Whether it’s an injury, age, or just not finding the time, there is always going to be an obstacle that can get in your way of exercising. Kelsey Wilkes, director of project management, shows that overcoming the challenge will make your efforts that much more rewarding.
“When I started I was having some leg and hip pain and it would take me 40 minutes to walk a mile,” Kelsey said. “I don’t think it’s because I was out of shape or overweight or anything like that. I’m not a desk sitter,” she explained. “But I just couldn’t walk, or sustain a pace or walk for any distance.”
Emily Radaker, senior internal auditor, organized the team of walkers at first under the name Fit for Five with the goal of getting the group ready for 5K events.
Kelsey, 60, joined the Meritus Health walking program during the spring of last year.
“The original idea was to get people fit so they could do the Total Rehab Care 5K,” Kelsey said. It wasn’t long before the group grew and employees of all ages and aspects of Meritus Health joined together to get healthy.
Walking towards her goal
Kelsey got involved with Fit for Five with a goal in mind: to walk a 5K.
The group got together every Monday and Friday at 5 p.m., warmed up with some basic conditioning, and walked the back parking lot. “We had everyone from your typical 5K women and marathon runners to people who had never attempted to run or walk,” she said.
Kelsey fought through her hip and leg pain and continued to get stronger. The group started slow and worked their way up to walking three miles at a time. “I think that learning the strengthening and the exercise prior to starting to walk was really good for starting to increase my strength,” Kelsey said.
When it came time for the Total Rehab Care 5K Kelsey showed significant improvement. She went from walking a 40 minute mile to finishing a 5K at just under an 18 minute mile’s pace.
“That was really just pretty awesome and I kept walking because of that,” Kelsey said. “To think that I could come from practically crawling to being able to actively walk.”
Keeping up the pace
During the winter months, after the Total Rehab Care 5K, Kelsey and some of the walkers started going to the community college to keep up their walking indoors.
“We ended up calling ourselves the Meritus Walkers,” Kelsey said. “There’s four of us that are still meeting twice a week,” she said. “We walk anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.”
Walking has become a part of Kelsey’s routine and she has inspired others to do the same with a simple activity that can make a big difference in your body. “It just reduces stress and it’s good to get out and get physical,” Kelsey said.
Much more to come
Right now, Kelsey has a membership at an unmanned gym and she said that her experience with the Meritus Walkers has her thinking about switching to a gym with professionals that can help her continue her fitness strides.
“I think that joining a group and recognizing that any level can participate and you can get beyond the point at which you start to be impatient and start to be hard on yourself was important to me,” Kelsey said.
She is looking forward to more 5Ks and staying involved with the community.
“Because of being involved in the Meritus Walkers I did a Turkey Trot 5K with my daughter on Thanksgiving day, and I would have never thought of starting Thanksgiving with a 5K instead of coffee, sweet rolls, and getting ready to eat,” she joked.
As for Kelsey’s advice to getting involved and getting fit she says: “I think you need to just do it. I never thought I would want to do an organized event but I enjoyed the camaraderie of other people.”
Aside from walking in more 5Ks, Kelsey says her next challenge is tackling Wii Fit. “It’s been really interesting,” she said. “I knew that my balance and stability and coordination weren’t that great and it’s certainly a challenge.”
Kelsey has proven to herself that any goal is attainable with patience, hard work, and a little motivation to get you started.
By: Meg DePanise