Want a no-fuss, affordable and convenient fitness program? Look no further than out your front door. Regardless of where you live (or the climate!) walking is one of the most underrated and can be one of the most rewarding physical activities. While it’s easy to feel pressured to keep up with the latest trend, workouts that are high intensity, competitive and make you so sore that you can barely sit on the toilet the next day, aren’t necessary. While those routines are perfectly okay in moderation, it’s important to find a program that aligns with your goals while taking into account your fitness level, interests and abilities. Not sure how to do that? Here are 3 ways to begin a walking program that you can stick with.
When beginning a fitness program, it’s important to identify the “why” behind what you’re doing. Do you want to keep up with your kids? Look better in a sundress? Reduce stress? Your goals set the tone, and are the foundation, for what comes next. Without these motivating factors, you’ll lack the accountability it takes to stick with a program for the long term. Fitness is a lifestyle, not a temporary routine. Set weekly goals and give yourself grace. Maybe during week 1, you walk 3 days, for 15 minutes. During week 2, you might progress to 3 days, for 20 minutes each day. Goals evolve – just because you’re not “pounding the pavement” 7 days a week doesn’t mean you aren’t improving your fitness level.
Planning ahead doesn’t require a spreadsheet, checklist and a fancy planner (but if that works for you, go for it!). Simply make time, once a week, to spend a few minutes scheduling your walks. Are you more likely to do them in the morning, or after work? Take into account the weather. Try not to be discouraged by a drop in temperature or a hot, humid day when you’d rather be in the pool. Wear appropriate clothing and bring a water bottle. The benefits of outdoor activity usually outweigh the temporary discomfort of less than ideal weather. Set out your clothes and shoes the night before. Wear apparel that is functional, comfortable and makes you feel good about yourself. For years I refused to wear shorts anywhere other than the pool. Now, after living in the south for nearly 10 years, I’ve let go of my self conscious thoughts and spend most days in shorts and flowy tank tops. Moisture wicking socks are key, as are shoes that fit well and provide support. I recently discovered OrthoFeet and these shoes actually get me excited to go for walks. With comfortable shoes, you’re better able to focus on your muscles and your mental health instead of tired feet and achy joints. OrthoFeet shoes accommodate my size 11, wide and (extremely) high arches. They were super comfy as soon as I put them on and I love the convenience of shoelace-free sneakers! It makes life with a toddler so much easier! I’ve logged many miles wearing these shoes – most recently at the zoo, the arboretum and on our lakefront trail. And while, these days, comfort takes precedence over style, I must admit these shoes are really cute and “on trend” with shorts, leggings or whatever makes you feel your best. Regardless of what you wear (don’t forget the spf!), when you’ve completed your walk, take pride in the feelings of accomplishment as you cross it off on your calendar.
Walking is something we do every day – most of the time, without thinking about it. When you add in 3-5 days of routine fitness walks, there’s a good chance you’ll plateau at some point. Remind yourself, walking doesn’t have to be a competitive sport. You don’t have to log more miles than you did the previous week. It’s not necessary to improve your speed from one day to the next. However, if you want to mix it up, consider some of the following ideas.
- Perform power walk intervals. Walk at a comfortable pace for 60 seconds, alternating with 20 seconds of a quick, “slightly short of breath,” pace.
- Incorporate resistance bands. Maybe you set them at the edge of your driveway and walk laps around the block, returning for strength intervals. Or carry one or two in a small backpack or stroller. You can also incorporate body weight moves such as squats, lunges and/or pushups throughout your walk.
- Play music or listen to podcasts.
- “Write out” a mental gratitude list.
Now that you’re feeling inspired to put on your shoes and head outside, let’s circle back to why you’re doing this in the first place. Spend a few minutes and think of 3 reasons you want to make the most of your walking program. Write them on a piece and paper and put that paper where you will see it every day. Let that note serve as inspiration of who you want to be, while enjoying where you are. Embrace those goals and work toward them, one step at a time.