Health & Wellness

Marathon Swimmer Diana Nyad Wants You to Join Her Walking Revolution

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In 2013, at the age of 64, Diana Nyad became the first person in the world to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage.

It was her fifth attempt to swim the straits from Havana to Key West, and Nyad completed the 111-mile open-sea crossing in 53 hours.

In truth, the deep personal quest had begun 35 years earlier. “When I was in my athletic prime in my 20s I had a vision of something that was probably impossible,” Nyad says. “It was a star that I was chasing to be everything I could be, to touch every fiber of my potential.”

Now, she has a new quest. Along with her best friend Bonnie Stoll, Nyad has started a movement to get America walking. They have launched the nonprofit EverWalk, which they’re calling “the biggest walking initiative in American history.”

The mission: inspire millions of people to “get off the couch, away from their television and computer screens and grab hold of their lives," Nyad says.  

Sure, walking is good for your health and a regular walking program may help with weight loss. It’s one of the most injury-free forms of exercises you can choose, and one you can pretty much do wherever you are. But what really makes Nyad passionate is her belief that walking with other people in the great outdoors can connect us all to the experience of empowerment, that epic feeling of being all that you can be that she had when she landed on the beach in Key West.

“We all have different capabilities and different constraints,” she says. “But whether you’ve walked a mile or 20 miles, when you reach your destination there’s a feeling of pride that you got yourself down that road on your own steam.”

Nyad and Stoll walk at a pace of about 15 minutes a mile. “We’re not race walking, but it’s a pretty good clip,” she says. “Still, we have the breath and the energy to talk to each other.” What’s remarkable is that while the two have been best friends for 40 years now, “we have never shared such intimacy and had the quality of time that we have since we became walkers two years ago.”

They’ve also gotten to see Los Angeles, a city where they’ve lived for 20 years, in a way they never did before. And that’s true not just of the new neighborhoods they’ve been exploring, but also of their own streets. “There’s a street I’ve driven hundreds of times on my way to Whole Foods,” Nyad says, “and I think I’m a pretty observant person. But the other day Bonnie and I were walking and something red caught our eye. At first we thought it was a bird but when we got closer, we saw that it was a beautiful painted red box with a sweet little glass door. It was a lending library. People in the neighborhood could leave a book or take a book. I make discoveries like that all the time on my walks.”

EverWalk’s training guide offers tips on proper walking form, pace, stretches, choosing the sneakers that are right for you and dealing with blisters, along with sample training plans and worksheets for tracking your own walking goals. You may find this information helpful, whether you want to join the epic walk or create your own walking program.

If you’ve been inactive, it’s a good idea to check with your health-care practitioner before you start walking or any exercise program. Then, when you’re ready, you can visit EverWalk.com and join EverWalk Nation by making the pledge to walk at least three times a week.  As Nyad says, “It’s taken us decades to become a largely sedentary society. It’s time for an epic revolution.” 

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