When starting a fitness journey, many are overwhelmed and not sure where to start. Walking is the simplest answer. Walking is how I started my fitness journey, and I had lost over 100 pounds before I started going to the gym regularly or practicing yoga.
Of course I had gym memberships in the past, but the good intentions I had when signing up quickly faded and my monthly membership was more like a donation to the owner. One time in 2014, I got on an elliptical and used it for under 30 seconds at the lowest setting before I was out of breathe, sweating, and pulled a muscle in my thigh. I truly only moved through one or two rotations, but I had never moved my body in that way and the pain from that <30 second workout was so great, I had to go to my doctor that afternoon!
I wish my doctor had told me that day not to give up on myself, and to try starting with short walks. Instead he gave me strong pain killers and sent me on my way.
After that I felt so defeated that I cancelled my gym membership, and it was another two years before I tried to lose weight again.
At 325 pounds my feet and shins would ache if I walked longer then a couple blocks, so I started with short ten minute walks. It was frustrating that I could not do more, but I accepted that by starting with what I could do- I would soon be able to do much more! Now, a bit over three years later- I am a personal trainer. I teach yoga, enjoy 8+ mile hikes, and do HIIT circuit training four times a week.
Start your journey with goals that you know you will be able to achieve, like walking for 10 to 30 minutes, 3 times a week. As you achieve these realistic goals, you will build momentum and motivation.
Walking is one of the most beneficial and most popular forms of exercise. All you need to begin fitness walking is a good pair of shoes and the desire.
Walking for fitness can help you achieve a number of important health benefits. Here are some examples of benefits you can get from walking:
Reduce the risk of developing disease such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure. Walking can improve your bodies ability to process sugar and keep your heart healthy by lowering blood pressure.
Manage your weight. Walking burns calories
Reduce stress. Just one brisk walk can be a great way to reduce stress, and regular walking can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
Stay strong and active. As you get older, walking for physical fitness can prevent falls, help you stay mobile and maintain your independence.
What Gear Do You Need For Walking?
A huge advantage to walking is you will not need a lot of gear or equipment. When I started walking, I just threw on a pair of sweat pants, a sweater, and some old Converse to walk around my neighborhood. It was fine at the time because it was all I knew, but I have learned a lot since then and my goal is to help you get a better start on your journey than I had!
The best walking shoes are light weight, breathable, and a have low, supportive heel that rounds in. A thick heel or one that flairs out will cause your foot to slap down rather than roll. This slows down forward momentum.
Take time at the shoe store to find a pair of shoes that you like and that fit properly. There should be a thumbnails width (or about a half inch) between your toes and the end of the shoe. The shoe should be wide enough in the toe that your toes can move freely. Your heel should not slip, and the shoe should not pinch or bind, especially across the arch or ball of your foot.
Shop for shoes at the end of the day when your feet might be slightly swollen.
Wear your shoes in the house for a few days so if they are uncomfortable, you can return them.
Dress in comfortable clothing that gives you freedom of movement. Start with a moisture-wicking layer that keeps sweat away from your body, and top it off with a breathable, windproof and water-resistant outer layer, depending on the weather.
I’ve learned from embarrassing trial and error the importance of moisture-wicking clothing, especially if you sweat a lot. Let’s just say that a noticeable line of sweat down the center of your bum on a pair of gray sweat pants is not a good look!
If you are walking at night wear light colored clothing so you can easily be seen by traffic, runners, and cyclists. You may also need a flash light and reflective vest. Some walkers use the support of a pole.
Tracking Your Steps
More and more people are using technology to track their workouts and their progress. Walking apps and watches come in two basic types: apps that primarily track your walking workouts show your speed, distance, and route, while pedometer apps and watches track your all-day steps and activity. The good news is that many apps such as MapMyWalk and Walkmeter app do both by using the GPS in your phone.
Some apps are available for free, although they also have an opportunity for an upgrade or in-app purchases. Tracking watches range greatly in price, but you can find something decent for $30 or so.
These trackers can be fun to use because they give you an idea of how many calories you have burned and make it easy to share your progress.
Start slow and easy! Just walk out the door. You don’t have to worry about the speed in the beginning, the goal is just to start adding activity to your lifestyle.
If you have any concerns about your abilities, definitely talk to your doctor.
Here are some tips to get started:
Find a walking partner! Ask a friend to help you stay accountable and motivated. Enjoy chatting to pass the time during your walk.
Walk the dog! Dogs love walks. If you don’t have a dog, why not adopt one? My dogs loved the increased walks and bonding time when I started walking!
Listen to Music! Listen to your favorite albums or playlists to keep you moving and inspired.
Keep a walking log/journal or use an app to track your progress. Keeping a record of how many steps you take, the distance you walk and how long it takes can help you see where you started from and serve as a source of inspiration. Just think how good you'll feel when you see how many miles you've walked each week, month or year. Record these numbers in a walking journal or spreadsheet you create for yourself. If you’re using a fitness app then it’s logging the information for you.
Do a couple stretches before your walk to warm up your body. The longer and faster you plan to walk, the more time you will need to spend warming up.
Starting a walking program takes initiative. Sticking with it takes commitment. But when you think of the potential health benefits, it's well worth your effort. Over time you'll likely feel more invigorated. To stay motivated:
Set goals for yourself! A reasonable goal for most people is to increase average daily steps each week by 500 per day until you can easily average 10,000 per day. Example: If you currently average 3000 steps each day, your goal for week one is 3500 each day. Your week 2 goal is 4000 each day. Continue to increase each week and you should be averaging 10,000 steps by the end of 14 weeks.
Try walking in different areas like nature trails or parks
If you don't like walking alone, invite your spouse, partner, friend or neighbor to join you.
Register for a 5K race that has a walking component. Be sure to plan ahead so that you will be in shape by the time the race comes along.
Walk on your lunch break
Think positively. Don't let negative self-talk, such as "I'm a failure," get in the way of starting again. If you get off track, shrug it off as a temporary break in your walking program.
You are not alone! I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed and not sure where to start. If that’s where you are, I hope you will go for a walk today. Give yourself some credit, do your best, and keep progressing.
Thank you for reading!