I joke, of course. People that know me will tell you I’m a little obsessive about exercise. After all, I used to be one of those people who could never find time to do it – or who used every excuse in the world not to do it. But suffice it to say, there is no excuse. And even if you have no excess weight to lose, you’ve still got to get moving on a daily basis. And I don’t mean to and from the refrigerator.
Thanks to walking, there really is no excuse to not be exercising. It’s the great common denominator that can be done by the youngest of the young and the oldest of the old. No gym required. And yes, a large part of my exercise regime while shedding 250 pounds included walking. Slow at first. A little faster in the middle. And power walking by the end of my weight loss journey (as well as today). It’s this kind of step-by-step attitude that got me to my goal – and it can get you to yours.
The best news is that walking can be done virtually anywhere: around your neighborhood, on a treadmill at the gym (or in your garage), or even at the local mall when the weather outside is frightful. No membership fees required to join the walking club. And along with everything you’ll gain, you’ll also lose – assuming you’re walking the correct way.
Now don’t roll your eyes or – heaven forbid – stop reading this blog entry. It really is easy to commit yourself to a walking program. Along with a comfortable and supportive pair of sneakers, you also need clothes you can comfortably sweat in. Add an iPod with your favorite fast-paced songs and you’re ready to go.
Start out with a few stretches if you’d like. Or begin and end with a slower, more leisurely walking pace. You do want to ease your body into and out of the aerobic walking activity. But in the middle? You want to feel like you’re working – and working hard. This is about increasing your heart’s health while also making you’re figure look oh-so-fine. (And yes, I will be the judge of that!)
Remember when walking that posture is key. This means always standing upright, shoulders back, belly in. In fact, you should be consciously holding your stomach in (as if you’re doing a crunch) during the entire walk. And yeah, I know this is going to make the walk more difficult. But that’s the point. You want to make the walk mean something – which requires working from your core (a ‘core’ element of all successful exercise).
Along with sucking in your gut, you want to pump your arms, back and forth, in opposition to your leg movement. Make sure your feet come into full contact with the ground and lift off accordingly. No twisted ankles, if you please. You also want to maintain a fast pace that makes you feel like you’re working out. That being said, you never want to be fully out of breath or unable to carry on a conversation. But you do want to feel the burn. Or, at the very least, the pace. In other words, you want someone who sees you walking to wonder if you’re a new military recruit. (And the answer, by the way, is ‘yes you are – a recruit dedicated to a happier and healthier life.’)
When walking the blocks (of your neighborhood) make sure you keep an eye on traffic and keep the iPod volume at a level in which you could hear a ‘honk’ from a car (or, if you’re lucky enough, a flattering whistle). You want your legs walking and arms pumping for a continues period, which, yes, means looking like a dope as you wait for the light to change to cross the street. But please, be one of ‘those people’ who stands at the crosswalk stepping in place. Who cares what other people think? You’re going to be a model, damnit. Or, at the very least, a model citizen.
Walking with friends (furry or otherwise) can slow you down a bit. Sure, walking and talking can be fun. But don’t let dishing the gossip or stopping for Fido to mark a tree slow you down. As much as I love walking with my puppy around town, those are usually ‘bonus walks’ for me, because my pooch likes to sniff just about everything, which slows down my pace greatly. So make sure you designate the difference between a dog walk, social walk or exercise-intentioned walk.
The key to successful walking is to get your heart rate up for a sustained period of time – at least 20 minutes and hopefully longer as your walking endurance increases to 30, 45 or even 60 minutes a day. Yes, a day. Don’t let the government’s physical activity guidelines fool you. We are a sedentary society that needs to get up off our butts and MOVE. And walking is a great way to do that on a daily basis.
Besides losing excess weight and feeling great (I just made a poem!), walking’s benefits are many. According to the Mayo Clinic, walking can help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the so-called “bad” cholesterol), raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” stuff), lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of or even help manage Type 2 Diabetes, manage weight, improve mood and help us to stay strong and fit. Who needs more reasons to walk than these? Other than that putting on your skinny jeans won’t require a Hail Mary or pair of pliers to zip them up.
You do not change your physique, your inner health and your life by phoning it in. This is why I get up around 4:30am every morning. I’m at the gym by 5am and finished working out around 6:30am, 7 days a week. Do I hate when the alarm rings? Hell yes I do. Do I love how I feel after my workout? Abso-friggin-lutely. I promise you will, too – once you making working out (walking out!) a priority in your life.