Walk your way into great shape for the summer
Whatever your age, fitness level or schedule, you can still benefit from being more active
April is our month to consciously add movement to our day
Moving more will help your health, your mood, your energy and your aches and pains. We can all choose to move more in our days, but we rarely do. We are often our own worst enemies choosing convenience and a seat whenever we can.
The best exercise of all
Exercise does not have to be uncomfortable, sweaty or confined to a gym or a running track. The best exercise is something you actually enjoy. Once you find that, you are more likely to make time for it and look forward to it. It might be dance, yoga, walking, running or cycling. It wont feel like exercise. It will feel like fun. Unfortunately, many of us have not found this exercise passion and keeping fit becomes something we know we should do but never get around to.
No time to exercise?
This month, rather than force yourself to go to a class or join a club, try to build movement and walking into your day in a different way. You don’t even have to make the time “go for a walk”. There are certainly things you could change in your day that would mean you have to move a little more. We are often on autopilot and choose the convenient option out of habit. Think about how your day is structured and where you could add in some more movement. Hop off public transport one stop earlier, take stairs rather than lift, walk rather than sit while talking on the phone or go outside on your lunchbreak. Very simply, choose to move more than you currently do.
Remove the barriers
Trick your body into doing more without labelling it exercise and watch your strength, endurance, fitness and energy improve. If you have set up your day so that you have no option other than to walk somewhere, you will do it. Small changes are sustainable in the long term. Don’t make walking more complicated than it needs to be. Forget gadgets, fancy clothing, timers, pedometers or anything that’s going to be a hassle to you. As long as you are wearing comfortable shoes, that’s enough to get moving for now.
Stretch your legs
Walking may not have the same glamour and energy associated with other fitness pursuits, but it is hugely beneficial to both our physical and mental health. Adding steps to your day will do more than just wake up your body. It will mobilise joints, increase circulation, clear your head, strengthen muscles, loosen tension, improve concentration and lift your mood. Feeling better and stronger will help you make better decisions in work, at home, with food and general lifestyle.
Get summer ready
Getting walking now will be the foundation of your summer, a stepping stone to build your fitness so you can have the energy and the confidence to take on summer adventures when the time comes. Whether your walking plans for the summer consist of daytrips in the mountains, taking on the Camino or just being able to walk the length of the beach promenade feeling strong, comfortable and not out of breath, start now by building up your steps and looking after your body.
Build a base
We may be limited with the opportunity to “go for a walk” on weekdays, but at the weekend we often have more freedom to move. We need to consciously make the decision to fit in movement to our weekend. On the days you have more time, choose to use it well. If you have not done any exercise in a long time or don’t feel confident starting walking, consider talking to your doctor first. Build your enjoyment of walking rather than see it as a chore or an inconvenience. Consider movement as a privilege and a way of future-proofing your body.
Less is more
Keep it simple and don’t put any distance or time pressure on yourself. Don’t feel the need to power walk or feel tense and breathless all the time. A willingness to listen to your body, increase distance gradually and walk at your comfortable pace will help you avoid injury and enjoy your time outdoors. As you build endurance and speed, technique will become more important, but for the next few weeks get moving, get outside and get started. Don’t walk until you are so tired that you have to stop. Instead, choose to walk a little less than you know you can comfortably do. That will keep your memory of walking positive and you are more likely to keep up the habit. Less is more for now.
Let’s focus this April on the routine, the habit and the enthusiasm for getting moving. April is our month to consciously add movement to our day. It’s only when we look at our daily habits that we realise that we have more choice and options than we think we have. Don’t waste this time sitting down if you have the privilege to have a body that could be moving more than it currently is. Set yourself up for a summer where you feel energised and strong enough to take on all that long summer days offer. Join us for this month of April where we build our foundations for a fit and healthy summer.
Next in Series – May 2017 – Walking Adventures this Summer
This is the first part of a new series of articles that focus on getting moving, getting outside and getting ready for summer.
Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Mary trains beginners and marathoners and everyone in between to enjoy running and stay injury free. Mary is also the creator of all our Irish Times Get Running programmes – Beginners Get Running, Get Running 10k and Get Running Stay Running