Choosing Your Walking Location

Another aspect of planning your walking program is determining where to walk. Remember that your  schedule, available time,  and  type  of workout planned play  a role in where you head. Here  are  a few possibilities with  descriptions of their advantages.

  • Treadmill. The sample programs describe outdoor workouts. One of the joys of walking  is getting out  from  inside four  walls,  but  sometimes circumstances—weather, convenience, travel, kids that need watching—mean you’ll want  to stay  inside on a treadmill. So with a simple conversion from minutes per mile to miles per hour (mph) you can also accomplish these workouts on a treadmill. See table 4.1 for that conversion.

Choosing Your Walking Location

There’s nothing wrong  with treadmill workouts. They  can have  benefits that outdoor walking  doesn’t provide. You can  control exactly how  far and how fast you go, and you can incorporate hills at a whim, as often  or as steep as you want.  Using a treadmill also  lets  you walk before or after  dark  when  it might  be unsafe outdoors. And you can even  watch TV or otherwise distract yourself on those days  when  you don’t  much feel like walking.  Plus,  you can have  water or a change of clothes handy, and  you don’t  have  to worry about the  weather.

Choosing Your Walking Location-2You’ll find that increasing the incline  to 3 to 5 percent won’t make a huge difference in your  perception of the  workout’s intensity. However, perception is the  key word here. Once you reach about 7 or 8 percent, you will definitely feel as if you’re going up. Use inclines of 10 percent or more sparingly because they  are intense. If you decide to incorporate inclines to add intensity, choose one that allows  you to remain comfortable while walking naturally, with your arms bent or hanging at your  sides. If you have  to hang  onto the  front  rail to keep up with the speed (and end up looking like you’re water-skiing), the incline is too  steep. However, to more accurately equate your  speed on a treadmill to speed in the  open air, you need to add  an approximately 1 percent incline. This 1 percent incline  requires about the  same amount of energy as the  wind resistance you  encounter when  walking  on  the  ground or  a track but  don’t encounter on a treadmill.

  • Mall. If you don’t feel safe outside, you’re  bothered by the  cold  or heat, or you can’t seem to get out after  the sun rises or before it sets, call around to your  local enclosed malls.  Many open early  for walkers. If you can’t make it in the  morning, an evening workout dodging dawdling shoppers  is better than not working  out at all. Another advantage of a mall workout are stairs (if it’s a two-story building). Adding a stint up and down on each lap can increase your intensity and  muscle strengthening.
  • City streets. If you live in the heart of a city or are  traveling to the  city, you can get a great workout by taking advantage of the sites and other built-in features. Again, you  can  add  a flight of stairs at the  transit station or shops. Try to be flexible with your route so you don’t have  to stop at too many traffic lights;  cross at the  street that gives you the  walk signal  first. Do keep  in mind that headphones are  especially dangerous in busy cities, so it’s best to leave them at home.
  • Tracks. Another option is the local track, either dirt or a slightly cushioned surface called all-weather, which feels slightly rubberized. They can also be a super place to feel safe because others gather there after dark  or before sun- rise  to get in laps  and  miles.  Some are  even  lighted at night.  Plus, if you want to get a better feel for your  pace or distance covered, the  exact quarter-mile distance can help. You must also  pay  attention to when the  track is reserved for the  school’s team practices and  avoid  those times. However, I’ve used tracks during practices, with the  permission of the  coach of course, and  just  stuck to outside lanes.
  • Parks. Many cities have parks with  paths that circle and  loop,  or even linear parks and recreational paths that attract walkers, cyclists, and runners. Call your  local park  district to find out where these are and what  the facilities include. They  can  be  gems  in a city,  with  paths that are  well used and  safe. But do inquire about safety because some sections may be little used and too isolated for safety. Remember, no headphones (or  one  ear  only)  because the music can block  the  sounds of ill-intentioned passersby or even  of traffic.
  • Trails. If you live in a city, there’s no reason why you can’t escape your urban area on the  weekend and  transform your  walk into  more of a hike, hit- ting  the  dirt trails and  hills  or  forests nearby. Your  technique will change a bit  going  up  and  down  hills,  and  you  may  find yourself moving more slowly because softer surfaces require more energy. But no matter, it’s a great escape. Just  go by time and  keep  moving for an entirely different experience that can help  you breathe fully without being  pounded by city noises and  traffic.  You may like this so much, a weekend outing will become a permanent part of your schedule!

Don’t feel as if you have to forsake your friends, family, children, or even your dog as you build  your  walking  program. They  can take  part in your  program and  benefit from  it as well. If you  have  a young  child,  check out  the  various sport or  jogger strollers that have  three wheels and  a sturdy construction (some with rain and sun shields). Depending on the thickness of the tires and sturdiness of the chassis, these strollers can also perform well on dirt trails. If you have an older child, let him or her ride a bike along with you. Another idea is to start a “soccer parent” walking group. While your children are engrossed in their activity (soccer, swimming, track, etc.), the parents can use their time wisely by doing  laps  around the  field or school.

If you own a dog, taking  him along  with you may help  you feel safer, but  be sure he has  the  proper training. If it’s okay to let him off the  leash, make sure he  responds quickly  to  voice  commands. If letting him  off-leash  is not  per- mitted, there are specialty hands-free leashes available, which attach to your waist.  You’ll also need to bring bags for scooping up his waste, treats for good behavior, and  a source of water.

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