You’ve made a commitment to get active and walk more, which is great! That’s already more than most people. Have you found you don’t always get as many steps as you want to? Is walking harder than it should be? You may be making a common mistake in your walking routine. Fix those mistakes and you can get more steps and feel more comfortable.
Here are 6 common mistakes and how to fix them so you walk more and feel better.
1. You wear the wrong shoes or clothing.
Wearing the wrong walking attire can slow you down and cause injuries, but it’s also just plain unenjoyable! To find the best walking shoes for your feet, try visiting a local running store and asking for a gait analysis. Small, local running stores usually sell walking gear as well, and they often have more personal service than huge chains. Gait analysis can help to match shoes to your feet based on your walking patterns. The right shoes just make your feet feel better, which means you’ll walk further. Make sure to walk around the store a bit to get a sense of how the shoes feel.
Running shoes can work for walking in a pinch, but they are actually designed for a different foot strike pattern. Why not get a tool designed specifically for the job your feet are doing?
Do you walk to work? Wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes on the way and change once you get to the office. You can leave your work shoes at your desk, or carry them in a bag. Work shoes can be really hard on your feet, which will make you not want to walk and get your steps in.
Your walking clothing should be breathable and comfortable. As long as you feel good and have adequate range of motion, whatever you feel best in is just fine. If you’re walking to work, consider wearing more comfortable clothes to walk there and then change once you arrive. If you have to walk in a suit and tie, for instance, you may feel uncomfortable and decide to just quit walking entirely.
2. You walk too slowly — or too quickly.
Find your ideal walking pace where you feel comfortable, but you’re still getting a good workout. There is no one optimal speed to walk, but most walking fitness experts recommend “brisk walking” as a good pace. Here’s a general rule of thumb to for brisk walking: you should be able to hold a conversation easily, but not necessarily sing the words to a song. By the end of the walk, you should feel tired but not completely drained.
Signs you’re walking too slowly…
- You reach the end of your walk and think “I could do this all day!”
- You could recite the Gettysburg Address without getting out of breath
- If you have a way to check your heart rate, it’s less than 60% of your maximum (a common formula to find your max heart rate is 220 minus your age).
Signs you’re walking too quickly…
- You feel fatigued or out of breath within a few minutes.
- You can barely speak in full sentences.
- You find yourself cutting the walk short because of the grueling pace.
HOW TO FIND YOUR OPTIMAL PACE:
Put simply, use trial and error. There’s no magic calculator to figure out what walking speed and distance are best for you. Listen to your body and over time, you’ll find that “sweet spot.” You’ll be getting exercise and improving your health, but you won’t be over- or under-doing it. The best pace is one you can maintain for the longest time and continue getting those great walking benefits.
Bonus tip: Remember your ideal walking pace may change depending on the situation. If you’re walking to work, for instance, you may want to walk a bit slower to avoid getting too sweaty during your commute. On the way home, you can sweat as much as you like so you can try picking up the pace! You can walk a bit faster during your shorter walks, but pace yourself more during longer walks.
3. You walk the same route every day.
Do you love the trail by your house and savor your stress-relieving afternoon walks? That’s great! But there’s also much to be gained by switching up your routine once in a while. The best way to improve your fitness levels and bust through a weight-loss plateau is to keep challenging your body. This could mean switching your route or the length of your walk a couple times a week. It could also mean adding power-walking or jogging intervals from time to time. You could find a route with hills or varied terrain for a different workout. Whatever the change, your body — and mind — will appreciate the variety.
4. You only walking when you’ve planned to.
Just because you completed your daily walk, doesn’t mean that you spend the rest of the day sitting down and being inactive! One easy pitfall to fall into is to think that once you’ve got your one walk in, you’re done. But that’s not the case! Try sneaking extra steps into your routine by taking the stairs, parking farther away from a shop or restaurant, or putting on some music and dancing while you’re alone (a great stress reliever, too). You’ll be surprised how much the little things add up!
5. Not hydrating before and during your walks.
To get the most out of your walks, you want your body performing at its best. If you feel sluggish or generally low on energy during a walk, you’re not going to be able to walk as far or as long. If your body is dehydrated, you’re almost guaranteed to feel miserable and to want to cut off your walk early (or not walk at all).
Just because you don’t feel thirsty doesn’t mean you don’t need water. According to recent research, up to 75% of US adults may be chronically dehydrated! Establish a pre-walk routine. If you generally go for a walk in mid-afternoon, fill up a water bottle at lunchtime and make a goal to finish it by the time you head out. If you can invest in a fanny pack or small backpack to carry a water bottle with you, that can also be a great way to keep hydrating on-the-go!
6. Not tracking your performance over time.
To maintain a high level of activity or reach a new step goal, it’s essential to know how you’re doing over time. Just the act of checking in on your daily, weekly or monthly step goals motivates you to walk more and prevents you from cheating on your routine.
A great way to get more steps is to check your weekly step chart to see if there are any specific days where you just don’t get many steps. Commit to taking at least one short walk on your worst step day, and keep track of your weekly steps over time. Even taking a few minutes to do a bit of analysis can really add up in the long run.
If you’re hitting a plateau and feel you just can’t get those steps, there’s usually something you can change to get more steps! Don’t give up, keep walking and keep tracking your steps and you’ll get there.