[Sarah Schwallier is a Walk2Connect Cooperative member-owner and is a trainer & wellness coach at Strides Life.]
My walking story began in the fields of West Michigan where I grew up on a farm and learned to appreciate the simple things in life. Whether it was walking the fields with my mom or strolling the beaches with my sisters after a long day of volleyball, I cherished these moments of shoulder to shoulder, forward thinking and forward moving. As life became more complicated with an unhealthy marriage, I moved away from these simple ways, both literally and figuratively, and I lost sight of how walking kept me whole.
It is hard to envision how I turned from an active, competitive athlete into a sedentary and unhealthy stranger. Throughout my marriage, my self-confidence, motivation and body image plummeted by the dominating fears that were created through that unhealthy lifestyle. Fears that being thin would get me raped. Fears that going for a hike in the Smoky Mountains would get me eaten by a bear. So, the weight slowly came on and it became easier to be complacent than to fight.
My wake-up moment came when I stopped listening to those irrational fears that were keeping me from the simple joys that shaped my childhood. I realized that the things that I had been told to fear were exactly what I needed. I needed exploration, walking, adventure, fitness and connection. My 90-pound weight loss journey has been one step at a time ever since. It’s taken a lot of strength and courage for me to regain my confidence and establish a healthy lifestyle in a new place as a single parent. I don’t know the right direction, but I’m at least stepping forward.
Today, after coming back to my roots, I feel more grounded than ever. As a personal trainer and health coach, I am able to draw from my personal vulnerabilities to guide individuals through their physical and emotional transformations. I use walking to make fitness accessible to all people at all levels and to bring out everyone’s inner athlete.
Life at 3 miles per hour, to me, means very simply, slow down. It’s a place of centering. It’s choosing to slow down and not run this typical race of 80 miles an hour and being oblivious to everything around me. It’s not trying to fix people or fix their problems, but just being with them. It’s about choosing joy. If I could help every person feel more joyful when we walk together, that would be a gift!