Can you really get in shape just by walking? Of course, only if you walk long enough and with sufficient intensity. A research showed that those who have managed to maintain weight loss, only use walk as their primary type of exercise. The nice thing about walking is, it’s just a matter of shuffling your feet. Of course, walking burns less calories per minute than running, but most people can walk longer, so you can still burn approximately the same amount of calories. Moreover, compared with runners, hikers and walkers enjoy a comparatively lower accident rate.
While the rest of the creatures in animal kingdom can run easily without the benefit of specialized helping aids, human’s feet are not sufficiently designed to meet the requirements of walking unaided for a long time in rough terrain. You need to get a pair of comfortable shoes to prevent hip, ankle, knee, foot and back problems. You should expect to spend about $ 50 to $100 for good walking shoes, which are usable for 1000-1500 miles (although most running shoes tend to be discarded after less than 500 miles due to aesthetical reasons). Replace your shoes if the threads start to wear out or when the surface begins to sag outward or inward.
Walking shoes may appear like a trick concocted by marketing executives in the shoe industry. After all, it is only for walking – will a pair of sneakers suffice? In fact, the idea of buying a walking shoe is well-founded. Walking shoes should be a bit more flexible than most running shoes, since foot bends more and toes are pushed harder when walking. In addition, because the heel must support most of your weight when walking, you need to have a firmer heel counter.
If you want to walk or hike on uneven terrain, find a pair of walking shoes with threaded soles and better heel and ankle support. If you insist on walking faster or longer, you should have a little more padding in the sole, the area between the inside of the shoe and the tread.
Well, of course, walking is sometimes more than just shuffling your feet. Walkers tend to lean forward, a surefire way of getting back problems, hips and neck. Your posture must be straight naturally, but not overly stiff. You should not overarch your back, slouch or lean too far from the hips. Try to relax your shoulders, expand the chest and gently pull your abs inward. Keep your chin and head up and look straightly ahead.
Meanwhile, keep both hands relaxed and gently cup them, swing your arms so that they can brush against your body. During upswing, your hand shouldn’t be higher than your chest; in the downswing, your hands should graze against the thigh. Keep your hips relaxed and loose. Your feet must land heel first.
Walking for beginners
While walking is the simplest fitness exercises, beginners can do the following:
• Increase the exercise duration gradually. Most people can start with a ten to twenty minutes session five times a week, for a month, which can be increased 2 or 3 minutes per week until each session is about 30 to 45 minutes long, which is convenient for most people. (Five days a week can seem like much, but after walking almost daily, it will be easier to get into the habit.)
• Try to walk as fast as possible. If you walk very fast – at a pace of 12 minutes per miles – you can burn twice the calories than by walking at a pace of 20 minutes per mile. No beginners can walk at supersonic speeds at first, but if you’re fit, you should mix faster walks as intervals.
• If you walk on the road, try to walk against traffic, it allows you to see the approaching cars. On any trail, walk in any way you want.
• Add a few hills in the route. Walking on uneven terrain improve buttocks and thighs muscles and burn extra calories (approximately thirty percent more calories than walking on flat ground).
• Sneak in a walking session whenever you can in your daily activities. Try to leave the car at home. Take a walk for about 15 minutes during lunchtime. Walk through an airport on foot instead on the walking belt.
Just like walking, running is an exercise that you can do anywhere and anytime. You do not need a suitcase packed with equipment, all you have to do is open the door and run. Running is a great exercise, you burn more calories, and many of your muscles will feel stronger after a month of regular running. No exercise is better than others. It’s just a question of what is best for you.
However, many runners develop joint injuries and have muscles and joints that just cannot tolerate too much stress. If you are not prepared to run, do not argue with your body. Pushing your body too much may cause unnecessary injuries.
What you need?
Although you can spend a few hundreds dollars in good shirts and caps, the only thing that is really essential for running is a pair of comfortable running shoes (some women may need to get a running bra). Be prepared to spend about fifty dollars a pair, but be aware that high prices do not always equal to quality.
Shoe that fit you best depends on the shape of your foot, your weight, your running style, and many unique factors you may have, like bad knees or weak ankles. Try several models in the store, and if you find something you like, test it for awhile. Your sneakers should be flexible enough, especially on the ball of your foot. You should get enough cushions, but not too much so you can’t feel your feet hit the ground. Find a shoe with firmer heel counter. If your foot tends to slide around a lot you can have some problems down the road.
Some runners have a habit of gazing directly into the ground, as if they want to know what’s coming up next. Looking down too long can lead to neck and upper back pain. Raise your head and focus both eyes straight ahead.
Try to relax your shoulders, while keeping your chest lifted and pull the abdominal muscles in tightly. Do not overarch the back and you shouldn’t stick your butt out, these can cause back and hip pain.
Keep your hands beside your body while swinging them back and forth instead of moving it across the whole body. You shouldn’t clench your fists too hard. Imagine that you have a delicate butterfly on each hand, you don’t want it to escape, but you don’t want to crush it, either.
Extend your back leg and lift the front knee. Do not run heavily like you are wearing cement boots. Always land heel first and push the balls of your foot instead of running flatly. Wrong running techniques could cause your ankle and knees to feel tired much faster before the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. If you feel pain in the ankles, knees or back, you should stop running for a moment. If not, you might end up sitting on the sidelines for a few months.
Running tips for beginners
These tips will help you to get fit and avoid injuries:
• For starters, you should alternate periods of running with periods of walking. For example, try a couple of minutes walk and run for one minute. Gradually decrease the walking intervals until you can run continuously for twenty minutes. Follow a bearable running routine, to avoid injuries.
• Vary your pace. Different running paces affect your legs, lungs and heart in different ways.
• Run against the traffic if you are running near a road, so you can see oncoming cars and move away, if necessary. If you can choose between running at rough terrain and at a smooth road, you should choose the road to prevent wear on your legs. However as you head up down hills, you should run on the shoulder to avoid any speeding car. Consider carrying a smaller cell phone for emergencies (an iPhone or other phones of similar size may be too big).
• Do not increase mileage more than ten percent in a week. If you can run 5 miles a week your improvement limit should be 5.5 miles next week. Researches show that if running distance is increased for more than ten percent you have higher chance of having an injury.