars and flavored water

How I Make My Walks Fun: I purchased my first iPod and my kids have helped me load it up with all my favorite music! I love Celine Dion, Josh Groban, and any kind of inspirational music—it clears all the cobwebs from my head and decreases the stress I get from work.

My Best Walking Tip: My nutritionist encourages me by saying, "Just 100 more steps a day. Don't overwhelm yourself with a large goal—set smaller ones. It's amazing how those steps will add up."

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Teresa Rodden


Age: 42

Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Occupation: Certified Personal Coach

I've Walked to Get in Shape For: 2 years

Why I Started Walking: I wanted to relieve stress.

My Walking Routine: I meet my sister before work on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. We go for two- to four-mile walks, which last around 30 to 60 minutes. I also lead a three-mile beginner-to-immediate walk a few times per month.

How I Stay Motivated: I've been leading walking groups since July 2008. I wanted to meet other walkers, so I used meetup.com to form a group to go on Sunday walks in the Portland metropolitan area. It was a success and I have been heading up walks since. When I'm overseeing everyone, I have no excuse not to walk. I have to be there—it's accountability!

My Greatest Walking Achievement: I've made a lot of friends as a result of my group walks. I'm guessing I must have also logged at least 200 miles by now—and that's a conservative guess.

My Favorite Walking Fuel: Fresh fruit

How I Make My Walks Fun: I use my group walks to meet new people. I love to talk and it doesn't matter who I walk with. We always chat nonstop and the walk is over before we know it.

My Best Walking Tip: Invite people to walk with you. You might be the inspiration or push someone else is waiting for.

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Kristine Hendrickson


Age: 40

Hometown: Newport, Rhode Island

Occupation: Associate Vice President University Relations and Chief Communications Officer at Salve Regina University

I've Walked to Get in Shape For: 8 years

Why I Started Walking: I had to find a way to get in shape. I hate the gym and found it hard to commit to dance and yoga classes because of work and volunteer commitments. With walking, I am not bound to a schedule.

My Walking Routine: I have two to three routes in my neighborhood that include hills and great scenery: a "safer route" for early morning or late evening walks, and another two for weekends. I try to walk a little every weekday before or after work and on most weekends. I like to walk until I can't walk any more.

How I Stay Motivated: I listen to music, mix up the route, and remember how energized I feel after walking.

My Greatest Walking Achievement: After a recent skiing injury, I've been working back up to my normal pace, and I just walked about 3.5 miles. Now I'm striving to complete a new long route that's at least five or six miles.

My Favorite Walking Fuel: A little bit of peanut butter

How I Make My Walks Fun: I made an exercise music mix that has songs to warm me up and songs that keep me moving as fast as possible before cooling off. During my walks, I challenge myself by asking myself questions like, "Was I at this point on the route when 'Super Freak' came on yesterday?"

My Best Walking Tip: Do what feels good and don't forget to look up while you're walking! It gives you a whole different perspective and your surroundings are usually much more pleasant to look at than the pavement.

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Whitney Shepherd


Age: 47

Hometown: Beaumont, California

Occupation: Owner of a window-cleaning service

I've Walked to Get in Shape For: 3 years

Why I Started Walking: I wanted to do half-marathons, but I found that I couldn't run the entire distance. As a result, I had to incorporate walking into my training and races.

My Walking Routine: I walk or hike four to six times a week. I go with friends on Wednesdays and Fridays, and with groups on Saturdays and Sundays. During the week, we stick to local hills that have trails ranging from three to 11 miles. On Mondays and Thursdays, I walk alone for up to 15 miles. I can complete that distance in about 3 hours.

How I Stay Motivated: Seeing my big butt get smaller.

My Greatest Walking Achievement: Finishing my ninth half-marathon.

My Favorite Walking Fuel: I don't really have a favorite fuel, but I sometimes indulge in French fries after a good hike.

How I Make My Walks Fun: I load my iPod with audio books. Listening to them make me forget that I'm exercising!

My Best Walking Tip: Before you can even think about whether you want to do it, put on your shoes, go outside, and start walking.

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Kaori Nakamura DiChiara


Age: 38

Hometown: Katonah, New York

Occupation: Occupational therapist specializing in pediatrics and brain-injured adults

I've Walked to Get in Shape For: 9 years

Why I Started Walking: I was always a runner, despite having flat feet. To run the New York City marathon in 2000, I wore custom orthopedics and worked with a physical therapist during my training. Afterwards, my arches collapsed further and running the distances I was used to became more difficult. That's when I started walking.

My Walking Routine: I'm a working mom with a 6- and a 5-year-old, so I don't really have time for a strict routine. I squeeze in walks whenever possible. Ideally, I schedule a 30- to 45-minute power walk, two times per week.

How I Stay Motivated: Walking is a small pocket of scheduled "me" time that helps me release stress. And less stress is better for me, my family, and my clients.

My Greatest Walking Achievement: One hectic day, I squeezed in a 30-minute power walk and made it back to my house just as my daughter's school bus arrived. It felt amazing to be able to do something for myself—and still get everything else done.

My Favorite Walking Fuel: I carry a lemon-lime Gatorade with me while I walk.

How I Make My Walks Fun: I make a playlist of my favorite songs for my iPod.

My Best Walking Tip: Research a variety of walking routes in your neighborhood so that you can experience different workouts. I like to find routes that have great scenery, areas with both hills and flats, and locations where there is little traffic but not totally isolated. If you prefer to power walk solo like I do, it's good to go in more populated areas so you know that help is easily accessible in case of an emergency.

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Featured Walker 2009: Debra D. Hatfield


Debra participated in Family Circle's Walking Challenge 2009.

Age: 47

Hometown: Tukwila, Washington

Occupation: Administrative Professional at Boeing

I've Walked to Get in Shape For: 21 years off and on, but I've gotten really serious about it during the past few months.

Why I Started Walking: To lose 100 pounds. In 2000, I was diagnosed with coronary heart disease, underwent bypass surgery a few years later, and recently suffered a stroke. There is no denying the facts that diet and exercise are definitely conducive to a healthier lifestyle.

My Walking Routine: My 11-year-old daughter and I walk around the track at the local high school on weekends.

How I Stay Motivated: I had a stroke and that was a huge wake-up call for me. I need to make some lifestyle changes if I plan on being around to at least see my children graduate from high school.

My Greatest Walking Achievement: I lost 50 pounds in six months and all I did was walk it off. I'd walk up and down Denny Hill in Seattle, to work and back. I'd see my reflection in the storefront windows getting smaller and smaller!

My Favorite Walking Fuel: I do better if I walk before I've eaten, but that is because of my angina.

How I Make My Walks Fun: I sometimes drive to locations that are pretty and walk there. Going to a park is a nice change from the track.

My Best Walking Tip: Enjoy your surroundings and be grateful that you have the ability to walk. Think of it as something positive for your life. Stay with it and don't quit. If you can get through three months of consistent walking, it will become routine and you'll begin to look forward to that time you spend on yourself.

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Jennifer Parks


Age: 34

Hometown: Manassas, Virginia

Occupation: Systems Administrator

I've Walked to Get in Shape For: 6 years. I picked up an interest in walking several years ago during a Thanksgiving Day VolksSport [walking group] event I was dragged to while visiting relatives in Ohio. Since then, I've worked to incorporate walking into my life.

Why I Started Walking: To get fit. I've been overweight most of my life. A few years ago, I started having weight-related health problems and realized that I needed to get in shape. I've lost about 35 pounds since I started walking.

My Walking Routine: I walk my dogs for one to two miles every morning or late in the evening. I also started a meetup.com group called the NoVA Walkers. Five years ago, I wanted to start taking long walks and my husband and I couldn't see eye to eye on hiking together. He likes to move quickly and I need to move a little slower and stop to take pictures or smell fresh flowers. I didn't want to walk alone, so I started the group and invited anyone in Northern Virginia who wanted to walk to come along. Now, I schedule three- to eight-mile walks for the group. We walk weekly during the summer months, biweekly in fall and spring, and monthly during the winter.

How I Stay Motivated: I feel accountable to my group and that keeps my exercise on track.

My Greatest Walking Achievement: A couple years ago, I walked 39 miles over two days and raised $1,800 for an Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I know many people that have been affected by breast cancer, either in their own families or through friendships. At the same time, I wanted to challenge myself to go farther than I'd ever gone before. Before the event, I'd never walked more than 15 miles, much less a full marathon!

My Favorite Walking Fuel: Snack bars and fruit snacks.

How I Make My Walks Fun: Being outside with my dogs or friends makes the walks more enjoyable.

My Best Walking Tip: Stretch before long or challenging walks. I usually start with calf and hamstring stretches. It's also important to stretch your back because a tight lower back can affect your leg muscles while walking.

Try these stretches designed for walkers

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Donna Schwartze


Age: 44

Hometown: Prairie Village, Kansas

Occupation: Freelance marketing and public relations consultant

I've Walked to Get in Shape For: 25 years!

Why I Started Walking: I've been walking since college. My sorority house at University of Missouri was at the farthest point from the journalism school, but I walked back and forth every day and got in great shape. I've been walking ever since. I enjoy being outside and it relieves stress.

My Walking Routine: I walk at least three times per week for 30 minutes at a time. I walk outdoors whenever possible, but I use a treadmill if the weather is bad. I have a two-mile trek around my neighborhood that's a great combination of hills and flats. I also walk my dogs every afternoon for 20 minutes. Plus, I take the stairs, walk to Starbucks, and park my car far away from the store, just to get extra movement. Every step counts and it makes a world of difference.

How I Stay Motivated: I get more motivated when I notice my body firming up. I see the results mostly in my butt and legs, but when I walk on an incline on the treadmill, I really engage my abs—my problem area—and it feels great.

My Greatest Walking Achievement: Getting to the point where I can walk on my treadmill, at its maximum incline, for 30 minutes.

My Favorite Walking Fuel: Bananas, fiber bars, or yogurt

How I Make My Walks Fun: I walk with friends. My girlfriends and I are joining a women's walking club at a local hospital, and I have a great neighbor who joins me on walks when the weather is nice. I try to walk with my nieces, who are 15, 17, and 24, whenever I can—my 24-year-old niece lives in a beautiful neighborhood that we love walking around. My 81-year-old dad is also the best walker in the world. I love walking with him because it's a great time for us to catch up.

My Best Walking Tip: Add a few short sprints throughout the walk for a challenge. It also helps keep your heart rate up.

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Gail Manginelli


Age: 49

Hometown: Scottsdale, Arizona

Occupation: Owner of GM & Associates, a public relations firm

I've Walked to Get in Shape For: 30 years

Why I Started Walking: I got into walking out of necessity because I didn't learn to drive until after I finished college. I continue to walk today to manage my weight and maintain good cardiovascular health. Plus, walking centers me. It reduces my stress and, since I'm typically a morning walker, it gives me time to think and plan out my day.

My Walking Routine: I typically walk by myself at 6:30 a.m., for 40 to 50 minutes, three to five times a week. I walk at a brisk pace, swinging my bent arms as I walk, and cover about 3.5 to 4 miles each walk. I generally take a route through the neighborhoods around my house, and although there are some inclines, it's a fairly moderate route. I alternate my walks with Pilates, bike riding, or doing a Tae Bo tape, so that I exercise a total of six days a week. Six weeks out of the year, my dad visits from Pennsylvania, and we walk every day while he's here. I enjoy those walks the most, because it's quality time for us to talk about anything and everything.

How I Stay Motivated: I like the feeling I get after a walk. It starts off each day with a sense of having already accomplished something.

My Greatest Walking Achievement: I got a pedometer in November and I strive to take at least 10,000 steps per day. To date, I've logged more than 2,678,000 steps!

My Favorite Walking Fuel: I don't eat before I head out. But I make sure to drink plenty of water after my walk, and then eat breakfast a little later in the morning. Breakfast might be a bowl of high-fiber cereal with skim milk, a yogurt, or fruit.

How I Make My Walks Fun: I walk with hand weights to try to get in a bit of an upper body workout. I never listen to music—I just think about everything.

My Best Walking Tip: Use your arms. I swing my bent arms back and forth as I walk to add speed and purpose.

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