Hot summer temps, sore shins and waning motivation can conspire against even the most enthusiastic walkers. Ask any long-time exercisers and they’ll tell you that getting out the door is the most challenging part of a fitness program. If you’re tempted to skip a day, remind yourself that regular walking offers an impressive payoff: your health, energy level and appearance all get a big boost. Still can’t get moving? Here’s how to knock down some common roadblocks that may be standing between you and a great walk.
Heather Walker admits she has a somewhat checkered walking past. “I get bored easily and need little pushes to keep exercising regularly,” explains the Toronto teacher. She keeps her walking regime moving by continuously changing it up. One year, she walked with a personal trainer for several sessions. Recently, she joined a group that treks through a nearby ravine with walking poles.
For Ann-Marie Smith of Charlottetown, a race date circled on the calendar keeps her focused. “Setting a goal and accomplishing it really gets you pumped up,” says Smith, who completed her second 10 K event last year. Even better was the after-effect of the race. “The pride I felt afterwards motivated me to keep walking regularly and rejoin my lunch-hour fitness classes.”
Turning up the intensity is all about technique, says Megan Huzzey, a competitive race walker from Victoria. Concentrate on rolling through the entire foot and pushing off strongly with the toes. Walking coach Jenni Bolton of Toronto suggests taking small, fast steps while moving your arms quickly at your sides, and adding hill workouts. “On flat terrain, add regular 30-second intervals where you push yourself into an extra-fast walk,” she adds.
Being over-ambitious can lead to throbbing, overworked shins, says Bolton. She recommends starting out slowly and gradually increasing your speed. After your walk, stretch your calves for two to three minutes by stepping one foot back and pressing your heel to the ground. On non-walking days, strengthen your lower legs by standing with your feet together and rising up on your toes then rocking back onto your heels several times. Amanda Gutteridge, manager of the The Running Room in Abbotsford, B.C., notes that good-quality shoes with plenty of mesh are especially light and make less work for the lower legs. If your shin pain persists, seek the advice of your doctor.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes” goes a favourite saying of outdoor exercisers. “Dress for the occasion,” advises Gutteridge. Her must-have walking attire includes synthetic-fibre tops that wick away moisture from the skin and a light jacket that repels the wind and rain. Add or remove layers depending on the temperature. In hot weather, wear a hat, walk early in the day, pick shady streets or walk indoors. Always carry a water bottle in a waist pack, and sip regularly. In hot weather, or when you perspire heavily, drink one cup (250 mL) of water about every 30 minutes. Still dragging your feet? Pull on your shoes anyway, walk a block and see how you feel. Chances are you’ll keep moving. According to Gutteridge, when it comes to exercise, “there’s no time like now!”