Boost your walking workout

Staff - - 06/21/2011
Exercise Tips

Leisurely strolls are a great way to bask in the glory of warmer weather, but they won’t do much to spur weight loss. To slim down for summer, you need to enjoy the sunshine at a quicker pace. Whether you’re trying to tone up or simply start moving for the first time since your lawn disappeared under a sheet of ice, we have the expert tips you need to kick-start your walking program.

Make it challenging

You wouldn’t do the same workout every day at the gym — why would you give your walk the same treatment? “You want to keep surprising your body,” says Michele Stanten, fitness director at Prevention magazine and author of Walk Off Weight. “If you keep doing the same thing every day you won’t continue to see results. You’ll just plateau.”

To avoid a walking rut, try incorporating one of these workouts into your routine:

Interval walks. Alternate between fast and moderate-to-easy periods of walking. This type of walk turns up your calorie burn by as much as 100 percent during your workout and afterward.

Long walks. They build endurance. What’s more, about an hour at moderate intensity has been shown to keep your calorie burn revved for up to 7.5 hours post exercise.

Speed walks. They’re shorter, but require you to maintain the same intensity for the entire workout. Quick tip: Move about as fast as you’d walk if you were running late for an important appointment or meeting, says Stanten.

Head for the hills

Give your backside a boost with a little bit of incline. Walking hills gives you a 60 percent boost in calorie burn in contrast to strolling on flat terrain and tones a great butt and legs. If you live in an area where hills are rare, hike up stadium bleachers and steps to challenge yourself.

Ditch the pedometer

Like friends and fine wine, walking workouts should be judged by quality, not quantity. Taking 10,000 steps per day is a longstanding and popular fitness recommendation, but it won’t help you lose weight. “For most people it’s more practical to pick up the pace and do intervals to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time,” says Stanten.

Rock new kicks

It’s hard to let go of well-worn gym shoes that mold perfectly to your feet. But if they stick around for too long, the support they provide diminishes, so that favorite pair could put you at risk of injury.

Stanten recommends giving gym shoes the boot about every 300 to 600 miles.

Walking shoes are specially designed to protect your heels, but running shoes offer reinforced padding in the midfoot area, where you need it.

If you plan to do any running in your workout — even 30-second bursts — you should opt for a running shoe.

Quick tip: Our feet expand during the day.

To ensure you buy the perfect size shoe, shop toward the end of the day when your feet are at their largest.

Stay hydrated

Drinking water during your walks is a must. Stanten recommends drinking one or two glasses of water 1 or 2 hours before your workout, and taking a sip every 15 to 20 minutes during your walk. Down another 8 ounces at the end of your walk.

Stretch afterward

It’s important to stretch after your cool-down, when muscles and joints are their warmest, says Stanten.

Hold each stretch for 10 seconds, pause, then repeat two more times.

Set a goal

If healthier living and weight loss aren’t enough motivation to get outside, try signing up for a race. “One of the best things about doing an event like a marathon or half marathon is that it helps keep you motivated,” says Stanten.

If you’d like to walk a race, look for half marathons that have a maximum finish time of 3.5 to 4 hours and marathons with a time of 7 hours, says Stanten.

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