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Friday, July 9, 2010

Happy Trails

I LOVE running...the speed, the challenge, the sweat, the community, the races. I love every bit of it, sometime more so after the act than smack dab in the middle of it, but you get the idea, especially if you too are a runner. You know what else I LOVE? I love walking. Although walking moves at a much slower pace than running, so to get my 4-5 miles in I have to spend over an hour versus about 32-40 minutes for running, it's a physical activity that too often gets overlooked by all of us die-hard athletes. It should not be dismissed from our repertoire as it has so many wonderful qualities that often get overlooked. Now when I say walking, I don't mean a slow leisurely stroll. I mean getting your body moving at a decent speed, around 4 mph, getting your heart rate up a bit and if you're feeling especially energetic, getting your arms pumping. You want to be able to count it as exercise. Today, I took the time to notice those wonderful qualities as I put on my running shoes and hit the road for a good long walk.

Walking gives you time to stop and smell the roses. Don't worry, I won't count it against you if you stop for 15 seconds. One of the great things about walking is that you won't loose your momentum if you stop for a bit. When you're walking and you pass a yard with some beautiful flowers that are just begging to be sniffed, go ahead and sniff them. You'd never be able to do that on a run. Check out all of the scenery while you're walking. Look at all the magnificent trees, the beautiful houses and landscape. Take it all in! You won't regret it and it might inspire some ideas for your own homestead.

Also, anyone can be your walking buddy. You don't have to worry about slowing someone down or not being able to keep up. It's much easier to find someone to match your stride when walking. I love to walk with my mom and sister, both of whom would never agree to a run with me. It's also much easier to carry on a conversation when walking rather than running and if you can multi-task and getting your workout in while socializing, that's a double whammy.

Walking is great cross-training or an alternative to your regular routine. It's easy to get stuck in a rut with exercised but when you do the same thing over and over, your body adapts and the exercise slowly loses its effectiveness as your body gets used to the activity. Walking is a great way to keep your muscles guessing. Even die-hard athletes need a rest day here and there but many of us are so used to being on the move that we have a hard time sitting still all day. Walking is a way to work out your stir-craziness without upping your injury risk. Your muscles will thank you.

Still not convinced? Still not sure walking is your cup of tea? Maybe you need more of a challenge. Adding weights while walking ups your calorie burn so you get more bang for your buck. Try getting some light dumbbells and carry them along with you on your walk. Or you can try some weighted gloves. I don't recommend ankle weights as they can cause knee and joint injuries but even a weighted backpack would up the difficulty level. Just make sure you gradually work your way up to walking with weights. Don't go too heavy too fast.

The next time you're looking for something new to jazz up your workouts, give walking a try. I think you might find you like it. Let me know how it goes! I'm always interested in your feedback. E-mail me at Happy trails!

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