This Walking Life

This Walking Life

Let’s jump right into it, shall we? Walking. Daily. Me. Five to ten miles. Sometimes more. With camera, to increase awareness. Occasionally with walking sticks, for fun and calorie burn. How did it begin?

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Spring 2017. In the river-hugging neighborhood of northwest Portland, Oregon called The Pearl District. My 10+ year career as a team/project manager at Microsoft was nearing it’s conclusion. I spent the final three years of that career working offsite from our home office high above The Fields Park in Portland.

Walking Oregon City

At the height of this wild ride with technology my desk sported three large monitor screens. Tracking different aspects of Microsoft online help and technical book projects on each of the screens. My team members (top-notch writers and editors) were spread across the country and even the Atlantic. Many of them worked offsite as well. It was a dream job in many respects, but the downside was that I was always at work and always available, morning, night, weekends.

Walking Willamette River Greenway Trail

Burnout was inevitable as was weight gain. The work was highly engaging and I often spent entire days without moving from the large rubber ball that was my desk chair. Of course that had an undesirable outcome. I’m 5’9″ tall. I weighed 135 pounds when I started my career at Microsoft. I weighed 175 pounds when I departed.

Walking Lewis & Clark End of Trail

It’s embarrassing to admit this to the world (and even to myself). But if my story makes ONE woman feel that she too can live her best possible life, it’s more than worth it. And if you’re reading this far and it resonates, it’s YOU I’m writing for.

Willamette River Greenway

If you’re a woman, any age, any fitness level, any weight, this blog is for YOU. There are so many benefits of a lifestyle that includes daily walking that it makes great sense to begin. Once the benefits (oh those endorphins!) kick in, you won’t want to stop.

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Walking: Lifetime health benefits

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There are so many health benefits to daily walking (30 minutes minimum at a good pace) that help ensure an active, energized, healthy body and life. Here are a dozen to get you started:

  • Walking burns calories and builds muscle, which over time results in decreased body fat and maintenance of a healthy weight.
  • Walking suppresses appetite and cravings.
  • Walking helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Walking lowers blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
  • Walking prevents or manages heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Walking improves cardiovascular fitness and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 
  • Walking puts stress on bones, which stimulates strength and density.
  • Walking works major muscle groups, especially legs, glutes, core, and back. 
  • Walking improves mood, cognition, memory, and sleep.
  • Walking releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, which are feel-good neurotransmitters.
  • Walking increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which enhances cognitive function and memory. 
  • Walking gives the immune system a boost by reducing inflammation and assisting in regular regeneration. A healthy, robust immune system is definitely your friend.

The REAL reason I walk

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WOW, right? Yet as fabulous as all these reasons are, they are NOT the reason I walk. Why?

Because I’m not that disciplined. And because I don’t wake up every morning and run through a list of all the ways I might be abusing/neglecting my body/mind. Who does that?

Instead I wake up thinking, “Oh WOW, another great day to be alive. What FUN can I have today?” That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. And I hope it’s what gets you out of bed in the morning too.

Because that’s what PDX Women Who Walk is all about. Having FUN. Enjoying LIFE. CONNECTING to the natural world. CONNECTING with other humans. LIVING fully. And thankfully, all the physical/mental health benefits come along for the ride.

Commitment: Fancy word for go slow and don’t quit

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My now daily 5-10 mile walk started with 1 city block. That’s all I would commit to on that first day. Along with a promise to increase that distance a little each day. So the second day I walked two blocks. Yes, I was stubborn and resistant to the whole idea. Maybe you are too? Never mind. It won’t last. Just begin. Your feet and heart know the way.

Fast forward several months. And then came that fateful day I accidentally walked SEVEN miles. It was a gorgeous day. I was in Portland, Oregon, in the Pearl District, on the riverfront trail hugging the west side of the Willamette River. My mind was blank. My body was singing. Each step strong and true. Time and distance were of no concern. I just wanted the experience to continue. I wanted to walk forever. This is the day that walking transcended obligation/exercise/fitness and became my daily dose of PURE JOY.

And yes, I then had to call The Man for pick up. At that point in my fitness journey there was no way I could have walked it back. And that was the proudest phone call of my life. He of course was stunned. And that delighted me even more. LOL!

Magic happens when you’re ready

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And suddenly, as if by magic, women friends in the neighborhood began asking if they could walk with me. By that time my walking practice was solitary, meditative, and SILENT. And I knew deep in my bones that that’s what it needed to be–for me. So I demurred.

Then came that fateful morning I woke with one of those wild thoughts that ends up changing your life. A hushed internal voice said these words: “Why can’t you take a few women friends out with you ONCE a month?

Vision, Trust, Big Leap

And that’s how PDX Women Who walk was born. Our first Meetup traversing Portland’s Pearl District, Nob Hill, Willamette Heights and Kings Heights neighborhoods was on June 13, 2018. Five fabulous women showed up for that first walk: Ann, Claudia, Mary Frances, Joan, and Mary. Their enthusiasm paved the way for where we are today.

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As of this writing, January 2024, PDX Women Who Walk has hosted 51 monthly walks. Almost all of which filled to capacity.

Which keeps ME happily walking every day of every month creating new walk routes for the group. I apparently have a CALLING. Some people paint. Some people write. I create walk routes. Go figure! The Universe has a sense of humor. I hear her laughing. LOL!

  • PDX Women Who Walk now has 890 members and a 5-Star rating on Meetup. It’s amazing where taking one small step in a heartfelt direction can lead.
  • I recently broke my 7-mile record. The distance to beat is now 15 miles.
  • And in case you’re wondering, 40 pounds disappeared along the way. No dieting required.
  • To lose 1 pound requires walking 10,000 steps (roughly 5 miles) a day for 1 week–a total of 70,000 steps. In one year that equates to 50+ pounds of weight loss. Plus a host of other health benefits that daily walking helps ensure.

Not just any walk

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All walk routes I create are tested and retested several times before launch to the world. The criteria are straight forward, as follows:

  1. Walk must be visually engaging.
  2. Walk must be interesting.
  3. Walk must feel uplifting.
  4. Walk must feel safe (terrain, street life, etc.).
  5. Walk must be between 5-7 miles round trip, with occasional exceptions.
  6. Walk must be moderately challenging (combination of distance and terrain) but not so challenging as to limit it to super fit walkers only, with rare exceptions.
  7. Walk must have clean public restrooms every two miles or so, with rare exceptions.
  8. Walk must include a top-notch local coffee shop situated at midpoint or end of walk, with rare exceptions.

PDX (Portland Metro) Walkabouts


Our Sponsor: The SkyBlue Portland Real Estate Team provides funding and tactical support for our monthly group walks through some of Portland Metro’s most beautiful and interesting neighborhoods. For your next home purchase or sale, please enlist this awesome team of top-notch, extremely knowledgeable Principle Brokers (serving Oregon & Washington).

Join PDX Women Who Walk

Facebook: For info on monthly group walks, check out our Facebook page, PDX Women Who Walk.

Meetup: Join our monthly Meetup: PDX Women Who Walk.

Blog: All our current and future walk routes, with detailed directions and photos/videos, will soon be available on our blog, PDX Women Who Walk. Stay tuned as we work to get them loaded.

Susan S. Bradley

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