Marlene Dropp was so out of shape that she couldn’t even walk around the block. Seven years later, at age 51, she walked a marathon.

A veteran dieter, Marlene had struggled with her weight all of her life. Sometimes she’d lose a few pounds, but they would always come back.

Then one day, as she looked in the mirror, Marlene realized how much she disliked the image that she saw. “I was a frumpy 200-pound matron,” says the mother of four. “My dress had stripes, a frilly collar, and fluffy sleeves, like something my mother would have worn. I couldn’t fit into more fashionable clothes. That’s when I started feeling like a blimp.”

That’s also when she decided to do something about it. Because of her weight, Marlene had always felt too self-conscious exercise in public. But this time, she was determined.

So one beautiful morning in 1989, with her husband at home to watch the kids, Marlene decided on impulse to take a walk around her Hibbing, Minnesota, neighborhood. To her surprise, she arrived home energized. “That’s when I decided to make walking part of my daily routine,” she says.

Immediately, Marlene set a goal for herself. She wanted to advance from walking around the block to walking 5 miles a day. Her neighborhood is laid out in half-mile circles, so she just kept adding circles to her route. Within 2 months, she achieved her goal. So she set her sights on a new objective: She wanted to cover a mile in 13 minutes. A year later, she could do it with ease.

Within 2 years of starting her exercise program and making some changes in her eating habits—primarily avoiding fats and sweets—Marlene lost 50 pounds. As she got faster, she began entering racewalking competitions—milers, 2-milers, and 5Ks. In 1996, she celebrated her 51st birthday by entering a marathon. She completed the 26-mile course in less than 6 hours.

Even though she continues to compete, Marlene credits those daily walks around the block with jump-starting her weight-loss efforts. Today, at age 55, she maintains a healthy weight of 150 pounds.


Follow the 10 percent rule. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is an exercise program. Whatever activity you choose—walking, running, cycling, swimming, or something else—start slow and easy. Gradually build to

your desired duration and intensity A good rule of thumb is to increase your level of activity by 10 percent a week. So if you’re able to walk for 10 minutes your first time out, stay at that level for 1 week. Then add 1 minute—10 percent—to your workout the next week. Continue until you’re walking for 30 minutes a day.


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