I went out for a walk today for the first time since before Christmas. I was so out of shape that I could barely do half my usual distance at half my standard pace. When I practically crawled back up the driveway, gasping for air, I vowed never to let it go that long again. It’s not as if I did nothing at all these past few weeks. I faithfully hefted weights at my Stronger Living class, shoveled the deck a few times (that counts) and have had one session at a Tai Chi class.

Trying to stay fit is a never-ending battle. I’ve tried all there is in my quest for a strong, healthy, and let’s not forget svelte, body. Way back when the kids were little, I twisted and turned, and hopped up and down under the tutelage various TV fitness programs. My ever-present tots found it useful to use me for parallel bars while I was attempting push-ups. There was an aerobics phase where I danced around in various gymnasiums to routines that had been choreographed especially for those whose regular fitness regime had most often centered around hanging out the laundry or pushing a stroller.

There was a brief classical ballet class that met in front of a huge mirror that consistently reminded me why I should never wear a leotard and pink tights.

One day it occurred to me that more and more people I knew had taken up jogging, popularly referred to as running. I decided to give it a whirl and was soon trotting along neighborhood streets and loving it.

In no time at all I realized I had found the perfect fitness routine. It required no traveling (like to a gym), no special outfits

and cost absolutely nothing. Well, it eventually cost me both my knees but that’s another story. Walking does it all for me. The only problem that gets in the way of walking is the weather. There was a time when I braved ice-covered roads and dangerously life-threatening low temperatures. I even took those artificial knees of mine out for a bit of cross-country skiing. If I were going to call off my walk it had to be for a serious reason. When it came to completing my daily rounds I was a stoic.

But this year is different; I’m a year older.

Lately I find I’m more apt to play hooky from my once-sacred routine. Once I started skipping my walk here and there, it got easier. Neighbors who once gave me a cheerful thumbs up as they drove by, are now giving me a look of pity and I can feel their disappointment in me. People who once greeted me with a cheerful comment about what an inspiration it was to see me out walking every day now avoid me and look the other way.

My walking paraphernalia sits forlornly by the back door like a puppy hoping for some exercise.

It’s time to get back on the road.