Walking for fitness is a cheater’s way of sightseeing. You can tour places from your own city’s neighborhoods to streets and villas in distant countries. Sure, paved trails and tracks can be a nice retreat, but they’re unnecessary unless you’re doing an advanced workout requiring timed paces and specific distances. Otherwise, anywhere that’s safe is a walker’s paradise. Safe is the operative word here. Once mindful of safety, think of your walks while you’re traveling as an exploratory treat, not an exercise chore. The same applies to walks at home. Find a neighborhood or park you don’t know and go for a visit.
No matter what, though, safety comes first, and etiquette for others isn’t far behind. Follow these guidelines to stay safe, to share the road and track, and to always return unharmed:
- If you can’t use bike paths or sidewalks, walk on a road facing oncoming traffic. However, always walk on the outside of a blind curve.
- Walk defensively. Don’t assume the pedestrian right-of-way or challenge vehicles. Not every locale recognizes a pedestrian right-of-way.
- Wear light-colored or reflective clothing as well as blinking safety lights at dusk, dawn, and night. Bright colors attract attention too. Or find tracks or other areas that are lit well at night.
- Always carry identification with you in case of an accident or medical emergency. If you’re traveling, carry the name of the hotel where you’re staying and the name of an emergency contact at home or work.
- If possible, walk with a companion. Otherwise, tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return. If you walk with your dog, he may increase safety, but make sure he’s well trained and scoop his waste.
- On a path, stay to the right so that faster walkers, runners, and cyclists or skaters can pass. Avoid pack walking—spreading your group across the entire trail—which clogs the way for others.
- On a track, stay in the outside lanes, unless you’re doing a structured, timed workout.
- Leave the earphones and personal stereos at home so you’ll be alert to dangers, be they animal, human, or urban.
Graceful, ground-skimming, invigorating walking requires focus on technique, but the right shoes and clothes can also contribute to an effective and enjoy- able workout, especially when it’s hot, cold, wet, or windy.