Walking is easy, right? Yes and no. The physical act of walking, putting one foot in front of the other, is pretty easy for most. Heck, we’ve been doing it since we were about a year old. But it’s not always easy to get out the door. Even I struggle at times.
Because I’m a walking coach, and I’m always encouraging others to walk more, many people think that I take long walks EVERY DAY. Nope! I am far from perfect, and in fact, it’s not about being perfect. So, let’s not beat ourselves up over it! And instead, let’s celebrate every little step we take in the right direction!
Progress, not perfection, is what we should be focusing on.
There are going to be days when you crush your walks, going faster or farther than you thought you could. And then there are going to be the days—like one of mine recently—where it’s 7 p.m. and the only walks you’ve gotten in have been between the refrigerator and your desk and the bathroom and your desk. Life is messy and your walking program will be at times, too. The good news: you don’t have to follow the Get Moving walking plans to a T to benefit. So if you find yourself missing a day or two, the most important thing to do is to start walking again.
Before I had kids, I always changed into my workout clothes and usually drove to a beautiful park to do my walks. Not anymore! If I arrive at an appointment early, even if I’m wearing jeans or a nice outfit, I’ll take a walk around the block instead of sitting in my car or the waiting room. I keep a pair of sneakers and socks—the only essential pieces of walking gear you need—in my car so I can sneak in a walk whenever an opportunity presents itself. Some walking is better than none, and more walking is better than some.
The right attitude will take you farther than the most expensive pair of sneakers.
Your thoughts and what you say influence how you feel and how you behave. If you’re thinking about and talking about your walks as something you have to do, or they’re one more thing on your to-do list, walking will seem less appealing. I’ve found that little tweaks in how you frame walking can make it more desirable. Instead of thinking of it as a chore, make it your escape, some quiet, stress-free, me-time. Or make it a time to connect, whether you walk side-by-side or via technology with a friend or family member. Even a single word change has helped me get my butt in gear on days when I used to rationalize why I shouldn’t walk, like “I have too much work” or “I need to start dinner.” When I was overloaded, thinking to myself that I had to walk made me feel even more overwhelmed. But when I started to reframe it as “I get to walk,” it made it feel more like a privilege that I shouldn’t take for granted. And when I’ve walked even though I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’ve discovered that those are exactly the times when I need walking the most. I’d come back from my walks feeling refreshed and recharged. I’d be more productive, and I was better able to manage all of my responsibilities. It was like a gift that I gave myself.
Seeing improvements can motivate you to do more.
Whenever I teach a walking class, I start by getting a baseline for each of the participants so they can see the benefits of their efforts. Usually, I time them as they walk a set distance. Then, I teach them techniques to improve their walking. After some practice, we repeat the timed walk, and except for one time, everyone has always been faster—and they’re excited about it. That excitement fuels a desire to keep walking and see how much you can improve.
Speed isn’t the only way to track your progress. You could also track the length of your walks, how often you walk or the number of steps you take. My favorite ways to monitor my walks are with my FitBit and MapMyWalk. My FitBit smartwatch tracks the number of steps I take, the number of stairs I climb, my calorie burn, heart rate, hourly movement and my sleep. Checking my weekly and monthly averages helps to keep me accountable. I also use the MapMyWalk app on my phone when I take a walk. Along with showing me my route, it tells me how far and how fast I walked. It’s so rewarding when I see that I’ve completed a previous route in less time or that I’m averaging a faster minute-per-mile pace. It makes me want to do more, but that’s me. You may be motivated by seeing improvements in other areas.
Remember, I mentioned that one time someone did my timed walking drill, and she wasn’t faster? Marion, who has Parkinson’s disease, might have been slower, but when she finished her loop, she was celebrating. For the first time in five years, she was able to look up at the trees and the sky while she was walking instead of always looking down at her feet. She had developed that habit because of her fear of falling, but the techniques she learned helped her to feel more confident and improve her posture while still being able to spy obstacles in her path.
Decide what’s important to you—it may be getting a better night’s sleep, having more energy, reducing your blood pressure or spending more time with friends (that’s become one of my motivators as I’ve gotten older). Then figure out a way to measure it. It could be as simple as writing down in a journal how you feel each day or keeping tabs of how often you walk with friends by checking off days on your calendar. Keeping track can help you reaffirm your commitment when you’re getting off track (happens to all of us), and looking back and seeing how far you’ve come can be rewarding and motivating.
Now I’d love to hear from you! Please share with the Get Moving Walking Community for Women what works for you.
If you try any of my strategies, or some of your own, please let us all know how it goes.
Michele's key tips for walking success:
Join the Get Moving Walking Program for Women to receive two 30-day walking programs designed by women for women, support from certified fitness instructors and health coaches, special offers and incentives.
Be part of our Get Moving Walking Community for Women for daily motivation to keep moving, share your walking experiences, receive encouragement, and have the support of other women.
Always check with your physician before beginning any new exercise program.