Recently I was on the Keaau High School track instructing middle school athletes how to read passing zone markings so that they could understand the rules for a successful relay team.
During the two hours that I was helping I noticed a woman walking laps on the grassy infield, wearing a Big Island Marathon 5K finisher’s tee shirt.
On the second week of my tutorial the same woman appeared again walking laps on the infield but this time I decided to strike up a conversation.
The woman turned out to be 73 years young, Diana Kahler.
“I’m actually 73 and a half,” Kahler said with a wide grin. “I walk everyday no matter where I’m at and since I had to drop off my great granddaughter for track practice I thought I’d do a few laps.”
Kahler is a mother of 6, a grandmother of 11 and a great grandmother of 11.
Born and raised in Marquette, Michigan Kahler grew up playing a lot of different sports.
“My childhood home was a half block from the shores of Lake Superior and summer vacations were spent swimming, playing sandlot baseball and kickball,” Kahler said. “Television was not invented yet and in the winter I would go downhill skiing and sledding, but ice skating was my favorite activity.”
Kahler had chilling memories, no pun intended, of outdoor skating rinks and fire fed warming shacks.
Walking had always been a part of her life, so doing laps around the track for two hours was a piece of cake for her.
“I walked eight blocks to and from school four times a day during the school months,” Kahler said. “Sometimes there were snowdrifts five feet tall and that never stopped me from walking to school.”
Kahler started walking to school in the first grade and it continued through high school.
“I believe those walks to and from school is where I got my love for walking which continues now,” she said.
It was during high school that Kahler joined the Girls Athletic Association and played volleyball, basketball and softball for all four years.
“I received the school letter in athletics in my junior year,” Kahler said.
While growing up Kahler listened to the radio and one of her favorite programs was ‘Hawaii Calls.’
“While listening to Hawaii Calls I would dream of living someplace where the skies were often blue and the weather always warm,” she said. “When the opportunity presented itself 35 years ago I took it.”
Once here Kahler took advantage of our beautiful weather and began walking everyday without the snow drifts.
“I found walking to be a marvelous method of managing my stress as I was working fulltime and completing my degree at the University of Hawaii,” Kahler said.
Her enthusiasm with fitness and tropical weather saw her complete her first half marathon on Oahu I 1999 and six weeks later she became a finisher in the Honolulu Marathon.
“I participated in the Great Aloha Run in 2000 and then began walking less,” she said. “In 2001
I rarely exercised and became overly absorbed in work and volunteering. I began eating as a method of managing my stress.”
The following three years following Kahler’s decision to stop walking was a disaster as she gained 40 pounds, developed aching joints and saw her cholesterol and blood pressure shoot up.
Motivated by two of her friends who had joined Weight Watchers and lost 100 pounds Kahler joined the Hilo group and lost those 40 pounds within a six month period.
“I returned to walking regularly and eating healthy, with the help of Weight Watchers I remain at my goal weight to this day,” Kahler said.
Retired from a lifetime of work, primarily in the Early Childhood Field, Kahler works a few hours a week in Hilo helping others take better care of themselves and keep their weight off.
“I find retirement a bit stressful due to the reduced social interaction,” she said. “But now I have more time to be involved with my Hawaii family and I find it a delightful benefit.”
Today Kahler walks three miles, six days a week, either at the Hilo High Track or around her neighborhood in Naauao.
“I plan to increase my mileage to four while adding in some hills and to increase the intensity in February,” Kahler said.
To maintain her upper body strength Kahler will work with hand weights and resistance cords daily.
“My goal is to stay healthy and injury free and mitigate some of the disabilities that so frequently impact the independence of the elderly,” she said.
Kahler’s infectious enthusiasm for walking has spread to family and friends.
“Walking is a great family event and it is free, you can do it almost anytime and anyplace,” she said.
Kahler has gotten her great granddaughter, Tawnee Respicio and her grandson Treysin Brugman to participate in the New Years Day Resolution Run/Walk. All three walked and finished the 5K of the Big Island International Marathon on March 18, 2012.
“Several members of Weight Watchers came out to do the Resolution Walk with us,” Kahler said.
Kahler continues on her healthy diet which includes a daily intake of five servings each of fruits and vegetables, power foods, non fat dairy and whole grains.
We can all learn from this healthy 73 and a half year old!