Health
Saturday, May 30, 2015
Six ways to make a walking program more challenging

By Daniel Reynen Citizen Columnist

Walking is a great way to start an exercise program, but after awhile it can get boring. Here are a few things you can do to push yourself and make it more interesting.

Walk in a different direction. I don’t mean somewhere new, I mean sideways or even backwards. As long as you don’t have problems with balance, changing the direction you move can be both tough and rewarding. If you’re walking sideways, turn the upper part of your body in the direction you intend to move. Concentrate on the muscles in your inner and outer thighs, while being careful not to trip. However long you move in one direction, plan on matching it going the other way.

When you walk backwards, make sure the surface you’re walking on is stable. Pay attention to rises and drops so you’re not tripped up. While walking forward works your hamstrings and butt, walking backward puts more stresses on the quadriceps and calves. Split your routine between forward and backward walking and you’ll get a better lower body workout.

Shorten the length of your stride and focus on taking quicker steps. Often when people walk faster, they lengthen their stride by reaching further out with the forward foot. That can cause balance problems and put unnecessary stress on the shins.

When you walk, the power comes from pushing with your trailing leg and foot. By shortening your stride and increasing the speed, you can work your body harder. Set an alarm to go off every 2-4 minutes and speed up or slow down accordingly.

Add a water element to your routine. If you have access to a pool or body of water that’s safe, plan on walking through the water about waist high. Pushing your body through, is a lot tougher than it may look. Start by moving quickly for 10 to 15 seconds, then slow down and recover for 30 seconds. Do this five times and gradually add more sets as your grow stronger.

To make things even more difficult, move deeper in the water. The more water you have to push through, the harder it becomes. Just don’t go so deep you end up floating. Both feet should be touching the ground.

Keep in mind, beaches aren’t flat. Walking on them can cause one foot to roll out and the other to roll in. To compensate, walk an equal distance in both directions. Bring along some aqua socks or something to protect your feet while you’re in the water, and a towel to dry off when you’re done.

Insert bodyweight exercises into your program. Set an alarm and every five minutes stop to do something different. Consider pushups, walking lunges or abdominal exercises.

Find a hill; or a tall building that allows you to walk up and down the stairs. Then add that to your routine. If you can only manage going up and down a single flight when you begin, that’s OK. Gradually add more and over time you’ll grow stronger. When going downhill, resist the urge to jog or run. Control your movements and keep walking.

Set a goal that forces you to do a little more each time. Plan on entering a 5K race as a walker. Then keep increasing how far you walk until you’re able to complete the full distance.

This is very important. The walking category in races is a serious thing. Runners in a 5K race can walk, but walkers can’t run. If you’re entering as a walker, the rule is one foot must stay on the ground at all times. If you plan on running or jogging AT ALL, you must enter as a runner. Only if you walk the entire race should you enter as a walker.

Doing the exact same program, month after month should be avoided. Your muscles grow by being pushed, so your should continuously revise and upgrade your workout program. Add these walking challenges to your routine and keep getting better.

CAUTION: Before beginning any diet or exercise program check with your doctor first. For a FREE consultation with a WeBeFit

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