It’s hard to imagine walking round-trip from San Diego to Boston, or 5,500 miles, but that’s about how far Michael Bialik, 64, walks in one year for exercise.
He averages 15 miles every day of the year at Carl Levin Park, including holidays.
“I walk because I want to live longer,” said Bialik, a Harker Heights resident and 20-year Army veteran.
In 1995, Bialik retired to a comfortable and sedentary life, but by 2007, he weighed 220 pounds and was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
“My doctor said I would have a stroke, so I needed to do an exercise routine to stay active,” Bialik said. “I think gyms are boring, so I started walking for one hour, then gradually increased the time because I felt great.”
In the first three months, he lost about 50 pounds.
Wearing one of 12 pairs of walking shoes that he keeps in his car’s trunk, Bialik starts about 5 a.m. doing 14 laps, or 10 miles. Bialik finishes at 7:30 a.m. and takes a coffee break at Starbucks, where he chats with his “crew” of friends. By 8:30 a.m., he returns to the track for another five miles and finishes by 10 a.m. Bialik also walks around town to local businesses, including Papa’s Cafe, H-E-B and Subway.
“I think it’s awesome that he took control of his life when he found out that he had diabetes, and decided it wasn’t going to rule his life,” said Madie Thompson, Subway’s assistant manager.
Bialik’s crew of fellow walkers, including several retired sergeants major and a Harker Heights city employee, join him throughout the morning.
“The key is pacing. When you walk alone, you’re probably walking too slow to do any good, so you need to walk with people,” Bialik said, adding the two other important keys to his walking routine are water and diet.
“As I walk, I drink at least half a gallon of water to keep hydrated,” he said, adding that he had to learn how to eat properly by reducing foods high in carbohydrates, calories, sugar and fat. “I still eat good stuff, like a steak and baked potato, but in moderation and I walk it off.”
As Bialik completed his final lap for the day, he offered simple advice: “Everyone preaches about exercise, but give it a try and just walk.”