WHAT I DO Time myself on a one-mile track and walk to beat my best time. I post the day and the time on a chart I tape to my refrigerator. I like watching my progress.

WHY I have trekked around my neighborhood for 10 years and often wondered whether I was getting a good workout. I've read that a 15-minute mile is a good target for aerobic benefit after you've been active awhile. In mid-September I bought a stopwatch and took it down to the quarter-mile school track near my house. I was surprised on my first day out that I wasn't able to reach that benchmark. I came in at 15:57. I wasn't as good as I thought I was.

NEXT STEP I kept at it. By Sept. 30, I was down to 15:33. I noticed how fast walkers pumped their arms, so I added that movement. On Oct. 3, I walked a 14:51 mile. I was now walking a mile in under 15 minutes on a regular basis. By the end of October, I clocked in at 14:34; two weeks later, I crossed the finish line in 13:57. My current goal is to make it under 14 on a regular basis. My sense is that if I'm going to get any better, I probably will have to do a racewalk technique. Or ask the woman who consistently beats me how she does it.

THE RESULTS Doing an aerobic workout gives me a certain fluidity of movement and a feeling of well-being that lasts for hours. I also enjoy watching my time improve and reaching a new goal.

-- Mary A. Kelly, Silver Spring

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