A daily walking routine can benefit your mental and physical health in addition to helping with weight loss. However, if you find yourself doing the same thing day after day, it can easily make any routine stale, and eventually, cause you to plateau.
Whether you’re a beginner or a more seasoned walking pro, adding new elements to your workout can help you avoid burnout and injury while also taking your fitness to a new level. No matter your current level of fitness, here are nine ways you can make it happen.
One of the biggest hurdles you’ll face as a beginner is consistency. To help develop good habits and get into a solid routine, try this walking challenge, where you walk 10,000 steps a day for 10 consecutive days. Don’t worry about speed or form just yet. Instead, commit to upping your daily movement, whether that’s adding a walk after every meal or walking to do an errand instead of taking the car.
Before you take things to the next level and begin to walk further or faster, you’ll want to get stronger. Performing bodyweight exercises is a great place to start, and can help build muscle to stay injury-free as you increase mileage. Include a few sets of walking lunges, stepups or incline pushups on a park bench during each walk.
Walking seems simple enough, but proper posture makes a big difference. It can help make your stride more efficient, increase cadence and burn more calories. To start, try to concentrate on these simple postural habits for at least 5 minutes during every walk:
- Head: Keep your head up with your eyes about 10–15 feet ahead of where you’re walking.
- Spine: Stand tall and avoid hunching or leaning forward.
- Arms: Moving your arms more burns more calories and makes it easier to increase your speed. Avoid side-to-side movement across the body and concentrate on achieving a front-to-back motion, keeping your hands relaxed.
- Core: Engage your core by pulling your belly button toward your spine, which helps prevent slouching.
Once you’ve developed a consistent routine, one great way to take your walking to the next level is with a weekly long walk. Begin with a distance you know you can complete. Each week, increase the distance or time of this walk by either 1 mile or 5–10 minutes to prevent overuse injuries.
Maybe your goal is to increase endurance, walk a 10K or burn belly fat. Whatever the case, using technology to your advantage makes keeping track of your progress and fitness goals much easier. This could mean staying in the correct heart rate zone, tracking your steps and nutrition in MyFitnessPal or using the MapMyRun app to find new walking routes.
Rather than walking on flat ground, give yourself an extra challenge by walking in an area with rolling hills (or playing with the incline on the treadmill), hitting the stairs or finding different terrain, such as sand if you live near a beach. If you have a track or football field in your area, you can create a hybrid workout with a few miles around the track and a couple sets of stadium stairs. A wide variety of terrain works different muscle groups and helps you burn more calories.
Upping the pace with high-intensity intervals raises your heart rate and burns more calories. To get started with more advanced workouts, try this:
- Following a 5–10-minute warmup, alternate walking for 2 minutes at your normal pace followed by 30 seconds at a more intense pace where your breathing is quick and you cannot hold a conversation. Alternate with your normal/fast pace for 15–20 minutes and finish with a 5–10-minute cooldown. You can also follow this 5-Week HIIT walking plan.
Going on a hike can be a great way to challenge yourself physically. Mixing things up by seeking advanced trails is another great way to prevent boredom and increase your fitness. Trails also get you more in tune with nature, which can help alleviate depression and lower stress. If you opt for hikes with extended climbing, you’ll also benefit from building more strength in the glutes and hamstrings while boosting your metabolism and overall calorie burn.
Walking events are great ways to test your overall fitness and stay motivated to accomplish your goals. While many are currently virtual, you can also choose to create your own goal race by setting a distance and making a course in your area on MapMyRun. Once per month, see how fast you can walk the course and try to beat your previous time. Celebrate how much your fitness has progressed over the weeks, months and years since you started.
Make progress every day while you work on fitness and nutrition goals, like walking more steps. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app for daily coaching and easy-to-follow tasks to keep you motivated.