I used to be a runner. I ran half marathons, 10 k’s, mud runs, you name it. Then my knees started hurting. “Just take a little break, the pain will go away,” I was told. So I rested, I iced, I Advil’ed; the pain never went away. Now I’m happy to say that I’m a walker and I’m knee pain free. As an avid exerciser my whole life I worried that walking wouldn’t be enough. I was scared I would gain weight, lose muscle, lose my sanity. But I am glad to report that I still feel strong and happy doing a walking workout. I didn’t gain weight, and I don’t have to down ibuprofen after every workout. Sounds like a win to me!
If you are just starting out with walking, a few laps around your local park or high school track is a good start. When walking for exercise you want to make sure that you’re going at a pace that is somewhat challenging. You should be able to talk easily, but not sing. Meaning you’re just a little bit out of breath. If you want to give yourself an extra challenge, mix up your walk by trying one of the following:
Head for the Hills (or the Sand). Walking up and down hills activates your muscles in new ways. The first time you do hills you will most likely feel a nice burn in your calves and quads. This is normal (and will get better with time). When you can, choose hills outside instead of the incline on the treadmill. With outdoors you can get the benefit of going both up and down hills. Walking on sand is also a great workout, which can strengthen your leg muscles in different ways than the pavement.
Speed Intervals. First do a 5 minute warm up at a comfortable pace. Then switch between faster and slower intervals. Try a moderate pace for 2 minutes, then a vigorous pace for 3 minutes. Continue the intervals for at least thirty minutes and then end with a 5-10 minute cool down. Doing intervals allows you to get your heart rate up faster and increase your calorie burn compared to walking at a steady pace.
Strength Training. We can’t neglect our upper body and core while exercising. If you are feeling good with your walk, take a break every 10 minutes and do a set of strength exercises. Planks, push-ups, toe raises, and triceps dips are all easy exercises that can be done without equipment (maybe a park bench for the dips). If you have high blood pressure or other health conditions, speak with your doctor first before adding planks or push-ups to your routine.
Do you prefer walking or running? If you have other ideas on how to mix up your walking routine, let us know in the comments!