Why open water swimmer Diana Nyad wants you to start walking

Diana Nyad made history in 2013 when, at age 64, she swam 111 miles from Havana to Key West, Fla., in 53 hours. 

Still, the fitness icon doesn't expect hordes of people to attempt endurance swimming.

But what most people can do, says Nyad, is walk. Every day. Everywhere they can. 

The Los Angeles-based Nyad teamed up with Bonnie Stoll, who managed the support team during the Cuba swim, to start a national walking movement, EverWalk. On Sunday, Nyad and Stoll are doing their first collaboration with gym chain 24 Hour Fitness, inviting anyone to walk with them in Santa Monica and then stay for a cool down and chat at the club. The free event, said Lashaun Dale, vice president of content and programming for 24 Hour Fitness, is the first of several that will be open to anyone looking to boost their fitness regimens.

“We're riding a wave of walking,” Nyad, now 67, said. “People are trying to get in their 10,000 steps.”

Nyad, who believes “sitting is the new smoking,” shares her thoughts on fitness, and how it doesn’t have to be a triathlon, why you should never eat after dark, and the true meaning of the word “epic”:

1. Walking is really the best exercise

After Cuba, I thought that nothing would ever feel that good again. I said to Bonnie, “What can we do to make the world feel like this?” That's when we started EverWalk. So it doesn't matter if you just walk your dog around the block. That's better than sitting in a chair all week. Let's develop a tribe of walkers. Let's turn this car culture into a walking culture.

2. Walking can be epic

We're after that flat-out, bad-ass, epic spirit. People would like to be epic. But not everybody will do an Ironman triathlon, or run a marathon, or climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. But can people walk from Los Angeles to San Diego? They can. We did it in October, and people wept at the self-empowerment they had in their own legs. 

3. Yes, you can really change your body with walking

That midsection gets flatter, tighter, leaner. It is surprisingly effective in terms of body tone. Some people still need to do something for the upper body — push-ups or sit-ups, something for the biceps, triceps, shoulders.

4. Forget the fad diets, just be sensible

If your weight isn't want you want it to be, there's more going in than what you are putting out. I see a beautiful piece of fish, a clump of rice, a few greens, and I know this is going to be better for my body.

5. Why I never eat at night

Eating late doesn't work for anybody. That ice cream at 11 p.m. will take you downhill — poor digestion while you're sleeping, and you wake up with the fat of that ice cream on your body. Eating late is a barrier I don't cross.

“EverWalk 'Walk and Talk'” with Diana Nyad 

When: 8 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 22

Where: Meet at 24 Hour Fitness Santa Monica Super Sport, 2929 31st St., Santa Monica for a two-mile walk through Santa Monica State Beach followed by a cool-down class.

Event takes place rain or shine. If too wet to walk, another fitness activity will be offered.

Cost: Free

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