Walk it out.

March 18, 2011

I moved to an apartment closer to work and have found myself walking to and from quite often.  Though I, personally, don’t count these strolls as part of my exercise routine, they feel amazing and I break a sweat, too!  Walking, it turns out, can be a serious workout if done with the correct intensity and form!

Aside from the obvious burning of calories, some benefits to walking include:

  • For those with joint issues, walking is low-impact
  • It’s enjoyable-walking on the beach or in the park can be very meditative
  • It can be done anywhere-just be sure to have proper footwear

Many people will ask, what’s better:  walking on the treadmill or outdoors?  Variety is key. The treadmill is a confined environment that can lead to boredom but is a no-brainer way to do interval training (see below) while the great outdoors can be inhibitory due to terrain, traffic and possible slippery conditions but provides variety in nature, fresh air and inspiration.

Being mindful of a specific goal before and during each workout is key.  Take in the following factors before planning any workout:

  1. General fitness:  A 45-minute power walk can pack a punch.  Walk with good posture:  stand tall with the head held high.  Engage your abdominal muscles, swing the arms and squeeze your glutes as you go.
  2. Endurance:  Are you training to build muscular endurance for a charity walk like the MS Walk or the AIDS Walk?  Are you trying to follow in the footsteps of Steve Vaught, who walked across America to lose weight?  If you’ll be walking for more than 90 minutes, be sure to rehydrate along your route and pack a portable snack for fuel.
  3. Weight loss:  You don’t have to walk for 3 hours to get the most bang for your buck.  With proper intensity, you can burn more calories in 30 minutes than a 45-minute power walk!  See the interval training session below.

I’m not saying that a stroll on the beach or a nice neighborhood walk is pointless: in fact, sometimes a stressful day or a relaxing evening warrants a mind-clearing pace.

As stated above, if the goal is to burn as many calories as possible in the shortest amount of time, power walking combined with interval training is the best way to go.  The following workout can be done on a treadmill or outdoors near a steep, climbable hill.

SKOOG’S WALKING WORKOUT:  SPEED AND HILL INTERVALS!

Begin with a 5-minute light-to-moderate warm-up on a flat surface.
Speed intervals on flat surface:
Increase speed to a non-talking pace that you can hold for only 45 seconds
Slow to recovery speed for 1 minute
Repeat 3-6 times
Hill intervals:
Lean forward and walk quickly up a 5-10% graded hill for 1 minute.
Recover by walking back down the hill 1 minute.
Repeat 3-6 times

Cool-down 3-5 minutes
Stretch 5 minutes

As always, before beginning any workout program, obtain clearance from your doctor.  Be sure to crosstrain with strength training, stretching and other methods of cardiovascular activity to avoid overuse injuries.

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