As I teach walking and help patients in my office I sometimes hear someone say that they cannot walk much because they have muscle or joint soreness, such as a stiff knee or arthritis. These problems can be serious and if you too are struggling with similar issues or worse, multiple health and fitness issues, I believe the wounded warriors competing in an upcoming, epic foot race in the planet’s harshest environment will inspire you.
Guts, Pride and Sheer Determination
I’m not the first to say I admire the men and women who serve in the free world’s Armed Forces. It takes guts, pride and an inner determination to serve.
We can learn from the character service members show every day of their lives. This is especially true after the terrible injuries so many of them must fight through (after already fighting in battle).
I once had a school teacher who constantly told the class:
“Our challenges define our character.”
He discussed the great wars of history and travels leading up to the founding of Rome. I used to ask myself if modern men (and now, women) would be so brave in battle and in between stints at war. After hearing about the wounded Allied soldiers planning to walk to the South Pole, I got my answer. These veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, all of whom received life-threatening, debilitating injuries, are heading to brutally cold and snowy Antarctica to show their fighting spirit has not diminished.
It is the setbacks and even so called failures in our life that give us the opportunity to harness our inner strength and find the courage to go on. Some people do more than go on, they flourish!
How Do You Respond When Life Hands You Lemons?
In the case of these soldiers, we’re not talking about wounds after being grazed by a bullet or a twisted ankle during a mission. Each wounded warrior involved in this project, from a heroic double-leg amputee to a blind man, has suffered a major, life-altering disability.
I’ve heard of extraordinary levels of bravery before, but I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone with injuries of this magnitude face such an incredible challenge. As we struggle with bouts of soreness and arthritis in our desire to go walking for health, I encourage you to think about these soldiers, and maybe even adopt their “never accept defeat” mindset.
A Journey Worthy of Aeneas and Odysseus
The Odyssey and The Aeneid tell the creation stories of Greece and Rome, respectively, and both detail a journey of epic proportions. The heroes must beat back adversaries, suffer horrible conditions, face crises of doubt and ultimately find their way home.
In October, three groups of veterans from the United States, the UK and the Commonwealth (Australia/Canada) will fly to Antarctica and commence to race to the South Pole in a test worthy of Homer.
Facing potential temperatures of forty degrees below zero, blistering winds of 100 mph and a total of 335 km (208.2 miles) through the snow and ice, this walk is no leisure stroll.
You might ask, “Why on earth would someone want to make such a grueling journey?” It comes down to pride, and the desire to spread the word about a good cause. For most mortals, such a trip would be impossible. Now imagine doing it unable to see, or with only one arm or one leg. Once you consider that element, you understand the heroic drama about take place on the world’s iciest continent.
When you live through an explosion and know friends in your company who didn’t, it takes an enormous emotional toll. If you lose limbs because of those injuries, your life changes forever in just about every way imaginable.
One of these soldiers was even told he’d never walk again. Obviously, the mental and physical toughness within him defeated that prediction.
Now comes the battle for national glory and, more importantly, a powerful statement meant to raise awareness for wounded veterans everywhere. Before we count them out, these wounded warriors are saying, find out what the human spirit can overcome.
The Battle in Our Everyday Lives
I’m not trying to diminish the struggles we face on a daily basis. Dealing with arthritis, back pain, foot trouble or a lack of motivation is difficult. Or gearing up to walk when it is chilly or rainy outside, can at times feel laborious. However, few of us ever push our body to its breaking point. When I heard about the Wounded Warriors project, I felt embarrassed about the triviality of my problems – my struggle to stay fit or overcome relatively minor aches and pains. If they can pull off their incredible walk, I thought, I could certainly walk a lot farther (and more often) than I have been.
For countless everyday people, they simply want to embrace walking for health as a way to stay fit and ward off medical issues. However, even a daily walk, depending on the severity of your health and fitness issues, your personal “battle” may be just as large (or perhaps even larger) than what these soldiers are facing.
You Have the Same Willpower Somewhere Within
No matter our physical strength at birth, we’re all blessed with the ability to overcome obstacles. Our mind, or our mental muscle, is the great equalizer. It’s the reason why we see 5’5” NBA players, why we hear about POWs surviving years of torture, and why this story about wounded soldiers trudging to an icy corner of earth, carrying 120-pound sleds behind them, is a reality.
We have the ability to literally put mind over matter and walk ourselves to a more fulfilling, more rewarding, healthier, fitter life. You might not have a commanding officer or personal trainer to get you in that zone every day, but that’s what friends and family are for. And hopefully, I can help you by writing articles on this website too!
Often, we find ourselves alone facing these challenges. You have to tell yourself you want it; you have to commit to being greater and find within yourself the will to make it happen.
Always Have a Goal
Part of the reason these soldiers will succeed in this walk is because they have a goal. The importance of all of us having goals cannot be overstated. This is true for just about everything we attempt in life, and is especially true for achieving success with our walking.
Is Your Goal Big?
Puny goals are fine and may get us going—up to a point. But, big goals inspire us. These soldiers have a gigantic goal and as a result, they are not only inspiring themselves, but people all over the world.
When it comes to your own walking for health, you need a big goal too. Though, it should also be realistic or else you will just get frustrated.
The key to setting a good walking goal is find one that you believe you can attain and gets you excited. Maybe, you will set your sights on walking every street in your town or city, much like Eva Martin, Matt Green or Tom Graham, or perhaps, you want to do an epic walk in memory of your wife.
These are big goals, I admit. But, I want to open your mind to the possibilities! Most of us will have smaller goals, but for ourselves they may be just as much (or more) of an accomplishment.
Regardless of what you decide your walking goal will be, write it down and look at it every day. Take a moment to visualize achieving your goal. Perhaps, use the walking logs in the Free Downloads section of this website to track your progress.
The power of setting a goal for yourself that gets you jazzed and tracking your progress toward it cannot be underestimated. Research has proven that when people monitor their progress toward a goal, they have a much greater chance of succeeding.
There will always be stories of someone doing the seemingly impossible. Maybe that’s not for you. I know of a few things that definitely are possible. For example, if you get yourself on your feet and get ready to reap the benefits of walking, you’ll make a better life for yourself. It might not be Mount Everest or the South Pole, but it could be the difference between life and death for you.
The main thing is this: The ability to succeed with your walking rests between your ears. Put the pain (and laziness!) behind you, overcome the obstacles in your life, and get moving. You owe it to yourself.
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