Fitness

14 Walking Workout Tips That Will Increase the Intensity of Your Daily Stroll

During the last few months, many of us have added a daily walk to our regular routine. But did you know you can turn it into a walking workout too?

Even though many of us have fewer places to go during this COVID-19 pandemic, walking just for the sake of getting out of the house and getting in a bit of movement has become a go-to activity for lots of people.. At the right doses, walking can relieve the stay-at-home itch, offer appropriately distanced opportunities for a change of scenery, and bring structure to often shapeless days.

Taking a walk is also a good way to get some exercise. 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. That’s key: Many of us—especially those who depended on classes like indoor cycling—are lacking cardio options since many gyms remain closed (and if yours is open, you might not feel safe going back to it just yet).

Making the shift starts with intention. “Understand the difference between a leisure walk and a fitness walk,” Jayel Lewis, a certified international personal trainer and business coach in Philadelphia, tells SELF. “If you are going to walk for a workout, identify that before you go, and set yourself up for success prior to leaving.”

In other words, decide in advance that you’re walking with the goal of getting your heart rate up or building some strength and endurance. Block out a walking workout on your calendar just like you would a studio or Zoom class, she says. Then, make a plan for exactly how you’re going to execute it. Here are a few options to consider if you’re looking to turn a walk into a walking workout.

1. You don’t need to obsess about gear, but dressing the part helps.

One of the best things about walking as exercise is how accessible it is, says Ellen Barrett, an A.C.E.-certified instructor in Washington, Connecticut, who offers online yoga, Pilates, and dance classes.

Still, putting some thought into your preparation can shift your mind and body into fitness-building mode. “It’s like when actors put on their costume and wig and makeup and turn into a character—it’s the same thing with fitness,” she says.

Start with the shoes; while she’ll wear just about anything, including Crocs, on a jaunt to the park with her family, Barrett picks appropriate footwear for more serious treks. You don’t have to buy expensive new walking-specific shoes, but comfortable and closed-toed options like running shoes, hiking shoes, or tennis shoes provide a bit more support. (If you’re walking for a workout, definitely leave the flip-flops at home.)

A sports bra will reduce uncomfortable shifting and bouncing—which can be an issue, even if you’re doing a lower-impact activity like running—and moisture-wicking clothes keep you cooler on hot days and reduce chafing. Of course, these days, a mask is definitely a must-have accessory to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and there are some masks that work especially well for walking and running.

Getting everything ready the night before, especially if you’re a morning walker, can make it easier to get out the door in the time you’ve allotted, she says.

2. Kick things off with a dynamic warm-up.

Before you start striding, take some time to boost blood flow and activate the muscles you’ll use while walking, like hip flexors and quads, recommends Kristine Theodore, coach and co-owner of Runaway Fitness in Chicago. Spend a few minutes doing leg swings, lunge walks, calf raises, toe taps, or whatever combination makes you feel loose.

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