A blog by runners. For runners.

Winter walking: how to spice up your walks in the cold

walking-in-the-witnerI think we can all agree that there’s walking — and then there’s walking. Thing is, even the most disciplined of us can get lax or feel uninspired after a while, especially when the winter season descends upon our usual paths. If you’re looking to take your activity to the next level this season, there are a few simple tweaks that will get you there. And they’re easier to implement than you might think.

Here’s how:

  1. Crank the incline: My neighborhood is relatively flat and I usually avoid the steep — but short — hill on Grand Ave. (Don’t we all have a spot like that?) Try incorporating inclines, whether treadmill-made or naturally occurring — and “for every 1% of grade, you increase your calories burned by about 12% or about 10 more calories per mile for a 150 pound person.” It can be tempting to feel you’ve earned those downhills, but beware: “you burn 6.6% fewer calories per mile” going down than on flat surfaces (Source).
  2. Power it up: It can be tempting to set your internal pace to steady day after day. No doubt — consistency with working out is definitely to be celebrated. But whether you’re on the sidewalks or the treadmill, challenge yourself to quicken your stride, whether for the entire duration of your exercise session or in shorter interval bursts. Venture into walk/jog territory for additional difficulty. You’ll burn more calories and go farther each session, becoming a stronger walker with better cardiovascular endurance.
  3. Add some weight: A sure way to boost your stroll is by picking up an inexpensive pair of light weights. One study showed that “walking at a 4 mph on the treadmill with hand and ankle weights was comparable to jogging at 5 mph without the extra poundage” (Source). Of course, don’t start with anything too heavy (think 2 to 5 pounds) and be sure to warm up and cool down sans the added pounds. Increase the pounds as desired, but don’t compromise good posture, which could lead to injury over time.
  4. Sign up for an event: Races and athletic events aren’t just for runners, swimmers, and cyclists. There are numerous walking events and races for all distances and abilities. Anything from 1-mile fun walks to 3-day long endurance challenges like the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure, totaling around 20 miles each day. No matter what distance you choose, training for something can give you a boost of motivation and reinvigorate your desire to exercise in general.
  5. Try multiple sessions: Just as runners occasionally train twice a day to add more miles, boost metabolism, improve economy, and recover faster — many of these same principles apply to the walking crowd. Consider adding an additional walking workout to your day once or twice a week or take a weekly errand and leave the car behind. With this additional session, think simply about the time on your feet versus the measures for added difficulty mentioned in this article.

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Written by  Ashley Marcin.