Health

Bust your walking rut

Not feeling challenged? Seeing no results? Push past your plateau with these five walking success strategies

Feel as if you’re wearing a groove in the sidewalk, but not getting anywhere? Then it’s time to shake up your walking routine. “Variety keeps you motivated,” insists Sue Henderson, an online walking instructor for the Running Room. “When you change your routine, you use different muscle groups. If you switch surfaces, you give your joints a break. And if you work within your target heart-rate zone you’ll be burning body fat for energy.” Plus, research confirms that if you’re having fun, you’re more likely to stick with your program. Read on for five surefire ways to re-energize your workout – and yourself!

Seek new territory

Louise Love never gets stuck pounding the same stretch of pavement. She belongs to a walking group called the Prairie Pathfinders that tackles a different two-kilometre or greater section of Winnipeg each week. “Hiking through a new place in the company of good friends is an unbeatable combination,” she says. And in a few months, one of those new places will include the incredible scenery of France as Louise embarks on a tour that includes six days of hiking, organized by Randonnée – a self-guided active travel company in Winnipeg. Looking forward to a fabulous walking vacation (she’s also hoofed it in Switzerland and Peru) helps Louise stay on track, even in the coldest weather. To find a walking group in your area, ask at your local rec centre, or visit the Canadian Volkssport Federation website.

Call a pro

To boost your confidence when starting a new fitness routine, consider contacting a fitness expert, suggests Kathleen Martin Ginis, an associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. “If you’re just starting out, you don’t always know what you can achieve,” she notes. “When an expert sets a goal for you, you think, If she thinks I can do it, I must be able to do it. That creates greater confidence, which motivates you to succeed.”

Connect with your bod

“Concentrate on what your body is doing,” suggests Karen Bridson, a certified personal trainer in Toronto and author of Run For It: A Woman’s Guide to Running for Emotional and Physical Health (Burford). Picture your strong legs, the rhythmic motion of your arms, the air filling your lungs, the energy moving through your body and those cheesecake calories getting burned up. “This is called associating, a technique used by athletes to stay motivated,” says Bridson.

Change up your routine

When Sharon Gustaw gets bored walking outside, she switches to one of the walking videos in her video library. Or she jumps rope. Or dances. Or joins some fellow walkers in the evening at her local school in Ignace, Ont., where they stride through the hallways and check out the kids’ artwork and projects. “Variety helps me get one to two hours of walking or other exercise in every day,” she says. All that stepping out gives Sharon the energy she needs to deal with demanding shift work as a community-support worker and a daily commute of 130 km. Plus, she’s able to keep her diabetes under control without medication.

Create an inspiration wall

Professional designers and fashion editors have inspiration walls – usually bulletin boards with different images and items tacked to them. “Why not create a walking inspiration wall?” asks Bridson. Commandeer a space on the bulletin board in your home office to display photos of yourself as you reshape your body, your latest lab results that show your lowered cholesterol levels, your walking workout log sheet and anything else that motivates you to lace up your shoes and get out there.