With gas prices skyrocketing, using your own foot power to get to work can be the perfect way to save money, squeeze in a workout and be good to the earth. If the distance to your workplace is too far, consider walking part of the way. Even just a few minutes of early morning striding relaxes and primes your body for the day ahead. And avoiding the frustrations of end-of-the-day rush hour traffic lets you arrive home refreshed and de-stressed. Here’s how to make walking a part of your daily commute.
Determine your route and estimated walking time
Start by calculating the walking distance from your home to work by using a mapping program like the one at www.gmap-pedometer.com. Try a few different options, and don’t necessarily opt for the shortest. “Create a route that isn’t too close to busy, noisy, smelly traffic but has lots of eyes on the street for safety,” suggests Jacky Kennedy, director of walking programs for Green Communities Canada. “If possible, find streets with trees for shade, good lighting in the winter and that are cleared of snow and ice so you can walk year round.” Schedule a trial walk on a weekend to time the trip and to factor in hills that mapping programs don’t identify. Curious about the calorie burn? A 64 kg (140 lb) woman walking six kilometres each workday at a moderate pace will lose about two pounds per month. You can input your own data – weight, distance walked and estimated pace – at www.walking.about.com/library/cal/uccalc1.htm.
Choose the right attire
Shoes are cheaper than tires or transit passes, so splurge on the best pair of athletic shoes you can afford. In cold or wet weather, treat them with a waterproofing spray, or move to waterproof shoes or hiking boots. Switch to heavier socks or double-up for extra warmth. Brisk walkers can work up a sweat even in the winter, so beware of overdressing. Wear a moisture-wicking athletic top and sports bra on their own or under a jacket or coat. To prevent dry skin, wrinkles and sun-related skin diseases, cover up with sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.
Carry your gear properly
Consider a well-designed backpack with a variety of compartments if you have numerous items to transport. To arrive with wrinkle-free clothes, borrow a trick from frequent fliers: wrap and roll them in the plastic bags that dry cleaners provide. Or try folding and loosely wrapping clothes around shoes or another bulky item, suggests Barb Bouwman, a Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., 15-year rucksack-toting member of the Canadian Forces.
Spruce up at work
Scout out the best washroom for freshening up, and give yourself a few extra minutes to change your top, sponge off with a washcloth or wet wipes and drink some water. Alternatively, check with nearby fitness clubs; some offer “runner’s” memberships, where, for a reduced rate, you can use their locker rooms and showers. If changing clothes at work is an issue, Toronto personal trainer Tanya Vrga swears by this low-tech trick: stuff three or four facial tissues in each armpit as you’re heading out, then toss them in the trash at your destination. Et voilà – no soggy underarm clothing stains!