Last updated on February 24, 2020
Walking can be interesting
Here in Bella Vista, Arkansas we see people walking all the time. They walk around Lake Bella Vista, they walk the numerous walking trails and paths, they walk their dogs, they walk in groups, and where I live in in Norwood Courts, they walk uphill to their mailboxes.
Regular walking is known to be great exercise, and it only takes a few minutes each day to enhance your health. As a person in a wheelchair, my goal is to get out of this wheelchair and be able to walk on my own again someday. My husband walks a lot: 1) walking our dog; 2) hiking with the hill-n-dale hiking club; 3) walking to Harps at Town Center for a few groceries; 4) walking to our mailbox. Yes, walking is part of his daily planned activites along with several other exercise means (pickleball, yoga class, biking, fit blast class and more).
Making Walking Fun
At some point you may feel unenthused by your walking program. Maybe it’s too quiet, maybe you’re bored, or maybe you’re just not having fun anymore. You may be tempted to stop walking. However, stopping will also put an end to all of the wonderful health-boosting benefits you’ve been receiving.
So how do you make your walking program more interesting? Let’s take a look at a handful of ideas.
1. Listen to something – The most common thing for people to listen to as they walk is music. Fast-paced music, more than 100 beats per minute and less than 130 beats per minute, can help boost your pace. Good music increases energy and improves mood. Your walking time will fly by. You can also learn as you walk by listening to podcasts or audio books.
One of these might help you:
Portable radios/mp3 players
2. Walk with a friend – Walking alone can be lonely. Why not team up with a friend and make it a joint effort? You can motivate each other, catch up, and enjoy the benefits of walking and hanging out with friends.
3. Vary your path – Instead of walking the same route every day, consider trying a different path. If you always walk around your neighborhood, why not find a local trail to explore. Uneven terrain, like hiking trails, is good for improving mobility and strengthening your bones, joints, and muscles.
4. Set goals – If you’re bored, begin to set distance, time, and pace goals. One fun goal for many is to get a pedometer or a device like the Fitbit which tracks steps. Aim to get 5000, 10,000 or even 15,000 steps a day. Reward yourself for achieving your goals.
Actually, goal setting can be an important part of your walking for fitness program. Next we’ll take a look at if goal setting is right for you, what types of goals to consider, and how to use goal setting to improve your walking for fitness results.
Are you a goal oriented person? It may sound strange, but setting goals helps you learn more about yourself. You can learn what motivates you, your strengths, and of course your weaknesses too. When it comes to walking for fitness, setting goals can help you achieve results more quickly and it can be more fun.
What Do You Want to Accomplish?
The first step for goal setting is to think about what feels motivating to you. What do you want to accomplish? What type of goal might excite you? For example, would you be motivated to train for a 5k? Or are you motivated to reach a certain number of steps each day? You might be motivated by weight loss or health numbers like reducing your blood pressure. Think about what type of goal appeals to you.
Break It Down and Create a Plan
Now that you have a goal, it’s time to break it down into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Make a list of the actions you might take to achieve your goal. For example, if you want to reach 15,000 steps a day and you’re presently at 5000, it’d be a difficult challenge to shift into overdrive and try to get 15,000 steps tomorrow. Instead, you might try to get 5250 or 5500 steps tomorrow and increase by 250 steps each day. This makes your goal more achievable because you’re making small adjustments to your daily habits.
Take the first step toward achieving your goal. Stick to it and make gradual progress. You will probably have days where you struggle or fail to achieve your goals. That’s part of the process. It’s okay. Try again the next day. Assess what went wrong and make adjustments to your plan.
The real challenge of achieving your goals is to pick yourself back up after a mistake. Consider rewarding yourself during the process. When you have a particularly good week or month, for example, you might buy a new pair of walking shoes or a new book to listen to as you walk. (you will enjoy a reward just like your pet does during training).
Tracking your progress is an important part of walking for fitness and achieving your goals.
How do you know if you’re on track to achieve your walking for fitness goals? If you’re like most, you head out the door and walk for fifteen to thirty minutes. And that’s great – in the beginning.
After some time you may want to set goals to help you stay motivated and to boost your fitness walking results. Additionally, it’s always good to evaluate how your walking program is improving your health and fitness.
There are a variety of ways for you to track your progress.
1. Pedometer or fitness tracking tool – If you’re a gadget lover then you’ll appreciate today’s tracking devices. In addition to tracking steps taken, you can track effort, calories burned and even the quality of your sleep. Some fitness tracking tools, like the Motoactv, also play music.
2. Health numbers – If you’re exercising to lose weight, decrease your blood pressure, reduce your cholesterol or other health reason, you may want to track those numbers. You’ll be able to measure your progress. It’s motivating. You can create a spreadsheet to track the numbers or use a simple notebook. There are also applications both online and for your mobile device that you can use.
3. Mapping Tools – There are a few handy online mapping tools that you can use. They show you not only the route you took but also your pace. MapMyWalk.com and Google Pedometer, http://www.mappedometer.com/, are two handy tools to consider. You can also share your results on Facebook.
Of course you can also create your own tracking journal as well. You might use a vision board, a folder in Evernote or a small notebook to document your progress. The information you track should support your goals. For example, if your goal is to reach 15,000 steps then tracking your pace isn’t helpful. Tracking your steps each day and taking notes on why you did or didn’t reach your goal and how you feel, can be more helpful.
Tracking the information can help you stay motivated to achieve your goals. It’s just one way to help you succeed.
Fitness goals are difficult to achieve. There are two primary reasons they’re challenging. The first is that people tend to set large and overwhelming goals. Those are easy to give up on because they feel unachievable after a short while. The other reason is that motivation fades. Sure, it’s easy to be motivated in the beginning. However, as you progress in your fitness walking program, you may begin to lose the motivation you once had. Let’s take a look at some ideas to help you stay motivated.
1. Reward yourself – The truly wonderful thing about walking is that you don’t really need any fancy equipment. Just put on some shoes and head out the door. However, you can make fancy equipment part of your reward process. For example, if you walk 10,000 steps every day for a month, you might buy yourself a nice pair of walking shoes. Rewards are motivating for many people.
2. Train for an event – There are dozens of events in your community each month. There may be a walk for breast cancer awareness, a run for the Humane Society, or a holiday fun run. You don’t have to run these events; you can walk them. There are always people walking and there is often a registration category for walkers. Training for an event can help you reignite the excitement for your fitness walking program.
3. Get a partner – Sometimes motivation comes from others. Find a walking partner, or two or three, and hold each other accountable. Find a time when you can all meet and go for a walk together. Not only will you have the benefit of a friend’s company, you’ll most certainly stick to your walking plan because your partner is counting on you.
And if these ideas aren’t enough to motivate you, maybe it’s time to look at different types of walking. Learning to race walk or Nordic walk may help you feel motivated to continue. We’ll take a look at different types of fitness walking next.
Different Walking Types
Did you know that there are different types of walking? It’s true. You might think that walking is pretty straightforward – you put one foot in front of the other. However, here are three other types of fitness walking to consider.
This type of walking is actually a competitive event. In fact, there are race walking events at the Olympics. The rules of this type of walking are fairly simple, but the movement is anything but. First, the toe of your back foot cannot leave the ground until the heel of your front foot touches the ground. If you have a loss of contact with the ground, you’re disqualified. This is because you’re basically running if your feet are both off the ground at the same time.
The second rule is that your back leg or supporting leg must stay straight until your weight is transferred to your front foot. Again, this is to make sure you’re walking, not running. Try it and you’ll see why it’s difficult. Race walkers often end up with a bit of an odd-looking stride. The arms pump, the hips swivel and you move quickly.
Power walking is simply walking at a very fast pace. Power walkers often achieve a speed of about five miles per hour. That’s about a 12-minute mile, which is a jogging pace for many. However with power walking, you always have one foot in contact with the ground. It’s a great way to burn calories and reduce impact on joints.
Nordic walking is fitness walking with poles. They’re much like ski poles or hiking poles. You use your entire body when you Nordic walk, which means you exercise at a higher intensity and burn more calories. They’re also useful if you have balance issues or want to walk on uneven surfaces like trails.
Whichever type of waling you choose, it’s important to make sure you’re fueling your body appropriately. Next, we’ll explore hydration and nutrition tips and suggestions so you can get the most from your fitness walking program.
Hydration and Nutrition
Are you drinking enough when you walk? Most people don’t think they need to drink or carry a water bottle while they’re walking. However, most people also don’t drink enough water. Dehydration can cause cramping, slow recovery and it can even make you think that you’re hungry. Drinking enough water before, during, and after your walks is important. And how you fuel your body can make a huge difference.
1. Start your walk well hydrated. If you’re walking first thing in the morning then you’ll want to make sure you go to bed hydrated. Drink a glass before you head out the door and enjoy your walk.
2. Pay attention to the intensity of your exercise. If you’re going for a leisurely stroll, you probably don’t need to take water with you, unless you’re walking for more than an hour. If you are fitness walking and keeping a good pace then you’ll probably want to take a water bottle with you. A general rule of thumb is 4-6 ounces of water for every 15 minutes of exercise.
3. Before you work out, pay attention to your body. The general rule of thumb is to eat an hour or more before you exercise. Some people are comfortable eating one hour before, others need two hours before they exercise. You don’t want to experience digestive problems while you’re exercising, yet you also want to have fuel.
4. After your workout – People tend to go a little crazy here. Exercise can make you hungry but you don’t want to eat more than you burned, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Stick to post-workout snacks that fill you up. For example, a handful of nuts has protein and fiber so it will fill you up quickly. A fruit, protein, and milk smoothie is another option.
Hydration and good nutrition are all part of a successful fitness walking program. And the weather can make a difference in how much you need to eat and drink. Next, we’ll take a look at how to get your walking in even when the weather isn’t cooperating.
When the Weather is Not So Good
Let’s face it, sometimes it’s too hot or too cold to want to set foot outside. If it’s raining, snowing, or blowing it can make walking for fitness downright miserable. While walking in the rain can be refreshing, there may be days when you don’t want to go outside. So how do you get your daily walk?
How about a walking treadmill?
A walking treadmill gives you the option of walking inside. It also helps you stay on track on those days that are busier and making time for walking is difficult. You can watch television while you walk, listen to your favorite music, and never have to deal with the elements of nature.
When choosing a walking treadmill, the first and most important consideration is the maximum speed. Many walking treadmills top out at four miles per hour. If you are a race or power walker then that may not be fast enough for you. You’ll want a standard treadmill instead of a walking one.
If you’re not going to use it every day, then consider a walking treadmill that folds up for easy storage. Also, the features can be important. Look for a treadmill that displays time, distance, calories burned and speed. Make sure the base is wide enough and sturdy enough to support you comfortably.
Finally, look at the price. There’s no reason to break the budget on a walking treadmill. You might find a used one at a local resale store and you can find quality walking treadmills for a few hundred dollars.
Walking and Working at the Same Time
Have you ever considered a walking desk or treadmill desk? It’s a functional way to get exercise as you work. While they’re more productive to have in your home office, some companies do allow you to create a walking or standing desk at work. Adding a walking desk to your daily habit will help you get more steps in each day and get in shape faster.
What Is a Walking Desk?
This type of desk is a treadmill with a desk at the front of it. There are many different styles and types. There are also plans that you can find online to create your own treadmill desk. You simply need a treadmill and the materials to build a desk at the end. The desktop surface can be big enough to support a computer and a few papers or it can be small and compact – whatever you need. You can also buy the desktop portion and attach it to your existing treadmill or to a separate standing treadmill unit.
Why Use a Treadmill Desk?
The honest truth is that we sit too much. We spend hours each day sitting and it’s become such an epidemic that the term “sitting disease” is used to describe the long list of health problems caused by a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, if you reduce your daily sitting time to three hours or less, you’ll add two hours to your life. From heart disease to depression, sitting is ruining our health. A treadmill desk or standing desk can help you sit less and improve your life.
Adding Daily Steps
We’ve talked a lot about different ways to make sure you’re able to walk every day, how to stay motivated and engaged, and also the different walking goals and styles you might like. But what about adding all of that walking into your already busy day? Next, we’ll look at how to get more steps each day.
How is your walking for fitness program going? Are you meeting your goals and finding time to walk every day? If you’re struggling to find time, you’re not alone. It can be difficult to fit a new habit into your life. Let’s take a look at some possible solutions and tips to get more walking into your day.
Give Up a Half Hour of Screen Time
If you’re a television watcher, and let’s face it – most of us watch more than we probably should, exchange thirty minutes of television or computer time for thirty minutes of walking. You’ll enjoy it much more than the screen time and it’s an easy way to find time without sacrificing too much.
Get Up Earlier
We know, getting up earlier may sound painful. However, a brisk morning walk is as invigorating as a cup of coffee. In fact, you may quit coffee altogether when you adopt the morning walk habit. If you just know that getting up early is going to be difficult, try getting up five to ten minutes earlier tomorrow. Take a short walk. The next day, get up fifteen minutes earlier and take a short walk. Gradually add time until you are getting up early enough to get a full thirty minute walk in each morning.
Change Your Workday and Errand Habits
Do you commute to work? Can you park farther away? Can you take the stairs instead of the elevator? When you’re running errands, try to park as far away as possible. Instead of going out to lunch, take your lunch and take a walk.
Another option is to gradually add time to your walk. For example, if you walk for 30 minutes now, walk for 31 tomorrow and 32 the next day. Adding one minute a day will help you naturally fit your walks into your day without making major changes.
Speaking of major changes…are you ready to take your fitness walking to the next level? We’ll wrap it up next week with a few signs it’s time to go big.
Take it to the Next Level
Are you ready to take your morning walk to the next level? Do you want to kick up the pace or start training for an event? Are there health and
weight loss goals that you’re reaching for? If you’re starting to think about the next step, it’s a sign that you’re ready to set bigger walking for fitness goals.
Boredom is a sure-fire sign that it’s time to take it up a notch. Decide what you want to reach for – a new pace, a longer distance, a local event – and create a plan to achieve it. You might also look to find a walking partner that can help push you to walk faster and longer.
You’re No Longer Working Hard
When you start walking you may feel tired and out of breath. After a while of walking the same distance at the same pace, your fitness is going to improve. If you’re no longer feeling like you’re exercising, it’s time to pick up the pace. Consider learning about power walking. This walking form allows you to get up to a speed of around five miles per hour or more. At that pace you’ll definitely feel like you’re exercising.
You’re Not Meeting Your Health and Fitness Goals
If you’re not making any progress lately toward your goals and you’ve plateaued, kick it up a notch. Try to walk just a little faster. Gradually increase your pace until you start noticing results again.
In addition to increasing pace and distance, you can also wear or carry light weights for added resistance and effort. Trails and inclines change the impact of a walk too. It’s a lot more challenging to walk up a hill than to walk on flat surfaces.
There are many ways to enjoy walking and integrate it into your day. It’s an easy, budget friendly, and fun way to get and stay healthy.
I love to receive questions and comment from site visitors. Please leave yours below. -Shirley
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