Whether you’ve gotten out of your regular exercise habit this summer or just need some extra motivation, walking is a wonderful way to jumpstart (or reinvigorate) your weight-loss and health goals. In addition to offering benefits like reduced stress levels and better cardiovascular health, walking can be done anywhere, on a variety of terrain and just requires a good pair of walking shoes.
This two-week program is designed to kickstart your walking routine, but feel free to repeat it, add an extra day, lengthen your walk time and/or increase your pace (if you feel up for more) to extend the challenge. Be sure to listen to your body as you go, and adjust the recommendations to meet your personal preferences, schedule and current fitness level. Try tracking your walks on an app like MapMyRun so you can see (and celebrate) your progress.
YOUR WALKING GUIDE
After a 3–5 minute warmup walk (use this time to progressively build your speed as you start to move, check in with your posture and breathing), aim to maintain a powered-up pace for the duration of your walk to help build your aerobic capacity and cardiovascular fitness. Your breathing should be quick, but still under control (you could talk in short sentences at this intensity, about a 5–6 on a 1–10 scale*). Wind down your walk by spending the last 5 minutes at a more comfortable pace and allow your breathing and heart rate to steady.
*The intensity scale of 1–10 refers to 10 being absolutely maximal effort, and 1 being little-to-no effort at all.
After a 3–5 minute warmup walk, add some interval training to maximize your calorie burn. Alternate 2–3 minute intervals of a steady, power pace (intensity of about a 5–6 on a 1–10 scale) with 30–60 seconds of a very fast pace walk (intensity about an 7–8 on a 1–10 scale). As you build your fitness, you can increase the length of the more challenging intervals (building to one minute) and, if you like, decrease your moderate pace/recovery time (shortening from 3 minutes to 2, for example). Wind down by spending the last 5 minutes at a more comfortable pace and allow your breathing and heart rate to steady.
Consistency is the key to success with any exercise, and finding ways to enjoy the process can make it easier to stick with your plan. Spend at least one of your walk days this week simply getting out, moving and connecting with your body, your surroundings and even your loved ones. If you can, let go of a time and an intensity-specific goal — don’t worry about miles logged or calories burned — just experience movement for the sake of moving your body and feeling the energy you are generating. Explore a new route, bring a friend or family member along to catch up or take your dog for a walk to a new park — whatever brings you joy. Go for as long as you like, and for bonus points, focus on some things you’re really grateful for this week. Gratitude is a wonderful way to stay present and appreciate your body, no matter where you are in your current journey.
On your non-walk days, focus on building strength, stamina and flexibility with total-body strength exercises and/or add in a stretch session, like this one for walkers and runners, to continue improving your overall fitness and, in turn, your walking potential.
ACTIVE REST DAY