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Walking Success Story - Exercise Hater to Speedster

Rebecca Garson - Before Weight Loss
Rebecca Garson - After Weight Loss

48 year old Rebecca Garson was an accomplished high school athlete in track as well as volleyball player. Unfortunately, even at 5'7" she didn't stand tall enough in college and was cut along with all those under 5'9" do to their vertical challenges. Stubborn and athletically-minded Rebecca switched to a more physical outlet, rugby. This led to a intense interest in lifting weights and informal competitions with her boyfriend and any other guy who couldn't match her leg strength.

As a cultural anthropology major at UVA, working at Pizza Hut, and pumped up on endorphins she felt invincible. She claims she could pick up a full keg of beer, "Cause I was really strong." One day she was "really pissed off," because the keg changer was ignoring the empty Bud light (as if those of us with good taste in beer would consider that a sin.) Rebecca took it on herself and went to dead lift it without bending her knees and totally blew out my back, for the first time but not last time.

Thanks to the Pizza Hut worker's compensation program she spent months getting therapy from a chiropractor and doctors. At the time, 1983, Chiropractors were new to Charlottesville, Virginia so it was a new experience for Rebecca. One of the few young patients, a depression set in as the realization of the potential end of her athletic career.

Over the next two decades, along came the kids, the career, and the pounds. Without the steadying moderation of consistent exercise, Rebecca's weight bounced between 145 lbs and almost 210 lbs. Like many, she tried jogging, but found the excessive pounding unforgiving to her back. Discouraged, complacency ruled the day. With the exception of a local weekly volleyball game Rebecca described herself as a couch potato.

When challenges occur in life, people usually have one to two reactions. Either they run away from it or choose to face it head on. Rebecca is clearly one who subscribes to the latter philosophy. Faced with the birth of her 2nd daughter came the realization that her daughter was inflicted with trisomy-13, a rare genetic disorder. Through good fortune and around the clock attention from Rebecca and husband, Ruth, her daughter lived for almost ten months. During that period Rebecca packed on the pounds as her activity level dropped to a new low. After the death of her daughter, Rebecca and her husband went on a spiritual walk-a-about to, of all places, Florida. There they fished, cried, meditated and ate. The pounds continued to amass without sympathy. When their money ran out, they returned home, many pounds heavier than when they left.

Timing was perfect for a change and the messenger appeared in a monthly issue of Prevention. An article for walking a marathon with Prevention sparked Rebecca's interest and kindled a desire to turn her health situation around. Now faced with numerous health issues (osteopenia and hypothyroidism) and a desire to live drug free, it was a perfect time to change her life course.

Rebecca following the training religiously and combined the increase in activity with a decrease in eating bad foods. Having learned to journal food consumption during the care of her sick daughter, she redirected the skill to her own situation and recorded her dietary habits as well as all of her workouts. The years and weight protested slightly and Rebecca had numerous, but not serious, aches and pains as she busted the rust from years of neglect. This never discourage Rebecca and she completed the program walking her first marathon in a time of 6:32 at the age of 41. Over the eight month training program Rebecca dropped an amazing 40 lbs and never put it back on. Walking was now a part of Rebecca's everyday life and she continued dropping weight until she stabilized at around 140lbs.

The next transformation came from the message boards on Prevention's website. The constant chatter of an unknown form a walking, race walking, peaked Rebecca's Interest. She found a link to Dave McGovern's How to Walk a Marathon book and started the evolution into a speed-seeking race walker.

Now, eight years later, Rebecca works out an average of five days a week. She still has to be mindful of her college back injury, but the lower impact of race walking is just enough to allow her to walk fast, walk smart, and walk healthy. Her weight is in control, the hypothyroidism vanished, and her osteopenia reversed itself. What better endorsement is there for walking? As Rebecca says, "Walking is much better than prescription drugs."



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