Walking’s beauty is certainly its simplicity, but a few extra items or tubes stuffed in a bag can make you more comfortable. Your budding interest might also heed the call of an array of other helpful gadgets.
- Strange as it may seem, petroleum jelly is probably a walker’s best friend. Spread a little on your inner thighs, under your arms, or between an elastic underwear strap and skin to prevent painful chafing. You can also find other antirub products in sports stores.
- Sun protection is vital—always and without exception. Use one with a rating of 30 SPF. Men, don’t forget the back of your neck. Women, don’t forget the backs of your knees. Look for sunblock that is fragrance free and geared for use during sport and activities. Some companies make sprays, too, which are convenient for legs, backs, and (yes, men) tops of heads.
- Sunglasses reduce eyestrain and eye damage. They aren’t just for looks, so invest in a good pair.
- A digital watch will help you time your workouts or just note the time of day so that you get home when you’re supposed to. As you advance, you might consider a sports watch, with lap memory, so you can time segments and track your progress.
- High-tech heart rate monitors aren’t exclusively for competitors, although they may be one of those toys you add to your walker’s closet as you progress. You can get basic models for about $50 that show your heart rate and workout time. Fancy models with target zones, lap timing, memory, recover y time, and all kinds of other doodads can run $100, $200, and up. Whatever your fitness level, this gadget can accurately monitor your heart rate to help you stay safely where you belong for that day’s workout. The most accurate are those with a band you wear around your chest to measure your heart rate from the source, compared to those that take your pulse from a fingertip.
- Pedometers have come of age in the last decade, going from mostly inaccurate to fairly well made. You can get basic models for $10 to $30. Of course, leave it to the tech wizards to take a good thing perhaps too far. There are now pedometers with timers, alarms, radios, and even heart rate monitors, and those are priced accordingly. If you use a pedometer to estimate your distance, be sure the stride length is set correctly and the terrain you’re covering doesn’t change much.
- Personal stereos might be entertaining, but they can be dangerous. They can damage hearing and block traffic noise or even the sounds of approaching dogs and people. It’s best to leave yours at home, but if you really can’t do without, keep the volume low or listen with one ear only.
- The use of hand weights while running or walking has been debated by medical and exercise professionals for years. To make a long story short, dangling a pair from your fingers doesn’t do much more than strain ligaments and muscles in your shoulders, elbows, and hands. Gripping a weight can cause high blood pressure, too. Muscle toning isn’t increased, and the increased calorie usage is insignificant. Weighted vests are another matter. Although safer on joints in your arms and legs, they can make a basic fitness walk more difficult and exhausting. They are best reserved for the very advanced or someone training for an endeavor that involves carrying weight, such as backpacking or adventure racing.