Step-by-Step to Dynamic Walking
Put spring in your stride with these simple tips (written by Tina Vindum for Gaiam.com)
No matter where you live, springtime is the right time to get back outside and ramp up your physical activity. Walking might be the best way to get in mental and physical shape, especially if you prefer to avoid crowded gyms and exhaustive training. Your body was made to move, and with the changing of the season, now is the perfect time to start walking more. Follow these suggestions to get the most out of each step:
Get the right shoes!
Shoes are your number one piece of equipment so invest wisely. Buy from a reputable running store — running shoes also make excellent walking shoes — where you'll be measured and fit for the right shoe.
Tip: Shop for shoes at the end of the day when your feet have swelled and expanded.
Map it out.
Walking can be done just about anytime, anywhere. Whether you're running errands or just taking a spin around the block, it's all about getting outside in the fresh air and moving.
Tip: Go online to find a map of your area. You'll be surprised by how many parks, walking paths, tracks and stadiums there are to explore.
Warm up for 8-10 minutes.
A warm-up prepares your body and mind for exercise to come. It gives your muscles, joints, heart, lungs and even your brain a chance to slowly rehearse for the activity ahead.
Tip: Warm-ups are key to burning fat. They will enhance your circulation and initiate carbohydrate and fat enzymes for consumption.
Mix it up!
Your body is smart; it adapts to exercise very easily. To prevent autopilot mode, try changing the way you exercise one day a week. For even better results, add intervals — going hard for one minute and easy for two minutes — to push your body out of its normal equilibrium.
Tip: Find hills and steps. This allows you to increase intensity on the way up and recover on the return trip. Or, use the local track to sprint the straights and jog or walk the turns.
Do the heel-toe roll.
Your heel meets the ground first, then roll through your entire foot to your toes, allowing your toes to propel you forward.
Tip: Imagine your feet are like tires rolling over the terrain.
Focus your eyes at least 10 to 15 feet ahead to allow your brain to record the terrain you will encounter. Looking out ahead (rather than at your feet) allows you to build control, speed and confidence.
Tip: You wouldn't drive down the road focused on the hood ornament — you'd crash! The same holds true for walking and running; if you look at your feet you'll be timid and stiff.
Posture affects your mood as well as your performance. Slumping causes you to check out of your workout both mentally and physically.
Tip: Envision a silver thread from the sky down to the top of your head lifting you up and keeping your spine aligned.
Pick up the pace!
Use your arm swing to set the tempo for your legs.
Go for time over distance.
The best results are achieved when you take time to build up to 200-260 minutes per week. Take it slowly at first. Start with a 10-minute walk and increase that time until you reach at least 30 minutes per day.
Keep a log.
Track your success by writing it down or using one of the many online tracking sites. If you schedule your exercise, you are more likely to complete it. Plus, you can more accurately track your accumulated time throughout the week.
Mind the 10 percent rule.
This is not a race. It is the rest of your life. So don't overdo it. If you are currently walking or jogging 20 minutes, only add 10 percent to your time/mileage per week.
Feel the intensity.
To rid your body of fat, is it better to walk at a high intensity for a short period of time, or at a low intensity for a long period of time? High intensity is best. While it's true that exercising at a slower pace releases more fat, the total number of fat and calories is small.
Tip: Remember that it takes 3,500 calories to burn one pound of fat, so you'll need to bump up your time and intensity.
Stay loose, avoid injuries!
Whether it's due to a lack of confidence or a determination to lose weight fast, beginners are particularly prone to tensing up when they work out. But tense muscles can't support the inevitable strain exercising puts on your body, so you have to stay loose. Relax the muscles you're not working, and focus on the ones you are. You'll have more energy and get better results.
Stretching is a vital part of your cool-down after your workout sessions because it lengthens tight muscles, increases circulation, prevents injury and removes waste from your system.
Tips: First, hold a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, or three diaphragmatic breaths. Second, inhale to prepare for the stretch, and exhale slowly for three counts while lengthening the muscle. Finally, never lock a joint when stretching. For example, keep a slight bend to your knee when performing a hamstring stretch.