Walking – What’s the Point?
(And other stuff that will help you)
Setting targets and doing your best to stick with them, means you are more likely to be successful and still be walking several months, if not years down the line.
Start with a distance that is comfortable, what you feel is good for you,. I’ve mentioned that some of us could go out and pull in three miles having not exercised for a while, others may only manage a quarter of a mile. The best way to establish your starting distance is to actually go and walk. Perhaps pick a loop from your house, if you’re very unfit or overweight start with five minutes. If you’re completely spent when you get back to the house then leave it there. If you feel good and think another loop is not a problem, go for it, just don’t overdo it and keep within your limits. You should feel as though you’ve done something, but are not crawling on all fours back to your front door.
Rest the following day, this is important. Then, go do it again the day after. Rest again for a day, and repeat again. Start with three walks of this distance for the first walk. Rest is important, if you’re suddenly asking your body to perform an activity that it doesn’t normally do, then it will cause muscle damage. Not major damage, just tiny tears that repair themselves fairly quickly, this is all quite normal.
Running is slightly different but there is a general rule that also works with walking. During training, especially when first starting, runners only increase their distance each week by a maximum of 10% of the total previous week’s distance. If they’ve done three runs of three miles the first week, a nine mile total, then the following week they won’t increase the overall weekly distance by more than 0.9 of a mile. This is the generally accepted method to stay injury free.
Walking is somewhat different but I find the rule still works. Although not an exact science, walking is gentler and not as high impact. To be safe, stick to the 10% rule but each of you may find practice a little different. If 10% is too much, then stick to your previous week’s tally and try again the following week. If you feel great, well, great!
The 10% rule is a general one, have a look around on the web and there are other methods such as adding an extra walk.
But, try and not go nuts. Keep within your limits, you know your body, listen to it and act accordingly.
Setting targets is a great indicator of progress. If you walk perhaps for two miles three times a week, after three months you should safetly be hitting 17 miles in a week, or three 5.7 mile walks.
Walk with someone else
This isn’t my thing very often but it is too many others. Walking with someone else can give you a chance to engage in conversation, which means the time will fly by. It’s also a great incentive because when we are exercising with others, we feel obliged to turn up for a session, otherwise we feel we’re letting them down, and subsequently ourselves as well. Hopefully, it’s the same for the other person.
Promise yourself a new pair of walking shoes after a month, or maybe that waterproof jacket. Rewards are great motivators and give you something to aim for.
Other stuff that will help you
As I said above, if you’re asking your body to do something it doesn’t normally do, this will affect you. You will feel tired afterwards, possibly sore, the odd blister may pop up and your appetite may increase.
Stretching is generally considered to be beneficial and again, a quick search on the web should give you some pointers. The main muscles to stretch are the calves, hamstrings and quadriceps. Some physios recommend stretching after walking, some say do it after, others say do it both before and after!
I use to stretch, nowadays I rely on about 20 minutes of yoga which stretches the muscles that need it, as well as a load of others as well, sort of a two for one approach. Yoga need not be two hours a day, even twenty minutes has huge health benefits.
Probably the one question I get asked the most is what to wear on your feet when you walk. I advocate running shoes, my favourites are Brooks Cascadias but they might not be a good fit for your feet. Best advice is to have your feet measured at a local running shop. If your route is off road and you start walking at this time of year when the ground is wet, then you may want to consider shoes with waterproof liners such as Gore Tex, which will keep water out and your feet dry. If it’s really boggy when you walk, then high cut, ankle length boots, again with a waterproof liner, should keep you dry.
The latest incarnation of my favourite walking shoes – Brooks Cascadia 10 (PC)
In general, I find trail running shoes the best. They’re light, breath way better than boots (which means less blisters), are more comfortable, and generally cheaper. They may not last as long though.
All I wear in the summer months is usually a t-shirt and shorts. It’s always a good idea to carry a small backpack (perhaps around 20 litres capacity) which has a warmer top, and waterproof jacket and bottoms in it as the British weather is unpredictable.
Base layer materials to look for fall into two camps, either synthetic or natural. Synthetic dries way quicker, many say it is more comfortable, and generally it’s cheaper. Personally I’m a fan of wool from brands such Smartwool or Icebreaker. I find wool more comfortable but the main advantage is that it doesn’t smell bad after it’s been hung up for an hour or so. It can ‘wet out’ quicker than synthetics though, meaning sweat soaks it quicker and stays there if you’re hot.
Expect to pay between £30 to £60 for a wool t-shirt, synthetic options can be had for a tenner upwards.
If you’re walking short distances to start with, then you may not notice much hunger change. As you increase, so will your need for food. Most turn to carbohydrates, which are getting a bad press these days. I eat far less carbs than I used too, and I’d recommend consuming good forms. As a general rule, try and stay away from ‘white’ carbs such as refined white bread, white rice and white pasta, Stick to wholemeal bread, brown rice and other forms such as millet.
I prefer protein rich foods which doesn’t mean eating a load of meat and dairy. Non animal forms of protein contain surprisingly high amounts and include lentils, quinoa, avocados, peas, nuts, coconut (milk and fresh), beetroot and oats. Try and stay away from meats if you can, if its flesh you need then chicken and especially fish are far better for you, as well as eggs.
Smoothies are a great way to get everything you need after a walk, my protein rich repair buster consists of oats, chia seeds, a piece of banana, piece of beetroot, a handful of kale and some blueberries. To help with your immune system which can take a beating during exercise, a slice of lemon (including the rind), a slice of fresh ginger and a slice of chilli should help ward of colds, as well as a sprinkle of turmeric. Leave out the milk and use coconut water, milk alternatives such as oat or rice based milk (good for protein again), or mix half a fruit juice in with it. A scoop of protein powder, available from health food shops or on-line will help as well. If you walk in the morning and are pushed for time, this can be made the evening before and kept in the fridge.
You will of course have to invest in a blender / smoothie maker, two brands that are scoring well are NutriNinja and NutriBullet. The cheaper brands have weaker motors will leave big chunks in your blend.
The Nutri Nija – One of the better blenders on the market (PC)
Where you walk
The South Downs, amongst other outdoor spaces. Good space for the soul.
For convenience, it’s probably easier to start your walks from your house, especially if you’re pushed for time before walk. However, once you have a few weeks under your belt, there is no greater pleasure than getting into the great outdoors at least once a week. It’s quieter, the air is fresher and better quality, there’s more natural energy and it’s just a nicer place to be. Sweeping views are great, as are the woods.
It’s also softer under foot, concrete can be harsh.
All that is left is for you to think of a route, and most important of all, set a date and stick to it.
Main blog thumbnail photo credit – www.shapesense.com