The last couple of years has been especially hard for our family. Not only did we go through a worldwide pandemic, but we also lost a number of family members in a short period of time, including my oldest son in July 2021 and my sister’s partner in October 2021. As you can imagine, finding the motivation to do anything has been extremely challenging, to say the least, and focusing on my physical health has been the last thing on my mind, until recently.
Just before Christmas, I received an email about registering for the 2023 Walking Challenge. For quite some time before that, I had been considering that I needed to start taking care of myself both physically and mentally. So, incorporating physical activity into my life was top of mind and the Walking Challenge seemed like the perfect opportunity to do that. Once I decided to join the challenge, I called my sister to see if she was interested in joining me and having been on her own journey to better physical health, she was quick to say yes. Over the next couple of weeks, we recruited a few friends and co-workers and just like that we went from a team of a few Sole Sisters to a team of 10 and our team was renamed the Sole Sisters & 2 Misters.
My sister and I both joined the Walking Challenge with the intent of getting out in nature and getting active and we both felt the challenge, along with our competitiveness, would help to provide the motivation we needed. However, what I didn’t anticipate was that for me the Walking Challenge would do so much more than just improve my physical health.
I quickly learned it was relatively easy to work physical activity into my daily routine and I decided I would shoot for a goal of walking 10 km per day or 60-70 km per week. My sister, who is just a tad bit more competitive than me, set a goal for herself of 20 km per day, or 140 km per week. I wasn’t sure she could do it, but she proved me wrong and hit her goal in the first week! The unusually warm weather in January allowed us to get outside for a walk every day and before we knew it we were racking up the kilometres pretty quickly and sometimes even exceeding the weekly goals we had set for ourselves.
Having been a resident of Yellowknife since the 1970s, I thought I was familiar with all that Yellowknife had to offer as far as getting outdoors and into nature. Boy was I wrong. During the first couple of weeks of the challenge, I was introduced to a number of nature trails, which I had never used before. It was like viewing and exploring Yellowknife from a completely different lens. The walk to the Ice Caves was one I had heard about, but I had never done it. So, on one Saturday in January, we set out in search of them. When we found them, I was impressed with their beauty, and I was pleasantly surprised by their proximity and easy access. In my introduction to the numerous trails that wind in and around the city and take you to places like Lake View Cemetery or Great Slave Lake, I discovered there are so many beautiful places from which to glimpse and capture a spectacular view of the city. Though all these trails were new to me, it was nice to see that many residents use these trails on a daily basis and there are many well-beaten paths to follow, even in the middle of a very snowy winter.
When the weather changed at the end of January to the colder temperatures we normally see at this time of year, it wasn’t a problem. We simply traded in our winter gear for sneakers and continued our daily walks at the City of Yellowknife’s Field House. However, walking in the warmth of the Field House was relatively short-lived as city employees went on strike in early February and all city facilities were shut down. Having lived in the north for more than 45 years, I was a little worried that it would be difficult to get out for our daily walks in the frigid temperatures. Wrong again! Not wanting to break the momentum or fail to meet the weekly goal I had set for myself, I decided to get bundled up in my warmest winter gear each day so I could continue my daily walks regardless of the temperature. As the temperatures remained cold, I was happy to learn that it wasn’t so bad walking in the frigid temperatures as long as I was dressed for it.
Participation in the 2023 Walking Challenge has opened my eyes to the beauty of our city and all it has to offer despite the sometimes-harsh winter conditions. I have learned that whether we are walking alone, or as part of a team, every step counts! Not only that, but with every step I took toward better physical health, I felt I was also taking a step forward in my own grief and healing journey. I know I speak for myself and my sister when I say that as the Challenge progressed, it became more and more evident that getting active in nature every day was not only good for our physical health but also had a very positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing as well.
So even though the 2023 Walking Challenge is coming to an end, my sister and I, along with some of our teammates, intend to continue challenging each other to get out and get active each and every day so we can stay on our paths to better health and wellness.
Yvette Schredder – Sole Sisters & 2 Misters
All photos were taken by Yvette Schredder during the 2023 Walking Challenge