A woman walking over a hill with flowers

Getting Back to Walking With AS

I can remember a time when I took walking for granted.

I didn’t give my legs a second thought throughout childhood, or as a young adult when I lived in the city. Without a car of my own I often walked to get where I needed to go. It was free, simple and easy.

Later when I moved to the country and then the beach my husband and I would spend all our weekends exploring different places on foot, discovering beautiful places, and immersing ourselves in nature. At some point for me walking stopped feeling so good. On the nights after a walk I’d toss and turn restlessly, unable to find a comfortable position. I thought it was my tight hamstrings.

By the time I found out I had AS I could no longer walk my little girls to the school fence, let alone their classrooms. It had become excruciating to get in and out of bed, or the car, and I could barely limp down the hallway to answer the front door.

When the doctor who diagnosed me told me to “just keep moving” it felt like a cruel joke. He clearly had no idea of the searing pain radiating from my back down to my legs and making walking an exercise in agony.

Thank goodness for those early meds

Even though they would eventually stop working, they provided a circuit breaker at a time when I was beyond desperate. With them I was able to function again. Through trial and error I found additional ways to bring the raging inflammation down, a combination of conventional medical strategies and lifestyle changes I figured out a bit at at time.

Gentle walking soon became possible once again and I found it was my favorite way to exercise. Over time I slowly increased my pace and distance, inspired to get back to the tracks I used to enjoy so much. Today regular walking is the most important way I keep myself active. Steep hills and soft sand still trigger some soreness, but with supportive shoes and flat ground I can generally walk for miles.

Working with both a physiotherapist and podiatrist has proved really helpful for me. They made me aware of some ways I could fine tune my walking style to prevent aggravating the areas AS makes vulnerable.

I was able to correct my posture and learned to shorten my stride

I began to stretch before and after a big walk. These changes made walking easier and the overnight pain became a thing of the past for me. Good shoes and orthotic inserts have also become a non-negotiable for me and I no longer experience the foot pain that used to trouble me.

I use the step counter on my phone to compete with myself and see how I’m progressing over time. I’ve also taken part in Walk for AS and other virtual challenges, which have been a fun way to stay motivated and connect with others.

Walking is one of the best strategies I have in my toolkit for staying well with AS

I’m so glad to have this activity back in my life and I don’t think I’ll ever take it for granted again.

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