I like to take walks, and although they are not my primary source of fitness, they do give me what I need at times. A relaxed stroll, with my daughters, my girlfriend, or alone, slows life down and gives me perspective sometimes. It just seems to work.
Yet for others, walking is more than just a leisurely activity used to decompress and refresh. Instead, they use it as a serious form of exercise, one that keeps them feeling productive and healthy. It suits their lifestyles and allows them to get as active as possible.
As an exercise addict, I started thinking about how a simple activity like walking could become a workout with various levels and intensities. After all, the road outside my house is filled with walkers nearly every evening and weekend. Some calmly heading up the street with their headphones on while others chat with a friend about whatever. Of course those people get passed by the more driven walkers who move briskly and with a stern sense of purpose. All shapes and varieties…all walking about.
For these folks who walk religiously, I’d like to offer a few suggestions-translations actually from my running repertoire–that may make that time more productive. Much like how runners train, walkers can implement strategies that can challenge them more and make the experience one that has a greater end result.
You don’t have to do them all at once, but give them each a go at some point. I think you’ll like it.
1. Take smaller steps: Quicker, smaller strides ramp up the heart rate and make you work just a bit harder. Long steps require less intensity, thus keeping you at a calmer pace. Tighter steps will let you feel more active and involved, and it will help you burn more calories over the same distance.
2. Intervals: Walk easy for a given amount of time, and then increase your pace for another set amount. Use a watch if you have one. If not, pick spots along the route, like street lamps or landmarks, to use as beginning and end points.
3. Mix in the power walk: It may look a little funny to some, but quickening the walk by integrating the arms and hips will make the stroll into a workout. With your arms bent at 90 degrees, they should swing high in unison with your steps, helping to propel the body forward and being in sync with your hips.
4. Hills: Don’t just find the flattest route. Instead, use paths that have hills involved. As you begin the assent, try to quicken the pace, getting faster and faster as you approach the top. Then once you have reached it, decrease the intensity and walk slowly down the other side. Don’t pick hills that are too steep, however.
5. Check your footwear: Get hold of sneakers that aren’t too bulky. Unless you have feet that require excessive cushion and support, you should have a shoe with average cushioning that has maximum flexibility up front in the toe box. This way you can concentrate on pushing off with your toes, thus increasing your speed and intensity.
6. Stand up: Posture, believe it or not, is important. Hunching over makes you less productive and forces you to work less efficiently. Instead, try to stand upright, with your ears, shoulders and hips aligned. Doing so makes your lower back and butt get involved, which increases speed and your ability to burn away those calories.
7. Incorporate strength: Factor in intervals of lunges or squats as you go. You don’t have to do a bunch, as a few sets here and there will give you what you need. Also, try stopping to mix in a few push-ups or pull-ups.
8. Use Nordic poles: Like a cross-country skier who uses poles to help push himself forward, you too can blend in these “walking sticks” to make the experience a more full body one. The poles allow you to reach and pull, using the upper body substantially. The harder the upper portions work, the more the lower half has to keep up.
9. Heart rate monitor: Wearing one will keep you within the right training zone. It’ll let you know if you are not pushing hard enough or if you have started to overdo it. This is especially important for those who want to stay within a fat burning range.