Janine Johnston tells the story of how she became a walker.
I used to have a desk job where I sat and took orders on the phone, and it required zero movement whatsoever. I didn’t have a lot of activity in my life at all. It was too hard because I was so out of shape.
Four years ago, my now-husband proposed to me. We were having a small, simple ceremony, and when my dress came, it didn't fit. I was devastated because I had ordered almost the biggest size. It was right then that I said, “What am I doing? I shouldn’t be upset—this is supposed to be a happy time." At that moment, I decided to make a change. But I knew that I didn’t want to join a gym and feel like people were staring at me.
Over the years, I had heard that walking was easy and extremely beneficial, and I didn’t feel like it was going to hurt me. I could do it at my own pace, on my own timeline, and wherever I wanted. My exercise was all outside at first. It didn’t matter the weather—I had a goal in mind, and I was going to do it. My first route was walking around my block, then walking to my sister's house four blocks away, then to the shopping centre eight blocks away.
I became even more active when my mother-in-law bought me a Fitbit. I was walking further, and I started to join the challenges, which would motivate me. I would think, “I’m only 2,000 steps behind this person. I’m going to go for a little walk and catch them.” If you’re looking for support or motivation, or just tips and tricks, that community is a big, happy family, I have to say.
I've lost 65 kilos in the past four years, all thanks to getting serious about walking. These days, I go to the gym five days a week for an hour a day, plus walking every day—seven days a week. I find it very peaceful to go, even if it’s just on a stroll around my neighbourhood. It’s almost meditative because it gives me a sense of peace, like nothing else matters at that moment. I didn't have an outlet like that before I started walking.
The people in my life have started walking more, too. My daughter and I would walk home from school together every day. My mum, my dad, and a friend of mine have all received Fitbits from me, because they’ve all talked about wanting to walk more. Doing challenges with them is like a little nudge. They’ve commented on how much more active they are now, even if it’s just to catch up to each other; they get out and put those steps in.
I like to see how they’re doing, and being able to help motivate somebody else feels great. My mother-in-law calls me all the time and says, “You know I’m only 3,000 steps behind you? I’m going on a walk tonight.” Good for her, I say. It's a bit of healthy competition between us all.
Walking has given me the opportunity to take control of my own health, which, in turn, has made me a happier, more outgoing person, more willing to try new things. I feel younger now than I did 15 years ago. I feel like I can do anything now.