When a caregiver first suggested it last fall, I thought he might be a tad bit crazy.

We were having a conversation about creative ways that I might be able to get some exercise since my options to do so are somewhat limited.  On a whim, he got my tape measure out of my toolbox and figured out the length of a lap (down and back) on my parallel bars.  Once he had that calculated, he sat down with a pencil and paper and went to work.  He was a math whiz, I knew that, but I had no clue what he was doing.

After a few minutes he said “If you walked 5050 laps on your parallel bars, you will have walked 13.1 miles, a half marathon.  If you completed 50 laps a day, then you could finish the whole thing in a little more than three months.  What do you think?”

I was intrigued.  I walked with canes and leg braces when I was young and all through high school, but I had not done much significant walking as an adult.  I could think of numerous benefits.  Walking might reduce my spasms, improve my kidney function and decrease my back pain.  In addition, changing position several times per day might make me more comfortable.  I was in. At first, I couldn’t do five laps without getting fairly winded.  I knew it would take a while to work up to 50 laps a day.

Step by step…

I would like to say I worked at it consistently, but I don’t like to lie.  Life and significant health problems got in the way fairly often.  I completed the half marathon in the beginning of May, but then a strange thing happened.  I was hooked.

I decided to walk 26.2 miles, the distance of a full marathon over the summer.

I started in the middle of May and after a few days, it became apparent that if I was going to complete this goal by the end of the summer I would have to seriously step up my game.  I wanted to make sure my posture was good most of the time so I hung two mirrors close to each end of the parallel bars.  That way I could watch myself while I was doing my laps and focus on my form, just like the real athletes do.  🙂  I started walking an average of 150 laps per day.

Step by step…

My caregivers and I kept track of my progress on a whiteboard in my living room.  Every day they changed the number of total laps that I did so that I could see the total in prominent black magic marker.  They were as excited about this goal as I was. Every morning I put completing my laps on my to-do list, and I didn’t feel finished each day until that particular task was crossed off.  Over time I noticed that my balance was better and my transfers were easier.  I also had more stamina when I had to stand at my grab bars that are located throughout my house.

Step by step…

The exercise was good for my mindset as well.  Sometimes I would listen to good music when I walked and doing so would quiet my mental clutter.  Sometimes the rhythm of completing my laps would help me think through a writing project when I was stuck or help me come up with the perfect phrase to articulate what I was thinking.

But in walking my laps I also proved to myself that I could look at a huge challenge and break it down into manageable pieces, and get closer to accomplishing it by focusing on just a little bit at a time.  As someone who has been known to get overwhelmed fairly frequently, that was an excellent lesson for me to learn.

On August 25th, I got it done.  I finished walking 10,100 laps on my parallel bars for a total of 26.2 miles.  The sense of satisfaction was incredible and the support I got was more than I could have imagined.  The Facebook post about this accomplishment got 103 likes and 28 positive comments.  I have never had one of my posts get that much feedback in all the years since I joined Facebook in 2008.  I realized that I could not only be proud of what I had accomplished, but people who care about me were proud of me as well.  That stuff totally lights me up!

I pushed a marathon in my wheelchair when I was a senior in high school, finishing in 11 hours, 57 minutes and 29 seconds.  I walked this marathon in a little more than three months.  I also walked a half-marathon and a full marathon in less than a year.

Completing my personal parallel bar challenge proved something far more significant for me.

Now I know  achieving anything is possible, as long as I do it step by step.