Walk your way to fitness
The humble walk is a simple but effective way of losing some weight, says Karl Henry
Aim to change your route as often as possible and add in some hills
Summer finally seems to have come to our shores, the evenings are long and mild, there has never been a better time to get out there and get fit.
Walking is my favourite recommendation to people of all ages who want to improve their fitness levels, lose some weight, tone up their body and increase their energy levels, too.
Above all, it is also the cheapest way to get fit. A good pair of runners, a rain jacket just in case and off you go. With some simple tips and tweaks you can turn your walk into a serious workout that will continue to deliver the results you are looking for.
What you need
Runners are no longer bought off the shelf. Many shops now offer free gait analysis where you can get a qualified shop assistant to analyse how you walk and ensure you buy the right runners to suit you. This is one of the best ways to ensure you keep your joints and muscles protected as you walk.
We live in a country with unpredictable weather, we all know that! Before you start out, invest in a light yet waterproof jacket that will keep you dry. A good rain jacket will give you one less excuse not to walk.
People often think that all clothing is the same when it comes to exercising. The reality is that the right clothes make all the difference to the session, especially when you begin to work harder. Aim to choose non-cotton fabrics as these hold on to sweat and will become heavy during exercise.
Fabrics such as Dri-Fit will keep you cool and comfortable no matter what the weather. Sports socks such as 1,000-mile socks are also important as your feet need to breathe during the walk.
These three tips will get you out on the road and walking to a healthier new you. Ideally, aim for a one-hour walk and you should be looking to cover four miles within the hour. Don't worry if you can't manage this straight away but it is certainly a great goal to aim for. Remember you should never be fully out of breath when you are walking, ensure that you can always talk. If you can't talk then you are working too hard. This simple method is called the talk test.
How to make it harder
When you begin to get fitter, you must keep challenging the body to get the best results. This explains why you get a plateau sometimes when trying to lose weight or improve your pace. Here are some top tips to improve your walks:
You should aim to change your route as often as possible. If your walk is normally flat then add in some hills or an undulating course. You can add changes in weekly or every few weeks, it makes it fun as well, since doing the same route all the time can often get boring!
Aim to lengthen your strides to make your hips and legs work harder, even a small increase can make all the difference.
Aim to walk the same distance in a faster time or if you are timing the session try to walk farther in that time. This is another crucial element as by keeping track of either time or distance you always have something to work towards.
Pick a race
Why not push yourself out of your comfort zone and register for an event? Take a look at www.runireland. com for a list of races and events all over Ireland.
Sometimes when you begin to exercise there can be small issues such as muscle aches. Here are some common problems and simple tips to help avoid them:
Blisters can be painful and even stop you from exercising altogether. By having the right socks and runners, you will be going a long way to avoiding them. Applying some Vaseline to your feet where the sores occur will help and if you have very soft feet, simply walk around your home in your bare feet.
There can be several causes of shin splints, normally trying to do too much too soon is a common one as well as having the wrong footwear.
If you find the problem persists, then make an appointment to see a chartered physiotherapist.
One of the more common issues when you are starting to exercise, some simple stretches at the end of your session will help as will an epsom salts bath.
The fitter you get the less you will hurt, just don't try to do too much too soon and you will reduce the chance of any of the above.
Health & Living