Walking is a great way to burn calories and shed excess weight. You can walk just about anywhere, you don’t need expensive equipment, and you have already perfected the skill of walking. However, if you walk the same route at the same pace most days of the week, you are not getting the most out of your workout. The body quickly adapts to the imposed demands which can lead to a plateau. This is not a concern if you walk for health and leisure. But, if you want to challenge your body, improve your fitness level, and lose a few pounds, be sure to change up your walking routine.
1. Gain elevation. There is no question that walking up hill is immensely more difficult than walking on level ground. Pick a hilly walking route at least once per week. As your fitness level improves, accelerate on the uphill to boost your cardiovascular fitness. Hiking is another great way to incorporate hills- often steep hills- into your routine. Tea Pot Hill, Lindeman Lake and Elk Mountain are three accessible hikes in our area. For more information on local hikes, go to www.hikechilliwack.com.
2. Bump up the speed. Walking faster also challenges your body. After a five-minute warm up, pick up the pace for one to five minutes. Tighten your abs and focus on a strong push-off to lengthen your stride. After the pick-up, return to a moderate pace for one or two minutes. Repeat for the duration of your walking route. Allow a few minutes of moderate walking at the end of your walk to cool down. “Fartlek” training, or speed plays, is another option for varying the speed. Pick an object in the distance, such as a distinct tree or telephone pole. Pick up the pace until you reach the object, then return to a moderate pace. After some recovery, pick another landmark and repeat.
3. Mix it up. While walking is great for your heart and lungs, it does little to sculpt muscles. A great way to change up your walking routine is to add in strength breaks. Walking lunges and squats are great exercises to strengthen your lower body. Push-ups, which can be done with your hands on a bench, as well as triceps dips work the upper body. If you bring exercise tubing along (it can be tied around your waist), you can add in tubing pulls (for your upper back) and tubing biceps curls. For a great walk and sculpt workout, start by walking briskly for 10 minutes then perform 20 repetitions of each exercise (mentioned above). Repeat the walk/sculpt pattern three to six times for a workout that strengthens your heart and your muscles.
4. Walk in the water. Pool walking is a great way to vary your walking routine and challenge new muscles. The water’s resistance will build muscle tone. Also, walking in the water will put less stress on joints. In the shallow end, walk forwards, backwards and sideways to challenge all the leg muscles. If you choose to walk in deep water, be sure to wear a buoyancy belt or carry aqua dumbbells so you can maintain proper posture. Try to increase your stride speed to challenge your cardiovascular system.
5. Go the extra mile. A simple way to challenge your body is to increase your walking distance. If you are comfortable walking five kilometers, walk six next time. Simply, the more you walk the more calories you will burn and the more your fitness level will increase.
Tanja Shaw is the owner of Ascend Fitness Inc., a private training studio. Tanja and her team of expert fitness professionals work to inspire and educate Chilliwack residents to make positive and power changes in their lives through physical fitness and sound nutrition. For more fitness tips go to www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.