Walking away from diabetes



In November of 1997, Linda McKeldin had to depend on her mother to dress her. She was facing surgery for a disc in her back that had herniated into her spinal cord, and she had just found out she was diabetic.

Next Sunday, McKeldin -- fully recovered, 23 pounds lighter and with her diabetes under control -- is looking forward to competing in the second annual Avon Running -- Baltimore 5K Walk/Fun Run. "I'm going to try to run the 5K," says McKeldin, 48, of Ellicott City, "and next year hopefully I'll be able to run 10K."

What made the difference? The simplest exercise of all -- walking.

After surgery, McKeldin was sent to physical therapy. The doctors and therapists all told her that the best thing she could do would be to walk, and that if she did nothing else she should at least walk.

McKeldin, who works 60 hours a week as a district sales manager for Avon, took them seriously.

"I made a pact with myself. I realized that I needed to do this for my health."

Avon sponsors 5K and 10K walk/runs in various cities, and holds a 10-week training course before each one, with levels ranging from beginning walker to advanced runner.

In April 1998, McKeldin signed up and began training to walk in June.

"We started out with a 10- or 15-minute walk," she recalls, "and we were expected to double that by the next week. My goal was to complete the 5K; the only thing was I didn't want to be last."

She finished in the middle of the pack, and stepped up her training. Now she walks for five minutes, runs for six minutes, then walks for five again, continuing those intervals for about an hour. She does that four to six times a week. "I try to plan for seven, but stuff comes up."

McKeldin also joined a gym close to her office and bought a treadmill for her house to increase her workout options.

To make exercise a priority, she says, she looks two weeks ahead in her planner, allotting time before and after work. "I make sure on my calendar I have five or six days scheduled," she says.

After a year, she has lost 23 pounds, and "My blood sugar tests in the normal ranges."

She also attended diabetes education classes at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, learning how to control her diabetes and how to eat in a healthy manner while at parties or in a restaurant. "I lost weight over the Christmas holiday," she says with a laugh. "My daughter said to me, 'Mom, you look better than you've ever looked.' "

To stay motivated, McKeldin recommends the book "Walking and Running for Women Over 40," by Katherine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston marathon. McKeldin also joined the Baltimore Roadrunners.

This year, too, she was back in class training for the Avon run -- but this time as a coach. Avon asked her if she would coach the beginning walkers.

"They said, 'You've walked a mile in people's shoes,' " she says. This summer she plans to walk and run in a few more races.

The Second Annual Avon Running -- Baltimore 5K Walk/Fun Run will be at 8 a.m. June 13 at Rash Field. To enter, call (410) 377-8882.

Pub Date: 06/06/99

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