Switching Up the Daily Walk

women-walkingOver the years I’ve done a lot of different forms of exercise to attempt to stay fit. For about the last four months the routine that’s worked best for me is a morning walk. So, each morning — unless it’s pouring rain — I drag myself out of bed and head outside for a 30 to 40 minute walk.

In addition to spotting a lot of interesting wildlife on my walks, I’ve come to recognize some of the regular morning walkers. There have always been quite a few elderly women walking through the park by my house each morning. About two weeks ago, I noticed that some of them were adding a bit of variety to their morning walks.

Of course a few of the women move small arm weights as they walk, but I was particularly interested to notice one doing tai chi arm movements as she walked through the park. So far I haven’t noticed anyone walking with walking poles, but suspect I’ll see that at some point.

In addition to doing arm movements, some of the ladies have also started varying their walking styles. I saw one woman walk through the entire park zigzagging back and forth across the sidewalk. The minute she would touch the right edge of the sidewalk with her feet, she would take a few steps straight ahead, and then begin walking toward the left edge of the sidewalk.  Another woman walked about 10 steps facing the front, and then turned around and walked backwards for 10 steps. She didn’t go very fast, but persisted through her entire walk. Another woman walked laterally, switching from side to side after about 20 steps.

A few days ago I finally became curious enough and decided to give a few of these variations a try. I tried doing a lateral walk for about 30 steps on each side, and then managed to walk backwards for about 20 steps. Walking laterally wasn’t too difficult, but I could definitely feel different muscles working. But walking backwards was really hard! With each step I felt as if I might fall over.

Since my initial experiment, I’ve given up on walking backwards. But the lateral walking is pretty interesting, and I’m continuing to add in a bit of it each morning. So far I have yet to add in any arm movements, but remain curious, particularly about walking poles.

Are you a walker? If so, do you add any variety to your walking? And have you ever tried walking poles?

13 thoughts on “Switching Up the Daily Walk

  1. Tee

    Hey, those walkers walk as my dog does—all over the place. LOL. But because I walk with her, I pretty much go forward (unless she drags me in another direction, which happens way too often). Seriously, though, I read somewhere that it’s good to shake up a walk. For instance, begin at a normal pace, then do a short run later, then pace normal again, then walk fast. Apparently, the body adjusts to the routine you assume and it doesn’t need to work too hard after a while. By varying the speeds (even back to the slower ones), the body gets confused and begins burning more calories and this readjusting is good overall. I have also heard that walking backwards is great, just for the reasons you noticed—the muscles used in a different way and also the routine is altered once again.

    Go for it, LinnieGayl, if you’re able. The arthritis in my knee is totally affecting my walking these days, but I refuse to give it up because I know “something is better than nothing.” No more light jogging or walking very briskly, but the joints are moving! Yay.

  2. LinnieGayl AAR Post author

    Tee, you’re absolutely right, something is definitely better than nothing. And it sounds as if you’re keeping moving which is very good indeed. That’s really interesting about the body adjusting to the normal pace. I think I’ll try alternating my pace as well. Thanks!

  3. Missie

    Linnie, I never fail to learn something from you — I had to Google walking poles! (What can I say, I live under a rock. ;-) *LOL*)

    I never thought of so many different ways of switching up a walk. I don’t think I could walk backwards, either.

    I read yesterday about how tai chi (and green tea!) is good for one’s bone health (and balance), and I could see how tai chi arm movements could enhance one’s walk.

    So, will you be getting some walking poles? Or wearing ankle or wrist weights? (‘though it seems to me that those would be uncomfortably sweaty during summer months.)

  4. LinnieGayl AAR Post author

    Thanks, Missie :) I definitely won’t be wearing ankle or wrist weights as long as it’s so hot and humid. And I’m not sure I’ll do it even when it’s colder. But I am very intrigued by the walking sticks. At some point I’ll probably check out some local sporting good stores and see how they actually feel when you’re walking.

  5. LeeB.

    I walk to work through Freeway Park (built over I5) in Seattle and there is a senior facility right on the park’s border. I see quite a few seniors using walking poles to transverse the marked walking loop. And the Park contains a “corridor” that has steps and ramps — so in the morning it’s a breeze to walk downhill but in the afternoon — a mighty good workout.

  6. LinnieGayl AAR Post author

    Lee, that would be much harder walking up than down. Only small (really small) hills here. From the videos I’ve seen, it looks like walking polls serve almost the same purpose as an elliptical machine, in that you’re using your arms as well as your legs. One video I saw stressed that you should never let the polls get in front of you, and that they also never touch the ground. But the video also said it can take awhile to get used to them.

  7. CindyS

    Okay, I thought those poles were just ski poles that people used to keep balance on rocky terrain. Too funny!

    I do treadmill walking and will reach out in front of me like I’m grabbing onto a bar at chest height and swing them back. I will also reach way up and stretch my upper torso while walking at a fairly quick pace. And then I’ll do comfortable punches at chest height also with more of a swing motion sideways – this is hard to explain but you would recognize it if you saw it. I can’t do too much with the upper body because I over heat quickly and adding arm movements really does increase your heart rate.

    I also change my pace on the treadmill – normally start off super high and then come back down when I get too winded. Once I’m comfortable again I’ll go back to the previous pace and can usually continue it until I’m close to finished but I always cool down by walking slower and slower.

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