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As we all were navigating what we could and could not do a year ago, it quickly became clear people were heading outside more and walking.
Whether it was with family members, friends or your dog, walking seemed to be a way to fight the isolation of isolation, a way to reduce cabin fever.
Well, that walking, it turns out, is a great way to get fit. Some serious runners and cyclists may scoff at that idea, but there actually are workouts you can do while walking.
“Taking a walk is also a good way to get some exercise,” an article at self.com notes. “And while it’s perfectly fine to keep them easy and ambling, especially if they’re primarily for fresh air or mental-health purposes, there are also plenty of ways to make them hard enough that it will feel like a moderate to intense workout.”
Dave McGovern, a veteran of the U.S. National Racewalk Team, offered this daily walking workout schedule to verywellfit.com:
- Monday: Rest day.
- Tuesday: Intervals. “Warm up for 10 minutes at an easy pace. Then walk as fast as you can for 30 seconds or 200 meters (two city blocks in most cities). After 30 seconds, drop down to an easy pace for two minutes. Repeat the 30 seconds speed/two-minute rest 8 to 12 times. Cool down with a 10-minute easy pace walk.”
- Wednesday: And easy day to recover. A “moderate three-mile walk at 65 to 70 percent of your max heart rate. This is a pace at which you can easily maintain a conversation but are breathing harder than at rest.”
- Thursday: “Threshold Workout No. 1.” This is what he calls a “speed” day. “A 10-minute warm up at easy walking pace. Walk fast for eight minutes, 85 to 92 percent of your max heart rate. Then slow down to an easy pace for two minutes.” Repeat this three or four times. Cool down for 10 minutes at an easy pace. “The threshold pace is strenuous, but one you could maintain throughout a 10K/6 mile race. You will be breathing very hard and able to speak only in short phrases.”
- Friday: Another “recovery” day. “Moderate three-mile walk at 65 to 70 percent of your max heart rate.”
- Saturday: “Threshold Workout No. 2.” This is what he calls a “steady state or tempo workout.” Warm up for 10 minutes, then walk “20 to 30 minutes at 85 percent of your max heart rate. Cool down with 10 minutes of easy walking.”
- Sunday: This is your “distance” day. Walk five to seven miles at 50 to 60 percent of your max heart rate. “This is a conversational pace.”
Before any workout, walking or otherwise, it is wise to do a warmup. In the self.com article, Kristine Theodore, co-owner of Runaway Fitness in Chicago, recommends taking time to “boost blood flow and activate the muscles you’ll use while walking, like hip flexors and quads ... Spend a few minutes doing leg swings, lunge walks, calf raises, toe taps, or whatever combination makes you feel loose.”
The workouts at self.com include some of the same concepts of McGovern’s routine, but also suggest getting “elevation” in your walking workouts.
“Heading up hills naturally increases the intensity of your walk even if you’re moving at the same pace or slower. A walking incline can be even harder than running,” Ellen Barrett, an A.C.E.-certified instructor, said in the article.
“Declines also serve their purpose, activating your core and strengthening your mind-muscle connection as you focus on each step,” the article noted. “Those lucky enough to live near undulating trails or roads can simply plan their route accordingly. If you’re largely on flat land, find any suitable slope — even a sledding hill or a parking-lot ramp — and do four to five hill repeats, walking up purposefully and down intentionally.”
Another interesting concept in the self.com article was including other activities within your walk, things like exercise equipment found in parks or along some trails.
“If you’re near an open playground and don’t mind toting along hand sanitizer, you can do pull-ups or monkey bars,” the article notes. “Prefer not to touch? Try toe taps on a curb, step-ups on park benches, or a split squat with one foot elevated on a ledge.
“Even if there aren’t stairs in your vicinity, you can still break up a walk with a burst of calisthenics. If you have access to a track or a park with a looped path, try walking the curves and doing dynamic or body weight moves on the straightaways ... walking lunges, walking planks or single-leg hopping.”
Walking, of course, can still be used as a mental wellness workout as well as a body fitness workout. But spicing things up a bit never hurts.
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