Chris Englert of EatWalkLearn: 5 Things You Should Do to Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement
Find friends to share in the wellness with you — After leaving my Fortune 500 job, I discovered that I didn’t have many friends. I had recently moved to Denver, my kid was old enough to not need Mommy Groups anymore, and my worker friends kind of fell to the wayside. So when I created the Neighborhood Walking Project, I saw it as a way to possibly meet some new friends and develop a better way to spend my time around wellness.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things You Should Do to Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement” I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Englert.
Forced into an early retirement from a successful career in Fortune 500 sales, she refused to sit still while awaiting for her husband’s retirement. Instead, she turned a passion for walking vacations into two websites and four books, which keep her engaged, motivated and curious about the world around her. Even in this time of health concerns around the world, Englert continues to find ways to engage in her world by foot.
Chris Englert, forced to retire early, thought she needed to wait for her husband to retire in order to start enjoying life after her career abruptly ended. Out on a walk, she realized she was very wrong, and began a wellness journey that not only keeps her occupied while her husband waits for his magic numbers, but she’s never been in better shape or had more friends. Now as Denver’s urban hiking authority, she shares ways to make physical wellness a part of your everyday life in retirement.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I retired from the largest higher education publishing house in the world, yet I almost didn’t get hired. At the time in my career in the early 2000s, I had had several jobs over a short period of time. Each had ended by circumstance, not due to my performance, but my track record didn’t look good. One of the hiring managers asked how she could be sure that I wouldn’t just flit off after a couple of years and their investment in me. All I could say was that I promised not to leave for at least five years.
At our new rep training, I fell in love with the job, but when I returned back to my territory, I was summoned to a meeting with two managers. It should have been a red flag to me, but I just assumed they wanted to say how great of a job I had done at the training. Instead, they advised me that the leadership felt I had asked too many questions and wasn’t savvy enough to stay quiet. I disagreed vehemently, questioned whether I was in the right place or not, and thought about quitting on the spot. But I recalled my promise to stay. And then proceeded to knock every sales goal out of the park, coming in as either number one, two or three the next five years. This success continued throughout my career.
I learned a lot about myself and corporate culture in my first few years. As someone who learns through questions, I found out that others might see that as showboating. I never wavered from asking questions, but I learned that finding the right time and right place to ask them may be even more important than asking the questions. It took almost losing my job to find that out, and I thank my first manager for that guidance.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In some cases, retirement can reduce health, and in others it can improve health. From your point of view or experience, what are a few of the reasons that retirement can reduce one’s health?
(Choose) Can you share with our readers 5 things that one should do to optimize their physical wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.
Once the clock no longer wakes you up, it’s tempting to fall into a lackadaisical approach to the day. Without an agenda or a requirement to be someplace, how should you spend your time? In the past when I worked, although I had a job where I walked on college campuses all day, I was lucky enough to find 30 minutes a week to formally exercise. Yet, now in retirement, I had all the time in the world to exercise, but a schedule didn’t force me into a designated time.
- Create a wellness project that keeps you engaged.
I had to find a project. It has to be something that would entice me to move yet also be interesting and challenging too. I decided that I would walk all 78 Denver neighborhoods, I would document the walks, and I would somehow share the information with other folks. Walking became the platform for discovery, wellness, and friendship.
First I pulled out a map of Denver and identified all the neighborhoods. I decided to walk them in alphabetical order.
Second, I didn’t want to walk them alone. I decided that I would create an announcement about the overall project and post the walks on Meetup. I limited the group to 9 other folks, and I set up rules. We’d meet at 10 on Mondays and Thursdays. We’d leave by 10:05. We’d probably get lost. We’d be on a walk, not a tour.
Surprisingly, all 9 spots were taken for all 78 walks within an hour of posting the project!
Third, out on the walks we went. I documented them along the way, posted them to a website, and eventually wrote an ebook, Discovering Denver’s Neighborhoods, that I put up on Amazon.
2. Find friends to share in the wellness with you.
After leaving my Fortune 500 job, I discovered that I didn’t have many friends. I had recently moved to Denver, my kid was old enough to not need Mommy Groups anymore, and my worker friends kind of fell to the wayside. So when I created the Neighborhood Walking Project, I saw it as a way to possibly meet some new friends and develop a better way to spend my time around wellness.
It worked. My entire network of friends that I have in Denver centers around walking. Instead of getting together and eating or drinking, we socialize around hiking and walking. Every weekend fills with a hike, and many of my weekdays fill with neighborhood jaunts.
3. Share your wellness story with others.
When I started walking, I thought 2–3 miles was a marathon! Now, I’ll walk over 8 miles a day just because I enjoy the act of putting one foot in front of the other. When I started sharing my routes and my experiences with people, they wanted more! Thus, I created a website for folks in Denver who want to walk, www.DenverByFoot.com. This lead to getting two book deals, doing podcasts, and being recognized as Denver’s urban hiking authority.
4. Stay true to your wellness self.
Because my legs were getting stronger and my body was firming up, I started paying more attention to my food and what I ate. I moved from eating mostly vegetarian to vegetarian to vegan. The more my diet became about plants and whole foods, the better I felt. The better I felt, the more I wanted to move. The more I move, the better I feel. This cycle is fuelled by a desire to learn about vegan cooking and to share that information with others. I have since started a Facebook group of Denver vegans, which has resulted in more friends, wellness, and discovery!
5. Join a gym that works for you.
Although I had been a member of many different gyms in my life, I had never really found one that fit me. Plus, the membership often went unused due to crazy kid-life-work schedules. Now with lots of time available (although now I wonder how I ever worked with all the things I’m doing!), I joined F45. It’s a fantastic workout that you can finish in 45 minutes. It works for me and helps me continue my desire to move. If anything I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older, it’s that if you want to keep moving, you have to move. I want to make 60, 70, 80, and 90 be moving decades, not sitting decades.
In your experience, what are 3 or 4 things that people wish someone told them before they retired?
Retirement snuck up on me unexpectedly by a good five years. I probably could have found another job, but I didn’t want to, and luckily, the finances worked out that I didn’t need to. But the hardest part of being retired early is that my spouse is still working. I wish I would have understood that earlier. It’s not something I really thought about until it was in my lap. I think people in similar situations think they have to wait until their spouse retires to really start their own retirement. This isn’t true.
While my spouse has continued to work, I have found my own friends, taken my own vacations, created my own schedules, and started my retirement. It’s taken an adjustment and lots of conversation between the two of us — after all, I don’t want to upset him and make him feel left out — to make our split lives work in the short term. Yes, I’m saving things for us to do when he’s ready. In the meantime, I’m doing the things I want to do that he isn’t interested in. I started my next project, #50Hikes50States, and I’m blogging about it at Www.EatWalkLearn.com.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Now with COVID upon us and lots of people working at home, I’d love to see a “Walk to Work” culture happen where people replace their old drive-times with walks around the neighborhood before they start work in their home. Let’s turn Drive Time into Walk Time!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Adventure is a journey, not a destination.”
People often say, “Let’s go on an adventure” thinking that the adventure begins when they arrive at the destination. Actually, though, the adventure starts the minute you think up the idea. This is how my #50Hikes50States project occurred. With COVID setting in and our international travel wings have been clipped, it’s time to discover or rediscover the USA. So I took our plans to travel the world when my husband retires next year into a US-based hiking extravaganza. I hope you’ll follow along!
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
I’d love to chat with one of the publishing editors at National Geographic. I think the #50Hikes50States project could turn into something with great appeal to a large traveling audience looking for more friendly and sustainable ways to consume the beauty of the US.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
If you want to follow my Denver shenanigans, find me on social at @DenverByFoot. If you’re more interested in my global walking vacations and the #50Hikes50States project, follow me everywhere on social at @EatWalkLearn.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!