We all have some fitness goals, or at least I would hope we all have them, if you don’t you know deep down inside you should. For me it is to walk more. I love to walk, not because I have to or because my dogs need me too… I want to walk more for myself; to increase my fitness level, to lose some weight, to improve my health and well being and what’s more to help me relax.
Walking is not difficult and it doesn’t require a lot of special preparation. All you need is some comfortable clothing, a pair of good shoes, some basic knowledge on what to do and what not to do, time and willingness. It might seem like a lot but it really is not!
Walking has a lot of benefits. It is free, it doesn’t require any special accessories, it is not weather depending, it can be achieved in any terrain and it doesn’t have an age limit. It is something we do naturally so why not walk yourself happy?
I have a few tips for new comers who want to start their journey into walking as a mean of improving their well being.
1. Get some good shoes and the correct clothing
This doesn’t mean breaking you bank balance. You probably do not need anything else than that which you most likely already own. All you really need is a pair of good comfortable trainers / walking / running shoes and some comfortable clothing. You do not have to walk in a fancy branded tracksuit, you do not need the latest model shoes, but you do need something which will fit you well and something which will be really comfortable (no pants too loose which will drop down every few steps or too short t-shirt which will come up every 2 minutes).
2. Warm up
It should only be necessary to warm up for about 5 minutes before the serious walking, in time when you start to increase the speed and distance on your walks then you can dedicate a little more time to increasing flexibility. Try to do some of the following:
Forward leg kicks – use a pole or tree for balance and swing your right leg in front of you and then behind you, swapping to your legs after 10 kicks.
Ankle turns – Stand on one leg and rotate the ankle of the raised leg, do ten circles in each direction and then change legs.
Toe point – stand on one leg and point the toe on the raised leg, then flax it. Repeat 10 times then swap legs.
Arm swings – stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your arms straight out beside you parallel to the ground. Keep your lower body immobile and swing your arms from side to side through a full range so that you end up looking over each shoulder.
Arm circles – hold your arms straight out to your side, parallel to the ground. Make small circles going backwards, gradually getting larger and larger. Then change direction.
In order to minimize any muscle pain we all should try to keep a close attention to our posture whilst walking, making sure we are getting it right – keep your shoulders back and relaxed and hold your head up, with your eyes looking forward. It’s also a good idea to hold your tummy in and tighten your buttocks.
4. Speed and distance
This is the beauty of walking – there is no speed and distance set in stone. You can walk 5 minutes or you can walk for 45 minutes, it is all up to you. What is important is to just start walking at a speed that suits you, nice and easy. Then everyday you should either increase your speed or the distance travelled a little. Remember if you want to speed up – increase number of the steps you take, not the length of your stride. A good practise is to change the speed at which you walk – make a few minutes of a really fast march and then just walk for the next few and if you are feeling up for it repeat it again. Try and go out walking every day and, if the pace feels ok for you then add 5 minutes to your walk every time, until you’ve covering the distance you’re happy with. If you’re walking to lose some weight, then aim for 45-60 minutes of brisk walking at least 5 days a week.
5. Cool down
It is worth to finish our whole walking session with a little cool down. Just a few stretches to relax legs muscle and relax our back should do the trick. This will help prevent any unnecessary muscle pains. Repeating the warm up exercises from above will aid this process.
6. Eat /drink right
In the 2 hours after you exercise, your muscles are doing most of their replenishing and will need refuelling – the optimum meal post-workout should include a mixture of protein and carbohydrate. Also do not forget about water, staying well hydrated is very important especially if you are off for a long walk on a hot sunny or even warm day.
7. Keep a diary
Keeping good notes on the time and distance covered will help you with future planning of your training sessions. Getting a reliable pedometer might be a good idea. We should be aiming for the goal of 10,000 steps a day; apparently this can be counted as an active lifestyle 🙂
So my aim for the spring / summer is to walk more. I would love for you to join me in this challenge.
Let’s walk ourselves happy!
Who is with me?
* This post was written in collaboration with Expert Panel from SportsShoes. I received an incentive in the form of running kit to help me achieve my fitness goal.
To celebrate National No Smoking Day this month
which is today (12th March 2014),
Expert Panel from SportsShoes
is offering some brilliant advice
on how exercise can help you to kick your smoking habit.
Get fit and quit!
5 ways that exercise will increase your chances of quitting for good
Acute cigarette cravings often last just five minutes. If you feel like a cigarette, try going for a run for just 20 minutes, by the time you return your craving will have passed.
Smokers often avoid exercise as they become breathless and get cramps. This is because carbon monoxide hinders the amount of oxygen that reaches the heart. You’ll get more enjoyment from physical activity after you quit smoking and, by gradually building up your exercise levels, you will soon improve your lung intake. Set yourself small targets and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’re able to do more, in fact your lung capacity will improve by up to 10% within nine months – you certainly won’t want to ruin your progress by lighting up!
Many smokers blame their habit on stress but scientific studies show that people’s stress levels are lower after they stop smoking – nicotine addiction actually makes smokers stressed from the ‘withdrawal’ between cigarettes. Physical activity, on the other hand, will improve your state of mind and get the oxygen flowing, which will help you to concentrate better and increase your mental wellbeing. When you are working out, your body will release ‘feel good’ hormones which ease symptoms of depression and fatigue. Key hormones include serotonin, which regulates your mood, dopamine, which helps with concentration and nor epinephrine, which influences performance.
Within 2 to 12 weeks of stopping smoking, your circulation will improve, this will make all physical activity, including walking and running, much easier. Cardio exercise will get your heart pumping which means it won’t have to beat as often to circulate your blood – thus your resting heart rate will become slower, reducing demands on your body and meaning you will have more energy.
Smoking depresses the body’s immune response so there is less protection from bacterial, viral and fungal infections. A smoker’s body is more toxic too, so the liver is more stressed – making it a target for disease. Quitting smoking will make it easier to fight off colds and flu. Regular exercise will better equip your body to distribute oxygen, as well as encourage efficient functioning of the lymphatic system by stimulating the muscles – this will promote the removal of toxins from your body.
Reduce visceral fat
There is increasing evidence that smoking causes greater accumulation of visceral fat, which surrounds your intestines and liver and is a serious health threat. The more you smoke, the more likely you are to store fat in your abdomen rather than on your hips and thighs. Quitting smoking and upping your aerobic activity and strength training will help you to lose visceral fat and gain muscle mass.
Myth Busters – some people say that quitting smoking makes you put on weight – wrong!
The fear of weight gain can often put smokers off quitting – but this is a poor excuse. You simply need to be aware of the changes that will be happening to your body and manage them accordingly.
Myths include the following:
Smoking keeps your hands and mouth occupied and people who quit replace this habit with food.
Myth buster: this needn’t be the case; it is just replacing habit for habit. Before reaching for food, distract yourself by doing the laundry, phoning a friend or, better still, go for a run. You certainly won’t regret substituting smoking with exercise – when you raise your activity levels, your body will release endorphins and you’ll feel great, which beats the creeping guilt, and sick feeling you get when smoking or binge eating!
Nicotine is an appetite suppressant, so when you quit your portion sizes increase.
Myth buster: nicotine inhibits insulin and insulin breaks down the sugars in your blood stream. When you smoke, and there is less release of insulin, the sugar stays in your bloodstream and creates a hyperglycaemic condition in the smoker which gives the smoker a “fuller” feeling. This is actually dangerous and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Nicotine is not a magic calorie burner by any means, exercise, on the other hand, can burn off 200-600 calories an hour as well as suppressing your appetite.
Your metabolism will slow down when you quit smoking, causing you to gain weight.
Myth buster: nicotine does elevate your metabolism; it also triggers a faster heartbeat which increases your chance for heart disease! When you quit you will burn calories at a slightly lower rate but, if you combat this with controlling what you eat and increasing your exercise, you can prevent any weight gain. You are more likely to exercise when you don’t smoke which will lead to long-term weight loss.
Smoking kills your taste buds, so when you quit you eat more.
Myth buster: developing a greater appreciation for the smell and taste of food should be something to embrace; your body is recovering from being dulled by the hundreds of toxic chemicals found in cigarettes! Actually you may become more sensitive to sugary and salty foods, take the opportunity to avoid sweet foods, introduce new flavours to your diet and sample seasonal fruit and vegetables. See our tips on healthy snacking below.
So, if you are a smoker – do not be afraid – Get fit and quit!
The following tips were provided by SportShoes and their expert panel.
I received an incentive in the form of a pair of running shoes to help me quit.