If you’ve established a regular walking habit, you’re probably meeting your daily and weekly physical activity goals and feeling healthy and active. Some people don’t mind following the same walking routine day in and day out, but others need to mix it up so it doesn’t start to feel stale.
“Every fitness regimen eventually becomes repetitive,” says Jamie Hickey, a certified personal trainer based in Aston, Pennsylvania. “You start a new workout routine with renewed motivation, dutifully exercising six days a week. Then one day, your motivation suddenly drops, and unhealthy habits start creeping back in.”
To prevent boredom from sabotaging your goals, try these ideas to keep things interesting:
Instead of walking at a steady pace, speed up for a minute or two, then drop down to your usual pace for a minute or two and repeat. You’ll burn more calories in the same time frame, and you’ll become more focused on what you’re doing, which can engage you and make things seem more fun.
“The varied intensity gives you something to focus on, which helps the time go by in a more enjoyable manner and can also increase effort and output,” says Jeremy Kring, a certified personal trainer in Middletown, Pennsylvania.
Walking uphill is more challenging than walking on level ground. By choosing a hilly route in your neighborhood or playing with the incline on your treadmill, you’ll work different muscles and achieve new fitness goals.
“If you’re going to do an up-and-down program, then you’re basically doing a high-intensity interval training workout since you’ll be at a more intense walk going up and an easier pace when coming down,” explains Hickey. “If you want a full-out, high-intensity, steady-state type of workout, pick a program that continually increases the elevation, keeping your heart rate elevated the whole time. Just keep in mind you won’t be able to sustain it for as long as a normal workout.”
If your walk becomes too easy, challenge yourself by adding additional time or mileage. “If you’ve been walking for a while and find, for example, 3 miles is pretty easy, a great place to start could be to challenge yourself to add half a mile or more,” says Sarah Grimaud, a certified personal trainer based in New York City. “In terms of increasing time, you could add on 10 or 15 more minutes. Or, challenge yourself to work on decreasing the time it takes you to do a mile.”
Using technology (such as the MyFitnessPal app) to track your daily step count is a great tool to boost motivation, says Hickey. “I like having a digital record of how many steps I took that day, so I’m encouraged to beat it the next day,” he says.
For even more motivation, share your step count with friends for a daily or weekly walking challenge. Research shows sharing goals can help you lose weight faster thanks to the power of accountability. Have fun trying to beat each other’s daily bests and setting new records for each week or month. You can exercise separately or together, depending on your social distancing practices.
If you’re not inclined to exercise with people from other households during the pandemic, creating a daily ritual with your partner, children or parents may motivate you to walk regularly. Having a set time to walk — whether before work or after dinner — may make you more likely to follow through.
“Walking partners, [even family members], add a layer of accountability to each workout,” says Mimosa Gordon, a fitness and Pilates expert based in New York City.
You’re more likely to have meaningful conversations with family members while walking outdoors than when everyone is inside, staring at their phones or the TV. The promise of a good chat may inspire you not to miss any walks. “Conversation is a great distraction if a walk is long,” Gordon says. “[And] when walking at a more aerobic pace, a great indicator of correct exertion level is being able to talk.”
Go for a loop around your neighborhood, visit a new park or try these family-friendly walking trails.
Putting on an upbeat soundtrack with songs that excite you may keep you motivated to maintain a brisk pace while walking. Choose songs with a steady beat that put you in the mood to work out instead of ballads that may make you walk more slowly.
“Put on your favorite playlist, and at the beginning of each song bust out some dance moves or mix in jumping jacks or squats, then get back to walking,” says Drew O’Connell, a personal trainer based in Los Angeles. It’s a fun way to increase your pace and energy levels, he says.
If your daily walk starts to feel monotonous, look for ways to make it more exciting. Because walking lends itself nicely to multi-tasking, it may help if you exercise while doing another enjoyable activity.
“You may get bored of walking, but if you pair it with something you love, it becomes pleasurable again,” says Grimaud. For example, try calling a friend, varying your terrain and scenery with a hike, or learning something new while listening to an audiobook or podcast.
Even if you’re motivated to walk, you may be bored taking the same loop through your neighborhood every day. Branching out can make things exciting again, especially if you walk with a sightseer’s mindset.
“Mixing it up with an urban hike or trip to a new park can open your senses to new sights, sounds and more that will keep walking fresh,” O’Connell says.
While there’s something to be said for walking with a friend or relative — it can spice things up with conversation, and you’re more likely to walk when you’re accountable to someone else — there are also benefits to walking alone. Take advantage of the fact that you’re away from your work and home responsibilities during a walk. Instead of always focusing on your phone or listening to music, enjoy the silence, and tap into your inner thoughts.
“Walking can be a total-body meditation that also provides aerobic benefits,” Gordon says. “A walk is an ideal time to problem-solve, strategize or have practice dialogs in your own head. All of that mental exercise adds to engagement, which keeps things exciting.”
“If you have multiple walking routines that interest you, then it’s easy to simply switch to walking Plan B if you start to grow tired of Plan A,” says Grimaud. “There’s no magical formula that works for all of us, so it’s important to check in with yourself and find what works for you.” This could mean working toward your first 5K, trying a treadmill-specific routine or aiming to lose belly fat.
Make progress every day while you work on mini 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.