March your way to health this month. People who walk see an improvement in their resting heart rate, cholesterol, mood, body fat, energy, muscle tone, coordination and overall physical and mental condition. And you do not have to walk fast or for hours either. Just 30 minutes to an hour a day at a slow to moderate pace has been proven to replace certain types of medication, shed unwanted weight and even promote better relationships. With these tips, you can stroll into a healthier, happier version of yourself.
The right pair of shoes will take you far — and prevent injuries. Visit an athletic store like Go Tri Sports or Palmetto Running Company and talk to a knowledgeable person about fitting you for the right shoes and socks. No one brand fits all, as you consider factors like pronation, heel strike and foot arch. Plus, by replacing your old beat-up shoes with brand-new ones, you will feel motivated to get going. (Cue Nancy Sinatra singing, “These athletic shoes were made for walking.”)
Get creative and map out a series of routes of varying distances and terrain. I have my go-to 4-, 6.5- and 10-mile loops, and each incorporates a mixture of sandy beaches, pavement and natural paths like the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. The different distances and terrains keep your body challenged — and allow you to switch up your stride. For example, maybe you speed walk during the shorter route and take it more leisurely on longer outings. By having a lineup of courses, you can plan how long each will take and schedule your week around your walks — which I encourage everyone to do. Every Monday morning, I look at my calendar and plug in the days and trails I want to do for the week. This makes me commit to a weekly walking routine.
Sports nutrition is not just for marathon runners and triathletes. Nutrition is important for everyone and helps with electrolyte balancing, muscle fatigue and recovery. While you’re at Go Tri Sports or Palmetto Running Company, ask someone about pre- and post-workout fueling and then start experimenting. As you increase your walks, you will increasingly need to focus on nutrition.
Talk to your friends and form a walking group. Research has found that walking with peers, family members and even co-workers significantly improves communication, teamwork and an overall sense of unity. It is easy to forget that humans are pack animals and receive all the same benefits as other species from interacting and moving together. My walking group discusses everything from different political points of view to similar recipe ideas.
A rest day allows your body to recover. As you intensify your walks, this also becomes increasingly important. Walking on different terrains has different effects on your feet and joints, so be sure to rest when your body tells you to.
Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (www.bewellbecreative.com).