Walking outdoors is one of the easiest and best things you can do to improve mental and physical health. Especially as the weather warms, it can be a nice change of pace to swap the treadmill for a new hike or path. To get the most out of your walk, it’s important to set smart goals. Whatever your fitness level, these nine goals will motivate you to raise the bar and get in better shape than ever this spring.
To reap all the amazing health benefits of walking, you need to get out the door and develop a consistent routine. The American Heart Association recommends two and a half hours of physical activity per week, which equals 30 minutes of walking five days per week. While this sounds simple, most people don’t get as much daily exercise as they need. If you’re just getting into walking, keep things simple and make getting out the door as often as possible your number 1 goal.
Walking is great for cardiovascular health and shedding pounds, but strengthening your core helps increase your walking speed and distance. The core powers movement, and if your core is weak, you’ll be more susceptible to injury as your mileage increases. Core strength also promotes good walking form, which makes your stride more efficient.
A lot of people get into walking to promote a healthier lifestyle and lose weight. If this is your primary reason for beginning a walking program, having a weight-loss goal can provide ample motivation. Losing 1 pound per week is a realistic goal that’s easy to reach as long as you prioritize a well-balanced diet in addition to regular movement. What’s more, slow weight loss can help you keep it off long-term.
Signing up for a walking event is a good way to stay motivated and push yourself to take on a new challenge. Most 5K and 10K running events welcome athletes who want to walk. These events are a fun way to surround yourself with like-minded people, especially if you join a training group, which can provide extra motivation.
When starting to speed up your pace per mile or include faster-paced intervals in your weekly training, it can be easy to make the mistake of lengthening your stride. However, over-striding can cause problems in the lower back and hips and is generally considered to be less efficient. To speed up your walks, practice upping your cadence while keeping your stride length the same.
While you’ll certainly have favorite walking routes that are convenient, exploring new areas and paths help keeps you mentally fresh and motivated. When the sun comes out and the weather is nice this spring, make it a point to explore the area around you once a week. Pick a new trail or park and challenge yourself with different terrain.
Power walking, race walking or even Nordic walking on trails are all good ways to mix things up. Not only do these disciplines provide a great workout, but they also require slightly different techniques, helping you build strength in different muscle groups.
Even if you’ve walked a half- or full-marathon, you can always make it a goal to go 1-mile further. Doing something you’ve never done before can give you a sense of accomplishment and help you realize and appreciate just how far you’ve come in your fitness journey. Whether it’s in a regular workout or race, make it a goal to set a new personal record for distance walked in one day.
Walking goals don’t always have to be about testing yourself. If walking has had a positive impact on your life and helped you become healthier and happier, why not give that gift to someone else you care about? Whether it’s a friend, family member or a coworker, try to get someone else into the habit of walking. Join them for a walk or two each week and use it as a time to enjoy each other’s company without distractions. Who knows, he or she just might end up being your new daily training partner sometime down the road.