When a Walk is Not Just a Walk

24 May


by Phillip Tomlinson

It was early one morning about five years ago when I first saw her walking up 10th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  If I had to guess, I would put her age somewhere round about the late 80s.  As you might imagine, she wasn’t exactly zooming up that incline.  Rather — hunched over — she labored slightly with the help of her trusty cain.

With determined  purpose, she disappeared up the hill and I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of  a little something that there wasn’t someone with younger legs who could accomplish the errand on which she had so dutifully set out.   Not an unusual thought before turning my attention to my own affairs.

But that wasn’t exactly that.

About a half-an-hour later, as I happened outside, there she was — again climbing that hill.  Then I noticed a couple of things I hadn’t before: her loose-fitting clothes and the smile of satisfaction on her weathered, Asian face.  Then, it hit me — this was no errand.

Just like that, that little tinge of pity I felt before had turned to something else.


This was definitely no ordinary walk, and not age, not slow steps, not any “old” excuse would keep this determined, silver-haired lady from her early morning exercise.

I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed her before, but since then I have many times over — often wondering how many times she goes up and down that hill each morning before calling it quits. 

As for when she’ll entirely give it up? 

I never wonder, because I have a feeling I already know the answer. 

No guessing.

That’s because I ran into her a few days ago, after not having seen her for quite some time.  She was coming down the hill as I walked up.  Satisfaction was still etched on her face, even though her steps had gotten slower.  Much slower.  She still leaned on her cain, but that wasn’t enough because she now had an escort — perhaps a daughter — who supported her on the other side.

Again, I felt a tinge of something.

Renewed admiration.

This, I thought, was definitely when a walk is not just a walk.

If you you’d like to do some legwork of your own, you may want to add the following exercise routine to your arsenal:


Wall Leaners


  1. With your feet shoulder-width apart, stand about three away facing a wall.  BE SURE TO WEAR SNEAKERS WITH GOOD TRACTION.
  2. With your hands straight out in front to support you, lean placing your palms against the wall.  Your body should now form a slope with your feet still about three feet away.
  3. Begin walking, making sure that, on each step, you lift your knee as high as possible.  Do 10 quick steps.
  4. Bend your arms slightly as if you are doing a pushup, generating enough force to push your body away from the wall into an upright position, still keeping your feet where they are.  You should now be standing up straight.
  5. With your arms still extended in front of you, squat down to the floor and stand back up.  THAT’S ONE REPETITION.
  6. Start the second repetition by again leaning in to place your palms on the wall, then proceeding  through to step 4.
  7. Do 10 repetitions.

This routine can be made more challenging by the following:

  1. Doing full pushups against the wall before pushing off back into the upright (standing) position.
  2. Standing back up from the squatting position on one leg instead of two, before leaning back on to the wall to begin the next repetition.  Be sure both feet are on the ground before leaning forward against the wall.
  3. Standing further away from the wall.




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