Of all the ways to get and stay fit, walking is the easiest, safest and cheapest.  You don’t need a gym and you certainly don’t need lycra! It can also be lots of fun, with attainable goals.  Vicky Welsh of Bristol Nordic Walking has put together this top ten list of how to turn your walk into a workout:

Get active with your feet

Most of us don’t give much thought to how we walk and especially how we use our feet.  But getting active with your feet has huge benefits. Not only will you tone your legs, you will also:

  1. Burn more calories.
  2. Give your butt a good workout
  3. Walk faster
  4. Improve your circulation.

The key to active walking is the heel/toe roll.  Next time you go outside try striking the ground with your heel then rolling through to your toes and pushing off energetically.  It’s as though you’re squeezing a lemon under your foot with each stride.  Keep your toes flat and wide, like a duck’s webbed feet.

Walk tall

If you have good posture you will be able to walk further, faster and longer without feeling the strain.  You will also instantly look slimmer!  Here’s a check list:

  1. Lengthen your spine
  2. Lift the weight of your head off your shoulders (think puppet on a string)
  3. Chin level
  4. Shoulders wide
  5. Max the gap between your hip bone and your rib cage
  6. Tummy engaged (but not over tightened)
  7. Weight evenly centred over your feet

Walk uphill

Your body has to work harder going uphill which means you’ll burn more calories. Don’t forget to keep your feet active (see above) and try to avoid the common mistake of bending over at your waist.  Instead lean into the hill from your ankles. This way you’ll also give your legs a mega workout and sculpt your calves, thighs and butt.

Get Nordic walking

Nordic walking is fitness walking using specially designed poles to accelerate you forwards.  This total body workout comes from cross-country skiing, burns up to 46% more calories than ordinary walking and works 90% of your body’s muscles. You need to learn the technique first but it’s well worth it – besides the extra calories you’ll burn it will also strengthen your back, improve your posture, trim your waist and sculpt your arms.

Add intervals of faster walking

Interval training is a very effective way of increasing your fitness fast.  Choose markers (park bench, line of trees, lamp posts) and speed up until you reach them.  Your aim is to feel out of breath and be aware of your heart pumping in your chest. It boosts your calorie burn big time, both during and after your walk.  You can increase the length of these pace walks as your fitness improves.

Use your arms

By swinging your arms actively you’ll work your upper body; increase your power and speed; and burn more calories.  Be careful not to swing them across the mid-line of your body though and remember to keep your shoulders relaxed.

Count your steps

Wearing something to count your steps or measuring your walk using an app on your phone are two easy and cheap ways of keeping yourself motivated.  It’s great if you can see your progress.

Walk on different types of surface

You may be surprised how much difference changing the terrain that you are walking on makes to your walk.  Hard, flat surfaces such as tarmac or well maintained tracks do not challenge your body in the same way or burn as many calories as softer ground such as grass or gravel.  Perhaps one of the best surfaces to walk on if you want to turn your walk into a workout is soft sand.  It increases calorie expenditure by almost 50%.

Walk with a friend or join a group

Committing to walk with a friend or group means you’re far more likely to keep walking and ditch the excuses. Groups are sociable and often offer different degrees of walk difficulty so there’s something for everyone.  It is also a perfect way to explore the Bristol area and it’s surrounds.

Set yourself a challenge

There’s nothing like a challenge to get you motivated! What about a 5km walk or tackling a National trail (such as the Cotswold Way) or even climbing the Three Peaks?  Whatever it is, put it in your diary, get walking and achieve your goal!

Written by Vicky Welsh of Bristol Nordic Walking

Bristol Nordic Walking offers over thirty fitness classes a week.  It’s outdoors, sociable and fun.  For more information or to book a beginners’ workshop visit www.bristolnordicwalking.co.uk or contact vicky@bristolnordicwalking.co.uk

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