We all know how to do it. We do it every day. So you’d think that there wouldn’t be much that could go wrong when walking to workout. Truth be told, many of us make mistakes when we start to integrate walking into our exercise schedule. Walking to go somewhere, isn’t the same as walking for exercise.
Use this handy guide to make your walking workouts as comfortable and productive as possible!
1. Choose the right shoes
Ideally invest in a pair of walking shoes. Alternatively, you can opt for running shoes. Just go for shoes with medium cushioning. You don’t need as much cushioning as a runner, as they hit the ground with 3 times their body weight with every step, while walkers only impact the ground with 1.5 times their body weight. But your shoes should be supportive and cushioned enough to protect your feet. A big disadvantage of using running shoes for walking is that running shoes tend to have thicker soles than walking shoes, which can make you more prone to tripping.
A mid-range pair of running shoes will suffice if your walks are mostly on pavement in good weather but if you intend to head off the roads and into nature, you’ll need a sturdier pair of shoes. A good pair of walking shoes should last a long time and are a very worthwhile investment if you intend to walk regularly.
2. Wear Layers
Its surprising just how warm you can get when walking, so wear layers so you can strip off as you get warmer or start off feeling a little on the cool side knowing that, in a few minutes, you’ll be feeling warm as toast! If you start your walking workout wrapped up and feeling warm already, you will inevitably overheat within a mile or so and being too hot can mean that you are uncomfortable and may have to slow down.
3. Walk Briskly
Walking is a relatively gentle form of exercise but walking too slowly means you won’t experience much in the way of benefit from your workouts. It’s hard to set a specific speed to walking workouts as some people are naturally faster walkers than others, but four miles per hour is a good pace for which to aim. Whatever speed you walk at, for your workout to be effective, you should be slightly out of breath and feeling warm.
4. Focus on Form
Walking is not a complicated activity and yet some exercisers manage to walk using poor technique. Here are some technique bullet points to ensure you are walking properly and therefore effectively.
- Stand tall and do not hunch
- Look straight forward and hold your head high
- Imagine your head is filled with buoyant gas and is floating above your shoulders
- Keep your shoulders relaxed but pulled slightly down and back
- Swing your arms in time with your feet but do not clench your fists
- Extend your legs through your hips – push backward and use your butt!
- Land on your heels and then roll through and onto your toes
- Keep your midsection lightly engaged at all times
- Keep your breathing regular and deep and in time with your footfalls
3. Progress Steadily
Curb your enthusiasm and keep your first few walking workouts short. Doing too much, too soon can leave you sore, tired and even injured. Start out by walking for 15 minutes or so and then add a few minutes to each subsequent walk.
By gradually increasing the duration of your walks, you avoid overdoing it which will ensure you do not drop out of exercise. Instead you’ll feel great when you’re done, and feel motivated to do your next workout. Finish each walk feeling like you could have done more. It’s better to stop because you can, rather than be forced to stop because you have to.
6. Warm Up + Cool Down
While not a strenuous activity, if you spend the majority of your day sitting down, warming up before walking can help ensure you have a safe and effective workout. Cooling down post-workout ensures your muscles won’t stiffen up. Before you set out on your walk, spend a few minutes stretching and mobilizing your major muscles and joints. When you begin your walk, start slowly and build up gradually. On completion of your walk, slow down rather than stop abruptly. Also, spend a few moments stretching all of your major muscles again. If a muscle feels tight then stretch it for longer.
7. Change Your Route
Following the same route over and over can make for a boring walk. Boredom is the enemy of exercise adherence and is best avoided at all costs. Instead of doing the same route every time you walk, try planning some new routes so you can enjoy new scenery and uncharted terrain.
8. Walk Outdoors When You Can
Walking on a treadmill is not as pleasant or effective as walking outdoors. Firstly, the machine does some of the work and will force you to walk differently. Then there is the conditioned air that is recycled over and over and provides an easy way to catch germs. Walking on a treadmill takes the nature out of what should be a very natural form of exercise – where walking outdoors can be very recharging, exercising indoors not so much.
Walking is by far and away one of the most accessible and straightforward ways to stay fit so do your best to walk for 20 to 30-minutes per day for as many days per week as you can reasonably manage.