A man walking away from the sad pained version of himself looking happy.

Walk Away From Pain

I am a walker!

I used to be a runner, but those days are long behind me.

Still, when I am out on the open road with just my two feet I feel so much freedom.

I started running in the 8th grade after I broke my wrist playing ice hockey and I needed a way to keep fit. Fortunately, I lived in a part of New Jersey that was all open roads and woodland trails.

For me, it wasn’t the activity (although the endorphins were nice) it was the places I could go and see. Rarely ever did I have to take the same path. Each day was a new adventure.

And it was an escape from my spondylitis pain.

Pulling ahead of my pain

I was diagnosed with spondylitis around the same time I started running.

If you’ve read my diagnosis story, you know that treatment was not really an option for me. Biologics hadn’t been invented yet, DMARDs weren’t an option, and there was concern that heavy use of NSAIDs might be harmful to a 12 year old...So, I was told to stay active.

I went to physical therapy, I kept playing football and hockey, I walked everywhere. And that was my life. Keeping active and trying to stay ahead of my spondylitis.

Although I don’t remember hurting that much, I knew my recovery times became longer and longer, my joints cracked, and I was really stiff. Everything I did was rigid, I was not a smooth operator in the slightest.

However for a little under 10 years, physical activity was the best and only treatment I had.

Unfortunately, my running days came to an end half way through a 10 mile trail run in my university’s Nature Preserve. I didn’t have it in me anymore to keep going. I turned around and walked home.

And for a decade, I remained inactive and I let my spondylitis catch up with me. I didn’t have insurance, I didn’t treat anything, I just got “older and older.” Like my doctor will later say to me. “Everyone gets older, you're just getting there a lot faster.”

An interview with destiny!

In 2012 I was hosting the morning news and talk show on a local (and I mean local) AM radio station. I received a call from a woman representing a brand new exercise app called Endomondo, and she wanted to schedule a time for us to interview their founder to promote this app. And part of the interview deal, my co-host and I would receive free subscriptions to the full version of the app.

We talked to the founder who was calling from Denmark and learned all about her app. And, I must say, being that it was Summer, I was pretty excited to try it.

The Cross Country competition was a huge driving force for me when I was a runner. I wanted to not only beat my opponents, but also beat my previous times. This app allowed me to race against myself.

I would set a distance, and the app would tell me how far ahead or behind my best time I was. It was exactly what I needed to get moving again.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t walk anymore, or didn’t want to, I just needed something to give me a reason to. My times got faster, and I rediscovered how great exercise on the open road was for my Spondy body.

A zombie apocalypse in my mind

Unfortunately, Endomondo didn’t last. The app was bought by UnderArmor and they let it slowly die.

For some time, I went back to my inactive ways. I moved to a new location that, while having plenty of roads to walk on, was not particularly exciting.

I forgot all about my love of walking.

Then, the apocalypse happened. No, not Covid...Zombies!

I discovered a new exercise app that gave me a reason to move again. The app is called “Zombies, Run!” a British based serial where you are “Runner 5,” a brave, physically fit individual that runs missions for a fictional town during the zombie apocalypse. Along the way you pick up supplies, and listen through your headset about the mission you are running and what is going on back at base.

While you are not able to compete against yourself, it still tracks my workouts, tells me my mile times, and most of all is entertaining enough to totally distract me from the pain in my feet and hips.

I want to note, this is not a paid advertisement for this app, but I want to use it to get me to my next point.

Make walking fun!

I don’t know about you, but I need a reason to walk.

Even if I eat well and walk 6 miles, I've apparently reached the part of my life where I can’t lose weight, and my mile times have pretty much plateaued. My heart is probably more happy, and my energy is higher, but as for improving physical fitness, the motivation is gone.

So, all that’s left is to make walking fun!

You can use an app like I do that can feel like a competition, or tell you a story that makes your workout feel like it’s something more.

You can listen to a podcast or audio book that will distract you from any pain and unhelpful thoughts.

If you happen to be a bit more social, you might want to get a group of friends who can make walking more of a social event.

Or you could take a walk with your best friend in the whole wide world who always wants to spend time with you...Your dog.

I am not a doctor, and if you aren’t sure if walking is right for you, consult a medical professional. But, I think 99% of them will tell you keeping active is a fantastic choice.

I choose to walk away from my pain.

On the road, it’s no more than a distant memory.

Now, please excuse me, I need to enter this zombie filled warehouse.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AxialSpondyloarthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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