Thursday, April 17, 2014

Walking Works

I have talked about this before, but I think it is worth repeating. Just about anyone can do some form of exercise. Exercise does not have to equal heavy weight lifting, running or repeated crunches or leg lifts. Exercise can be as easy as putting one foot in front of the other and......walking.

Walking is one of the best workouts for anyone, regardless of workout skill level, size and in some cases even health. Walking is pretty much the perfect beginner workout as it helps to strengthen the cardiovascular system, improves lung function and can be adapted to fit any skill level. It works leg, thighs
and if you use your arms or carry hand weights, your upper arms and even your chest get in on the workout too. While walking sounds easy in theory, sometimes it is surprising at first that something perceived as so easy can actually be a bit harder than expected.

Think about it. If your day consists of just under a thousand steps and this means getting up, getting the kids ready, going to work (sitting at a desk for 8 hours), coming home, fixing dinner, throwing in laundry, cleaning up the kitchen and then plopping down on the couch for the evening then that first walk may surprise you. Your whole body has been under utilized so you may find that walking to the end of your street is the best you can do on that first walk. Don't give up though. Like your body adjusted to your inactivity, it must also adjust to your new found activity. Start out at fifteen minutes and walk to the end of your street and back. Each day add a few more steps. Before you know it you will be going an entire block, then a mile and then......who knows?

This is the perfect time of year to begin a walking workout. In my neck of the woods anyway, the weather is the perfect walking climate as it is not too cold and not too hot. There is the wind to factor in at times but often if you go early of a morning or later in the evening, you avoid being blown off the road.

Outdoor walking for me is the best as I can change my routes, watch the seasons progress and feel sunlight and fresh air. While in colder months you can move your walks indoors onto an indoor track or a treadmill, the spring, summer and fall walks are my favorite. And will never catch me in 20 degree weather walking outside. Cold is not my thing.

My last round of walking workouts which was about a year ago, I was walking five miles 4-5 times per week. What I found by doing this is that I slept better at night, my stress level went way down, I was more productive the rest of the day and HUGE BONUS......I felt better and was losing weight. Yep....all because I was walking.

To some who have been sedentary for so long that they have become one with the couch, I know all this talk of walking is just exhausting and some of you are probably wondering just what one might need to partake in walking. So here is my list of necessities to begin a walking workout:

First you need a good pair of walking shoes. Nike, Avila, Adidas, Reebok and New Balance all have shoes specifically designed for walking. I suggest you try on the shoes and walk around a bit as these will become your best friend when you begin this workout. If need be, you can also buy gel inserts to put in your shoes for an even cushier and more comfortable fit.

Second you need cotton socks. Don't ever try to walk or run without socks. First of all it is a great way to rub blisters and second, your shoes will smell horrible to the point you won't want them in the house. Nylon socks cause friction and they tend to make your feet sweat more. You need a good breathable cotton sock and a way to avoid blisters when walking is to rub Vaseline on your feet before you put the socks on. This keeps friction down and also softens your feet while you are walking! BONUS!!!! If you do happen to get a blister....don't let that derail you. Simply get a blister bandage which you can get just about anywhere and keep the blister covered while walking.

Now what does a walker wear when one walks? In early spring or late fall when temps are cooler, I suggest yoga pants or workout pants. If you are heavier and your thighs tend to rub, you want pants that fit closely around your leg. Loose fit can cause chaffing. I also suggest a light cotton t-shirt layered under a long sleeved sweat shirt, sweater or workout top. This way if you get too warm while walking you can always remove the top layer and tie it around your waist without ever missing a step. Finally....if it is cool outside, sometimes walking when there is a brisk breeze can hurt your ears. The cold air gets in there and it can actually hurt. Wear a head band which can cover your ears or wear ear muffs. You will be glad you did. When the weather is warmer, a light t-shirt or tank top with a pair of bikers type shorts is ideal for those warmer days. don't want to chafe, especially in the heat. And most or cold, if you are a gal and especially a gal with a chest a good sports bra is essential. I prefer one that closes in the front. Even walking, your chest gets a lot of movement and a sports bra will make everything much more comfortable.
I also suggest if you are going to be walking a mile or more, take along a water bottle. It is amazing how thirsty you can get, especially when it is hot out. I also carry a little wristlet with my drivers license in it, that way if I pass out along the way, someone knows where to deliver me.

If you want to keep track of your walking progress, you may want to get a pedometer. They can range in price from free (if you use a phone app) to very very expensive. I usually use a free phone app and it is pretty good, but I have driven a route and compared the distance to the pedometer and it was a little off, but still it gave me a ball park figure of how I was doing. The phone app gave me calories burned, time walked, miles walked and steps walked. Like I said, it was a little off, but I adjusted for that. The more expensive ones can give you all of that, plus heart rate and I am they are much more accurate, however I have never been able to work a pedometer. You give me a pedometer and you might as well give me a car engine and tell me to overhaul it. I can't work a pedometer and I can't overhaul an engine. I'll stick with my app. The nice thing about some of the phone app pedometers are that they can keep a record of all of your walking information for a week, a month and some for even a year, this way you can see where you started and how you have progressed. They say the perfect amount of steps each of us should take daily is 10,000 which equals 5 miles. It is a great goal to work towards but most cannot move from the couch to a 10,000 step walk all at once. Some will start out 500 steps and some with more or less. Wherever you start though....the bottom line is that you started!!!! From there are only limited by your determination, your desire and your own two feet.

So there you have it. I have said it before and I will say it again.....walking works! 

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