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Windsor couple shed pounds and improve their lives with daily strolls

Susan and Stephen Underwood, in their iconic hats, are often seen holding hands and walking through Windsor to keep fit.
Susan and Stephen Underwood, in their iconic hats, are often seen holding hands and walking through Windsor to keep fit.

WINDSOR - Susan and Stephen Underwood are something of a moving landmark in Windsor.

Almost every day, they can be spotted walking around town, holding hands, with bright white hats that catch the eye.

They’ve also changed quite a bit since they’ve established this daily routine - they’ve each lost over 100 pounds since committing to walk three times a day, an hour each time.

Both Stephen and Susan say the routine has greatly improved their lives, mentally and physically.

“I’ll never forget, our first time out for a walk, we didn’t quite make it to the community centre, which isn’t far away,” he said.

That walk is less than a kilometre.

“And we were huffing. And puffing. So we turned back.”

But the two stuck with it, and eventually were able to walk to the community centre, then the post office, then the old Stephens and Yeatons garage, which is now abandoned.

They kept pushing themselves bit by bit.

“One day, we decided, instead of turning around and heading back, why not keep walking?” Stephen said.

After Stephen retired from his job as an industrial mechanic, they found they enjoyed walking so much they decided to go for walks multiple times in a day. That was approximately three years ago.

A big change

Stephen and Susan admit they were a little nervous about doing an interview, but agreed that if sharing their story could inspire others to get fit, they would.

The couple used to be much heavier, both over 300 pounds, and their weight was causing severe pain in their joints and backs, especially after they entered their 50s.

“We reached a point where everything hurt,” Susan said. “It was really that bad, it was terrible. Doing basic things like housework was agony.”

Susan said both of them went through pain medication like candy to try to bring it down - which they realized wasn’t a great long-term plan.

As they shed pounds from walking, the pain has gone almost completely. Both say they feel much better now and have more energy.

They’ve changed their eating patterns as well - switching to healthy, fresh food and avoiding junk food and snacks.

The couple don’t keep track of their steps, or the total distance they walk with FitBits or other devices - they just walk.

Susan and Stephen Underwood look at photos of themselves from a few years ago, over 100 pounds heavier. They keep these pictures to remind themselves of how far they’ve come since they started a daily walking routine.

They keep pictures of themselves at their biggest on their fridge door, with frowns on their faces, as a reminder of where they’ve been - and as incentive to not go back to that stage.

“It hasn’t been easy,” Susan said. “I won’t lie, it’s really hard to keep at it. There are days when I really just want a bag of chips.”

Susan said she allows herself one treat a day - a cone of frozen yoghurt and a small piece of dark chocolate about the size of a nine-volt battery.

“I couldn’t give up chocolate,” Susan says with a laugh.

Getting to know the town

The Underwoods stick to sidewalks in town instead of using nearby trails, a choice they’ve made because they enjoy seeing what’s going on in the neighbourhood.

Spending so much time out and about, they’ve also met a lot their neighbours and fellow walkers.

“People would come up to us and say ‘we’ve been watching you,’ and it was creepy at first, but I didn’t realize how much influence we had over people around here,” Susan said. “We had no idea.”

Stephen said people in the community have been their cheerleaders.

“We were at the SuperStore, and a gentleman stopped us and said ‘look, you don’t know me, but I’ve seen you walking around town for years and I just wanted to tell you how much inspiration you’ve given me,’” Stephen said. “I told him the hardest part of walking is the first step out the door. Once you’re out the door, you just let your feet go and you’re off.”

Inspiring others wasn’t what they set out to do, but Stephen added that he’s happy they might encourage others to take similar steps.

What was once a struggle - convincing themselves to go outside to walk a few blocks - is now second nature. Stephen said it’s weird if they don’t go for a walk.

“For three hours a day, I get to hold hands with my wonderful wife, we get to talk and walk and exercise,” he said. “It’s win, win, win, win.”


The Routine

The Underwoods usually take their first walk of the day around 10:30 a.m. after having a tea and breakfast, sometimes consisting of eggs from their own small coop in the backyard.

The second walk is usually around 2 p.m. in the afternoon, giving them time to run errands of enjoy their various hobbies.

The third walk takes place after the supper dishes are done, often around 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m.

Each walk is approximately an hour and they usually take a similar route through town.

Even if the weather is less than ideal - rain or snow - they keep to their routine, unless it’s really icy and windy.

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