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Walk your way to better with Joyce Shulman

Joyce Shulman is the Cofounder and CEO of Macaroni Kid and 99 Walks and she strongly believes that walking is the key to improving your lifestyle. Today we're going to discuss her new book, Walk Your Way to Better.


Allan (02:48):
Joyce, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Joyce (02:50):
Thanks Allan. I'm thrilled to be here with you.

Allan (02:53):
Now. I am a huge fan of walking. I think it is one of the most underutilized ways of serving our body. And I say that that way because we're going to get into depth of walking is not just a fitness thing. And I really liked your approach to that. The name of your book is Walk Your Way to Better. And you know, as I was reading through the title I was like, Oh better. You know? And so you know, the words are in your head, health and all and wellness and fitness. And so I think there's a reason you stopped right there after the word better and didn't put the rest of it there.

Joyce (03:32):
Absolutely. So I agree with you. Walking is so simple and so incredibly powerful and I just don't think that we recognize or give it the emphasis that we should. So walking has been shown to improve your mind, your mood, and your body in really, really profound ways. So as you say, it's not just your physical, it's your mental and your emotional.

Allan (04:00):
You know, as you look at things like the blue zones that they're doing studies on and you kind of think about ancestral health and the way people were before we had access to cars and bikes and planes and motorcycles and everything else. We used to have to walk to do most of the things. We walk to go get our water, we would walk to go forage, we'd walk to hunt and we may even migrate. And so there were days of walking to get to a better area for hunting and gathering and doing things. We don't do as much walking now as we did that.

Joyce (04:35):
Absolutely. And I believe, and there are a whole lot of people that agree with me, we were just not meant to sit as long and as much as we're sitting, we're built to move.

Allan (04:47):
Yeah. And you were an attorney at one point. I was an accountant.

Joyce (04:51):
We sat a lot. Right?

Allan (04:54):
Sorry you didn't like accounting. But you know, it's just as we think about that, it's like, yeah, we take these jobs because they're going to give us what we need to take care of our families. But then at the same time, we're not necessarily taking care of ourselves, therefore we're not in a position to always take care of our families. That's kind of a bad, bad paradox to be in.

Joyce (05:16):
Exactly right.

Allan (05:18):
So why is walking so valuable?

Joyce (05:21):
So there's boatloads of research on walking on all of the benefits of walking. So I'll just hit sort of some of the top lines when you talk about walking. And I'm gonna leave the body and physical to last because, while it's super important, it's not even where I want to start. So walking has been proven to have a really great impact on your mood. It's been shown to be a valuable tool in combating depression and warding off depression. It's been shown to have an immediate impact on boosting and improving your mood and mindset. So great for your mind. Great for your mood and then for your mind walking has been shown to improve your decision-making ability, help give you energy. And there's a really interesting study that shows that a regular walking practice literally makes your brain bigger. And then just a couple of years ago, fascinating research out of Stanford University shows that a walk can improve your creativity, your ability to create new ideas and have fresh thoughts by up to 60%. It's incredibly powerful.

Allan (06:35):
Yeah. I know you said in the book you were talking about jobs and some of the other people we would think were these great minds and thinkers. They used walking as their creativity space.

Joyce (06:45):
Absolutely. Uh, Aristotle, Socrates, Benjamin Franklin was a big Walker. Darwin was a big Walker. Uh, so people who are under the kind of pressure to constantly be creating new ideas, processing new ideas, innovating. It's the most effective way you can do that.

Allan (07:08):
And then there are the physical aspects.

Joyce (07:11):
Yup. So a regular walking practice has been shown to reduce your risk of dementia, diabetes, osteoporosis, several types of cancers. There's one study that shows that a regular walking practice can add up to seven years to your life.

Allan (07:28):
That's huge. That's huge.

Joyce (07:30):
It's incredible.

Allan (07:31):
You know, I've seen a study before that said, if you just, you walk just five to 10 minutes after a meal, it helps you regulate your blood sugar.

Joyce (07:40):
We're meant to move. We are not meant to finish a big meal and sit in front of the television or in front of social media. We're just not.

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Allan (07:49):
And then beyond that, you had a, I mean, I've seen this other stat out there, well at least another aspect that you've talked about, how walking should kind of get rid of those emotional toxins. It also helps us get rid of physical toxins. Our lymphatic system is, it doesn't have its own pump system. It relies on our muscles or skeletal muscles to actually cause that lymph to move around. And that's flushing toxins out of our body. So if we're sitting still, we're letting ourselves get toxic.

Joyce (08:17):
And you know what's so interesting to me when you look at the last many years, remember the days when people would go in for surgery and then they would be told by their doctors to rest, right? Lie around. And all of that has changed. Practically, regardless of what the nature of the surgery is, as soon as they can get people up and walking, even little bits, they're getting them moving.

Allan (08:44):
Yeah. I had a friend recently, uh, he had a hip replacement and within a day they want him up walking on that hip, you know, just the thought of having them sawing through the bone, applying this metal apparatus, you know, this metal apparatus to your body. And then the next day they're not like, just lay there for six weeks and heal. They're like, nope, you have to be moving.

Joyce (09:05):
Right. And, and 20, 30 years ago they would've had that guy in bed for days.

Allan (09:17):
Yeah, or the wheelchair rest of his life. Yeah. So, you know, walking is something that we must do. It's not should, I mean, we've got to get past the should, the walking is a must. But when you start this conversation of, okay, we've got to walk, and then someone sits there and says, well you know, this is a very busy week for me. I've got to pull an extra shift, I had to you know, I took on extra training time. I've got extra the interviews and things to do this week. I've got, you know, of course my, my other regular stuff that's going on, you know, and I've got to read these three books. And so you kind of pile those and then you say, well where am I going to fit the time to do this walking? Why, why do we have difficulty with that, whereas if you said, okay, you need to take your kid to little league practice, that's a non negotiable. We just, we just do it, but we don't take the time for self care. Why? Why is that?

Joyce (10:10):
You know, there are so many reasons that keep us from taking good care of ourselves. And the first is something that you mentioned just a couple of minutes ago, which is around this paradox of us feeling like we have to do for other people and not take care of ourselves. The paradox of that is if we don't take care of ourselves, we are not capable of taking the best care of the people we love. So that's kind of counterintuitive you want to do for other people and you think that that's the way to do the best you can. The second is we're all just too busy. We have filled our plates to overflowing and we need to take some responsibility and some ownership around that and it's something that I'm working on personally to really try to grab hold of my calendar on a day to day basis and be sure that I am not filling it with things that are just making me busy. Busy is like a badge of honor now. Right. When you say to, when you see somebody you haven't seen for a while and you say to them, how are you the knee jerk? Everybody says, Oh, I'm so busy. And I think the last piece of it, especially for women is we're still being sent the message that taking care of ourselves is selfish and I just think we have to continue to work to try to change that message and change that paradigm.

Allan (11:33):
Yeah, I'm reading the Daily Stoic now. I went, I went through all of that last year. I was really proud of myself for doing that because it was, I've had this book for over three years and each year I get to a certain point and then I stop and I lose it. Last year was the first year I made it through the entire year and I'm reading through it again this year. It's called the Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday, And the funny thing is yesterday's lesson was to not be busy. To be aware of where you're spending your time and what is a a true obligation and what are those things that we just put on ourselves out of guilt and other means. And that's what I really liked about the structure of your book as you break it into 99 walks in each walk is not just a let's get out and walk today and that's your goal.

Allan (12:17):
And then tell me how it went. You're really diving into mindset and one of the things that you got into there that I'd like to kind of get into after you tell me about the structure, the 99 walks and why you put it that way was the making of time, you know, you actually have one of the walks where it's dedicated specifically to making time for this self care. So can you talk through the walks of how you put this together and how this is helpful. And then, you know, some of these that are lessons that you think are pretty valuable for us to go as we're, as we're looking at having a walking practice.

Joyce (12:50):
Absolutely. So the book, as you say, is broken into 99 short sections. Thought starters, research stories, all designed to give people something to contemplate, to think about, to percolate on. One of the things that I see in my own life and in the lives of my friends and the people I talk to all the time is there is a lot of really interesting information and content out there. And I think we're getting better at identifying it and reading it, but I don't think we're giving our selves the chance to really absorb and process it. And because I know how powerful walking is for the way your mind works and the way your mood improves. And of course all the physical, I thought, wouldn't it be amazing if I can share 99 things that I think are important for people to think about and encourage them to then take a couple of minutes to give themselves the chance to percolate and really absorb those messages. So that's, that's my goal. That's my hope.

Allan (13:52):
Well, I think you've accomplished that. That's why I was saying, you know, that's why I brought up the book, the Daily Stoic is because that's kind of my daily sit down, have something to ponder and then I'll meditate on it. I haven't turned that into a walking practice. But you got me, you got me really thinking about that. That's maybe that's how I go about this. But this is a similar structure of here's your daily lesson, give it some thought. And I really like a lot of the things that you get into. Like I said, finding time and then I actually, I quoted a quote out of you. Let me, let me look it up real quick. I've got it. I put it on my Facebook page because, my Facebook group, because I, it was kinda one of those things as I was reading it, I'm like, somebody needs to hear this today. I know someone needs to hear this today. And it was, you deserve your dreams. You deserve your dreams. And so that was one of the lessons as you're kind of going through is have big dreams and then realize you deserve them and should still be working toward them.

Joyce (14:51):
You just can never give up. You can't abandon your dreams, you can't abandon your sense of self. But I do want to talk for a minute. Let's circle back and talk a little bit about, making time.

Allan (15:04):

Joyce (15:04):
Can we dig into that a little bit?

Allan (15:06):
Absolutely. Please.

Joyce (15:07):
So I do talk about that a fair bit in the book in a couple of different contexts, even because we are all so busy that we think we don't have time and a lot of people refer to it as finding time. How am I going to find time for the things that are important? And the first thing I always say to people is, it's not about finding time, it's about making time. It's about saying, this is important for me, therefore it's important for my family. If you need that to encourage you to actually take those steps forward and then you have to make the time.

Joyce (15:44):
So one of the stories I tell, and I won't, I don't want to belabor it, but my daughter was doing gymnastics and I would go and she really wanted me to watch her entire class. And I thought, this is being a good mom. I'm going to sit and I'm going to watch it. I'm going to support her. And then at some point I realized she was sort of performing for me. And that's not what that experience was about for her. That's not what I wanted that experience to be for her. So I started taking 30 minutes and going for a walk. So I would drop her off, get her settled, leave and go take my walk, come back and watch the last 15 minutes and all of a sudden I found 30 minutes in my day, twice a week.

Allan (16:23):
Yes, I've heard, I've heard of moms doing that, you know, taking their child to soccer practice and then just walking around the field.

Joyce (16:28):
You don't have to watch them.

Allan (16:33):
They're awesome. But yeah. And I think one of the keys of what you put forward there, is about the prioritization. You know, what are those things that we are doing that really aren't serving us. You know, sitting there watching really wasn't serving you or your daughter, whereas you going for the walk, you're going to come back at the end of her practice with so much more energy. She's going to be energized because of what she did. You're going to be energized for what she did and then the drive home is a much, I think probably it was a much more joyful experience.

Joyce (17:08):
Absolutely. Absolutely. Because to your point earlier, you are better able to show up for the people you love when you are in a better space, when you are taking care of yourself.

Allan (17:19):
And that's one of the things I really like about the 99 Walks in each one is you're going through a, you're sharing a lot of personal stories yourself and your stories included and it's really just kind of one of those times for you to wrap your mind around something, kind of let go, be mindful of what you're doing. Go out there with some intention and solve some problems and as you said in the book, there might only be a couple dozen of these that really resonate. There might be some that just completely don't apply. You know, as a guy reading the book, I was like, well, you know, a lot of these lessons, if I just read them out, right, wouldn't necessarily apply to me. But if I think about what the underlying purpose of that discussion is about, it applies to all of us at some point.

Joyce (18:03):
For sure. We're all suffering from decision fatigue, even if we don't know it. We all need to be mindful of the people we're surrounding ourselves with. We all have to be intentional about how we're spending our time so much.

Allan (18:20):
Now you've, you've put together this organization, it's called 99 Walks and it's, I went to the website. It's actually really cool. You're doing monthly challenges. You're building community. In a lot of sense. It's, it's more than getting people to walk more. I mean that's, it's awesome, but it's about connection. It's about eliminating some of that isolation and loneliness. We have, you know, you might have a thousand friends on Facebook or Instagram, but you still can feel very lonely. Can you talk about what your organization 99 Walks is doing and how it, how it's, how it's put together and how it's benefited you.

Joyce (18:55):
Yeah, you're so right about the loneliness piece. We have some proprietary research that 73% of American women experience loneliness and that dovetails with some national research around both women and men who put that number right about 70% so there really is a loneliness crisis going on, a very quiet crisis going on in this country because people don't want to talk about that. People don't want to raise their hand and say I am lonely because it makes you feel bad. It's something people are super self conscious about. But the reality is most people are wrestling with that. So I thought if we can create community and encourage people to get out and move in what is this incredibly simple but effective and powerful way. Just by lacing up your sneakers and walking out the door, we could really start to effectuate change. So 99 Walks is a movement to get, we are very focused on women in 99 Walks. So our mission is to get a million women walking. And we do that with a wonderful walk tracker and these monthly challenges. And we reward our members with what we call wearable inspiration, which is a tangible reminder of the goals that you have accomplished at the end of the month. Uh, and building this very powerful, supportive and wonderful community. And along the way we're trying to educate people as well.

Allan (20:26):
Yeah. And I think that's one of the key things here is this is about being, you know, kind of a healthier, better, happier person. Not because you're out there, you know, speed walking for three hours. But you're just getting out and you're in a community, rather you're walking particularly with people around you in your local area or you know, virtually by having friends online that you know, are going through similar things. It's just getting out for that, you know, that 5, 10, 15 maybe 30 minutes each day as a part of, or at least several times during the month as you set your goals to just trying to do that for yourself. That self care that we struggle with.

Joyce (21:04):
It's always, and you know this from the fitness world, it always starts with the mindset and the mood because when people start moving, you don't see physical changes or physical benefits for some period of time if that's your goal. But if you are really tapped in and paying attention to how you feel and how your brain is working, you'll realize that you feel better from day one of getting yourself moving. I assume you've seen this with clients and with other people, right?

Allan (21:34):
Oh yeah. Yeah. I have some clients here that prior to working with me had like zero exercise at all. You know they might walk around a little bit here over around town, but really not a lot. Um, and you get them into a program and the first day they're just, you know, they're just dad on their feet. They're struggling to do any of the exercises and then you're, you're sitting with them, you know, a month later, yeah, they're pumping out reps, you know, they're not getting winded. They're, they're smiling while they're doing some of the work. They're joking while we're going through some of the exercises and um, you know, so there is this kind of boost and it's not just a physical thing. It's really this emotional, they leave feeling better, not just about themselves, but just feeling better in general. There's a, just a wellness that comes out of movement. It's just really hard to explain until you've experienced it.

Joyce (22:28):
Exactly. That's exactly it. And then with 99 Walks, my hope is that we can encourage people who, who haven't had that feeling, who don't know how much better they can feel simply by moving their body and connecting with other people.

Allan (22:44):
And so start with the first walk. Just get that first one done? But by the time you get the 99 Walks in, I do believe that they're going to see some exceptional change in their lives from a mental perspective and a physical perspective. I define wellness as being the healthiest fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Joyce (23:06):
Oh just three.

Allan (23:08):
We have to start somewhere and then we can add on later. But yeah, just three please.

Joyce (23:12):
Yeah, the first, and forgive me cause I'm repeating or I'm repeating myself and I'm repeating what we've been talking about, but it's being willing to invest in yourself and that means investing the time and making your wellness in that broad definition a priority. And the second I think is being willing to do the work. One of the things that I've come to really accept in my life over the last many years of hard work is that everything takes work. Whether it's happiness, people think that happiness is a destination and you can get there and you can just hang out. But the truth is happiness takes ongoing, consistent work to do the things that lead to happiness. Fitness, wellness, those things take work. It's a lot easier to pick up the fast food than it is to go home and wash the kale. It just takes work. And the third is, and this is really important, is surrounding yourself with people who are like minded in that way. I have a section in the book called people are like bananas, which is one of my favorite expressions, but it goes to the fact that you will inevitably take on some of the characteristics of the people with whom you surround yourself. So if you are surrounding yourself with people who don't take care of themselves with people who are not happy with people who don't prioritize wellness, you're going to take on some of those characteristics to your own detriment. Well, thank you Joyce.

Allan (24:50):
If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book and what you're doing over at 99 Walks, where would you like me to send them?

Joyce (24:58):
Well, the book is available on Amazon so you can just head over to Amazon and search, Walk Your Way to Better. I am available on social media and all the channels that Joyce R Shullman, and to learn more about 99 Walks and our movement, you can find us online 99walks.fit and the 99 Walks app is available both Amazon and Android.

Allan (25:20):
So they can get the book, they can contact a local friend and say, Hey friend, I bought you a copy too. We're going to do this. And when they get their book they can, they can start their 99 Walks. So Joyce, thank you so much for being a part of 40 plus fitness. Uh, if you guys want to get the links, you can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/429. So Joyce again, sorry. Thank you so much for being a part of 40 plus fitness.

Joyce (25:43):
Absolutely. My pleasure. Allan, thanks so much.


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