Anyone who looks at me knows I’m not exactly an expert on the subject.
But one of my goals this year is to walk, every single day, at least 5000 steps. So far I’m doing well, even though the rain’s been coming down in buckets here in SoCal this week (not that I am complaining about that one bit, mind you). Eventually I will make the goal total higher, but since I had been pretty sedentary for a while (you can’t write books while you’re walking around, or at least I can’t) I wanted to insure that I set a reasonable goal at first.
There are several things to consider when you’re committing to walking every day. First and foremost, I’d say, is to pick someplace to walk where you won’t get bored. Years ago I used to walk around our neighborhood every day and I have covered the same territory so many times I just don’t want to go out and do that any more. It was impossible to get motivated to go traverse the same old streets. So, first of the year, I began going over to nearby Griffith Park and walking on their trails. Seeing parts of the park I never knew existed even though I’ve been driving through it (and occasionally walking along one stretch of road) for 25 years was more than enough motivation to keep going back. Well, until the rains came down, that is. Those trails get awfully muddy and full of puddles in this kind of weather.
When weather makes walking outside chancy, a large shopping mall is a good place. Of course you have to go into it with the idea that you are NOT there to shop. You have to walk as briskly as you can past all the displays and around all the mall rats. If you can go during a fairly slow time of day, so much the better. (Being retired, I can do that.)
You can also provide your own interesting environment by listening to an audio book while you walk. Pick a good mystery and tell yourself to keep going till you’ve heard several chapters. Or put on some really bouncy music (I am a fan of the Pointer Sisters in this regard). Just don’t crank your headphones up too high or you’ll do more harm than good.)
You’ll read in many fitness articles that you should see your doctor before making any big change in your level of physical activity. Most people don’t think that walking constitutes a big change, and for the most part I’d agree with that, but there is one good reason to see your doctor before you start putting a lot of miles on your sneakers. Many people (like me) have legs of unequal length. If the difference is noticeable enough, it puts stresses on your body that you will definitely feel when you start walking around more. I have needed to use a cane on occasion in the past due to pain in my hip, knee, and foot, that I did not know was aggravated by the leg length difference. I now have a lift in one shoe and the difference is nothing short of amazing.
Even if you don’t normally walk with a cane, it is well worth while to go to a good outdoors-supply or sporting-goods store and get someone knowledgeable to fit you for a hiking staff. These are extremely lightweight and can really help you move along. Make sure the person you talk with shows you how to use the wrist strap. It’s not there for decoration, it’s there to support your arm and make it possible to use the staff without having a death grip on it all the time. I got mine at REI and consider it money well spent.
If you want inspiration to get going, try the book The Step Diet: Count Steps, Not Calories to Lose Weight and Keep It off Forever. It outlines a very simple plan for getting moving, and it includes a small pedometer. There are certainly fancier pieces of equipment to keep track of your daily steps (I am using a FitBit) but that’s more than enough to get you started. If you buy a more expensive pedometer or a FitBit, the fact that you spent the money on it might be motivation all on its own. It certainly is for me.
Anyone else have walking tips to share?