Rev up Your Walking Workout
By Rosemary Ann Ogilvie
You’ve kept your New Year’s resolution to get fit and are now walking three or four days a week. And – to your surprise – are really enjoying it. But…while it’s great exercise, you find it’s getting a little boring a couple of months on, and you don’t seem to be getting quite the same fitness gains.
You’ve persevered with your walking workout for some time now. You’ve succeeded in breaking the psychological exercise barrier and you’re aware of serious improvements in your fitness.
The only negative is that the whole thing’s become a little tedious. It’s harder to get motivated, although you would never consider quitting with all you have achieved through sheer determination.
Here are five ways to break through this boredom barrier and as a bonus, provide further fitness gains – but before moving into more intense routines, get the nod from your doctor.
Re-think Your Routes
Nothing induces the boredom more quickly than walking the same route day after day. Map out alternative routes in your own and adjacent neighbourhoods. Drive to different locations: the beach (the resistance of the water or the sand provides a great leg workout); the harbour front, a lake with a walking track, an area undergoing major urban renewal.
At weekends, go further afield and hike in a national park or a wilderness walking trail; Get the whole family involved: pack a picnic lunch and spend the day in the great outdoors.
And don’t forget when you go on holidays, walking is the best way of getting to know the place you’re visiting. Just check first with your hotel about any areas to avoid.
Test New Terrain
Don’t avoid an alternative route just because some streets are a little steeper than you’re accustomed to. Make an attempt to walk them, even if you can only make it halfway up the hill. Return in a couple of days and try to go a little further.
Taking on hills will tone the thigh and buttock muscles, and dramatically increase cardiovascular endurance. Even on a moderate incline you’ll burn 30 per cent more kilojoules. Just take it easy: don’t end up gasping for breath. Instead, challenge yourself to do that little extra each time and you’ll gradually improve your fitness without pain.
Correct technique eases the strain of uphill walking: lean your body slightly into the lead leg, keeping your back lengthened and upper body relaxed. Allow your arms to swing naturally.
Shorten Your Stride
The temptation is to take longer strides when you want to power your walking, yet it’s actually more effective to shorten them and concentrate on walking faster. Count your steps: 100-110 per minute equates to a leisurely stroll; 120-130 gives a moderate aerobic workout; 140-150 or more takes you into the high-intensity zone.
Add some speed intervals to your walks. Start with 30-second intervals where you increase your pace to about 75 per cent of your full-on speed – or even break into a jog – then drop back to 30 seconds normal pace. Continue with this 1:1 ratio, increasing the times of each interval first to one minute, then 90 seconds, then two minutes. Once you reach this level, you can alter the ratio, perhaps to one minute normal, two minutes of interval.
Pace yourself, starting with around six minutes of interval work, increasing to around 12 minutes: i.e. three sets of two-minute interval sessions. Do a maximum of three interval routines a week, walking at your usual sustained speed on alternate days.
Another option is to add intervals of strength or resistance training to boost upper-and-lower body strength.
Try Speed Walking
Once you achieve the 140-150 steps-per-minute level, you can try serious speed walking, also known as power walking, which is the rule-free version of the Olympic sport race walking.
This will help blast fat because travelling further/faster uses considerably more muscle power and can actually double the kilojoules burned. Heart and lungs pump harder too, improving cardiovascular fitness.
Keep torso upright – don’t lean forward or backwards. Your chin should be parallel to the ground to minimise the risk of neck strain. Bend your elbows and take short steps. Your heel strikes the ground first, you then roll through the foot and push off with your toes. Knees must be relaxed.