This was going to be the year.
You were going to get back into shape. You committed to eating healthier and exercising.
Perhaps things even started off with a bang. You were eating better and maybe you even got to the gym a few times.
But let’s face it… even when we have the best intentions finding the time (and motivation) to work out can be tough.
Listen, I get it. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret that I use myself to help me get my heart rate up and build muscle even on days I can’t manage to carve out time for an official workout.
You can turn every walk you take… whether it’s to the train station or the local convenience store… into a heart pumping mini-workout.
From walk to workout in 5 easy moves
Walk to Workout Move #1: Fix Your Focus on Your Feet
You probably haven’t given the physical act of walking too much thought since you left the toddler stage of your life. Once we master walking it becomes automatic. We place one foot in front of the other and get to where we are going without thinking about.
Try switching your auto-pilot off. Focus your mind on your feet as you stroll across the room.
Suddenly you will become aware of how your lower body is moving. How your foot hits the floor… heel strike, roll forward push off with your big toe. Notice how you’re using the muscles in your core, buttocks and legs.
Simply by focusing on the act of walking you’re movements become more deliberate and you can begin to truly engage all the muscles involved in the process. Feel each footstep and each swing of the leg and make an effort to control those movements.
Try this next time you take a walk and you will be giving your body a better work out, and as a bonus focusing will help relax your mind too.
Walk to Workout Move #2: Do a Direction Do-over
Ever been to a roller skating rink? Every once in a while they announce a “backwards skate” and everyone who remains on the floor has to switch direction and skate backwards for the rest of the song.
When you switch directions it’s not only fun, but you also engage different muscles and begin to concentrate more on your balance and coordinating the movements required to propel yourself around the rink without falling on your rear end.
Well why not try the “backwards skate” trick on your next walk?
Now you don’t have to literally walk backwards, but if you’re in a safe spot and want to give it a try for a bit go for it. Then try a sidestep crab walk for a block or two.
Or get fancy with your next walk around the park and toss in a series of cross-over grapevine steps every hundred feet or so. It’s easy, you take a step to the side with your right leg, cross your left leg behind it. Then step again with your right leg once again and cross your left leg in front of it.
And don’t forget to switch sides every once in a while and start out with your left leg first instead.
By switching up the direction you normally walk you’ll be engaging different muscles in your thighs, calves and core and improving your balance and coordination.
Walk to Workout Move #3: Pump up the Pace
Most of us probably stroll at around 3 miles per hour when we’re walking on a flat surface. Next time you go for a walk try picking up your pace to more like 4.5 miles per hour.
It’s not larger steps we’re aiming for here, it’s quicker ones.
Try pumping your arms faster and your feet will fall into line. The idea is to get your heart pumping and your muscles warmed up and fully engaged.
Test if you’ve bumped up the pace enough by trying to sing your favorite song out loud. If you manage to belt it out at full volume you’re probably not moving quite fast enough.
Walk to Workout Move #4: Mix Up the Moves
Why should a walk be JUST a walk? Mix up your moves and add a few more steps to your steps and before you know it you’ll have worked out on your way to a friend’s house.
Here are several to try (but I’m sure you can think of a few more):
(1) Whenever you get to a curb switch into step-aerobics mode. Step up with your left foot, then up with your right, back down with your left and then down with the right.
Don’t stop there, do it for 10 full reps. And if you’re feeling frisky, reverse the whole deal starting with your right foot this time.
(2) Every time you pass a bench stop and do 10 pushups off the back. Add in 10 tricep dips using the seat on the front and you’ll really be getting a good work out.
Wondering how to do a tricep dip?
Stand in front of the bench and place your arms behind you on the seat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Slowly bend your elbows lowering your body towards the ground until you reach about a 90 degree angle and then push back up. Repeat 10 times.
Be sure to keep your back close to the bench, and if you’re new to tricep dips you might want to do fewer reps and build up to 10.
(3) Replace your normal steps with a high knee one instead. Keeping up your normal walking pace each time you take a step, raise your knee higher than usual, to about a 90 degree angle.
(4) Toss in some calf raises. Pause your walk, stand on the balls of your feet and raise heels up off the ground about three inches. Gently lower your heels back down to the ground and then repeat fifteen times.
(5) While walking why not add in some arm circles? Stretch your arms straight out from your sides with your palms facing down. Keeping your muscles tightened make small circles with your arms.
Walk to Workout Move #5: Really Raise the Bar with Intervals
In Walk to Workout Move #3 we picked up the pace, now I want to raise the bar even further by adding in intervals.
With high intensity interval training you work out as hard as you can for a short burst and then ease off the pace and allow yourself to recover for a short period of time. And the research shows it works!
In one study volunteers completed 6 high intensity interval work out sessions over two or three weeks. Each session lasted only a few minutes but there were significant, measurable improvements in their cardiovascular health as a result.1
You can capture some of these same benefits by applying the interval training concept to your walks. For the first three or four blocks of your walk pick up your pace and walk as quickly as you can manage. Follow that with a moderate resting pace for the next block. Repeat this pattern for your entire walk.
Don’t forget to stretch after your walks. While you might not need to stretch every single time you step out, if it’s been an intense session it’s probably a good idea. Stretching helps keep you flexible, releases tension and improves range of motion and posture.2
So what are you waiting for? Strap on those walking shoes and give these 5 Walk to Workout Moves a try starting today.
1. Astorino TA, Allen RP, Roberson DW, Jurancich M. Effect of high-intensity interval training on cardiovascular function, VO2max, and muscular force. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(1):138-145.
2. Garber C, Blissmer B, Deschenes M. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: Guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exer. 2011;43(7):1334-1359.
As a practicing physician, “Dr. Steve” has cared for general surgery and general medicine patients. In addition to his work as a medical doctor, he worked for the U.S. Congress’ Office of Technology Assessment and at the U.S. Congress, performing research on health care, medical technology and drug-related issues.
Dr. Steve received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine, his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and his master’s degree in manufacturing engineering from UCLA. So you could say he is a doctor with an engineering mind.
Dr. Steve is focused on creating evidence-based nutritional supplements that actually do what they claim. The problem currently on the top of his mind is figuring out the right combination of natural supplements, optimal diet and behavioral changes that will help people get a handle on their weight and health issues.
He is the proud father of 4 children all under the age of 10, and is active in the New York City community. He loves Frank Sinatra, and if you get him in a really good mood, he just might sing you a tune.
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