So I’ve told you in previous posts about why I walk and what it’s done for me. Today I want to talk about getting started with a walking program. And more importantly maintaining it – walking for fitness is something you can literally do for the rest of your life (with some exceptions) and long term success depends on your sticking with it.
My recommendation is that you first develop the habit of exercise, then increase the duration and intensity to the level you want. The reasons are twofold. First, most people fail to exercise regularly because it’s not part of their daily routine. Second, if you start out with a ‘hard workout’, there will be pain or at least discomfort. If you’re going to keep this up, if you’re going to exercise regularly, it has to be pleasant and enjoyable. And that’s one of the reasons that walking for fitness is such a great exercise – it is pleasant and enjoyable.
You already fill up 24 hours every day – you can’t get more time. Your walking will be replacing something. This is why developing the habit is so important at the start. Imagine your day is a house – a house full of stuff. You’ve ordered a large and important piece of furniture that will make your house more liveable and pleasant – but there’s no room! Before that furniture is delivered, you’ve got to clear out something to make room for it, to make it useable, to give it the space it needs to perform its function. It’s the same with your new walking routine. The best way to clear out that space is to put a ‘placeholder’ in it – for now, the placeholder is a pleasant walk every day.
So the first step in starting a walking program is to walk. A habit takes about 3 weeks to ‘take’, so starting today (tomorrow at the latest), get walking. Start with 10, 15, or 20 minutes at a pace that feels comfortable. Do it whenever you can – first thing in the morning, after dinner, during your lunch hour or at sunset – the time doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters at the very beginning is that you do it, every day.
That’s not to say that these first walks are not exercise – they certainly are. If you normally are more sedentary, these first walks are conditioning you for more. They will also clarify what you actually need – maybe nothing, or maybe a new bra, shoes, sunglasses, or dog lead. You’ll soon enough be ready to increase intensity and duration and reap the benefits of walking exercise.
Don’t worry about equipment, or heart rate, or sweating, or walking shoes yet – we will add those soon enough, when you are in the habit of walking every day. Ready? Go!