Crank up the tunes, embrace the fartlek: 6 effective ways to level up your daily walk


At 76, Judy Fog is one of the strongest people her daughter knows. Take, for example, her VO2 max, a general fitness metric that measures how much oxygen a person can absorb during exercise.

“She has a maximum VO2 that is not that far from normal skiers and they are considered peak peaks,” said Robin Fog-Wiltse, a physiologist and physical trainer. Her mother’s secret? Daily walks.

Over the past couple of years, the world has changed its attitude towards walking significantly, with millions of people walking on sidewalks or local trails in the hope of improving their fitness, sense of community and mental health. Research has shown that walking for at least 30 minutes a day is enough to reap significant physical and emotional benefits.


But walking the same boring sidewalk for thousands of steps can quickly turn from a daily pleasure into a monotonous chore. There are dozens of ways to change that and bring the hiss back into your walk if you’re willing to think outside the box.

Try Nordic Walking

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Originally developed in Finland as a way to train skiers during the off-season, Nordic walking uses specially designed rubber-tipped poles that grip the pavement and help engage the arms and core muscles, turning a simple walk into a full-body workout.

Trekkers that can endure mindless walking around town with sticks will see, on average, a 22% increase in calorie expenditure and consume 23% more oxygen. The more oxygen your body can take in, the more efficiently it can generate energy during exercise.

Companies like Leki and Black Diamond sell a variety of expensive high-tech poles to potential campers, but the right technique is more important than the label. “Whether you use a stick with a handle and strap or two sticks, the focus of Nordic Hiking should be the fact that you use anything to engage your upper body,” said Kirk Shave, who trains Scandinavian walking at the Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat and Health Spa in British Columbia.


He said that you should hold the sticks with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and your forearms parallel to the ground. You should then use your triceps to press the tips of the poles into the trail behind you and push off, propelling your body forward.

“The #1 problem for hikers, runners and walkers is ultimately knees and ankles,” Shave said. He added that taking some of the stress off the lower body with poles while walking on flat terrain and down hills can help avoid compression issues in those joints.

have fun

“Play is critical,” said Bill Burnett, executive director of Stanford University’s Life Design Lab and co-author of Designing Your Life. According to him, from an early age, our brain learns and develops habits through entertainment. “When you were a kid, you learned how to make things by playing with them,” he said.

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After two years of walking the same streets of San Francisco during the coronavirus pandemic, he has become hungry for novelty, sometimes going hunting for hidden stairs, orange flowers or birdsong. For Burnett, the way we build modern exercises burns people out after a while, because it’s easy to get stuck in the mind-numbing habit of counting steps on smartwatches. Bringing curiosity to a walk can be a powerful antidote to the mundane.

Alastair Humphreys, adventurer and author of Micro Adventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes, said you can ignite your adventurous side in your area. In 2020, he forced himself to run, walk or cycle through every street in his London suburb and discover places he didn’t even know existed. “The challenge is to try to see things with a fresh and open mind, as if for the first time,” he said.

Climb a tree, go for a full moon walk without a flashlight, have your morning coffee in a new place every day, or look for a local disc golf course. Keep it stupid, not serious.


Bring props

Some walkers may have lofty long-term goals. Perhaps you want to cover a greater distance or go on a hike. The best way to prepare your muscles for more intense activity is to increase resistance, for example by training with a weighted daypack, for example, according to Fogh-Wiltse.

She suggested starting with no more than 15 pounds in a backpack with a full waist belt that, when tightened tight near your navel, transfers the weight to your legs as you walk. This helps trainees avoid neck and back pain that occurs when a large load compresses the spine.

Fogh-Wiltse, who has taught clients how to climb Everest and compete in the American Ninja Warrior finals, added that a set of exercise bands in a backpack and doing a series of sumo (or monstrous) walks outside can help strengthen important muscles such as the gluteus medius, which is important for dynamic stability.

In a semi-squat position, place the band just below your knees, and then step side to side to the right, keeping your knees parallel and your hips apart. Then, stepping to the left, repeat the movement for a few steps, keeping the weight on the heels, lingering in a deep squat. Keep your feet parallel and try to do two sets of 10 reps on each walk.

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And finally, a good set of insoles will help prevent what’s called overpronation, says Dr. Michael Frederickson, professor of orthopedics at Stanford University. Pronation is when the foot curls inward, which usually occurs because the arch of the foot is not strong enough to support the weight of the body. Those with flat feet are more likely to experience it.

Products from brands like Superfeet and SOLE can counteract the most common forms of pronation by supporting the center of the arch, Frederickson says. But if you have a more complex problem, he added, a custom orthotic insole may be needed.

Multitasking like a pro

According to Jennifer Farr Davis, author and owner of Blue Ridge Hiking Co., one of the hardest parts of daily walking is fitting it into an already busy schedule. number of seats. For example, when picking up kids from school, park six blocks away and walk the rest. Having 10-15 minutes of decompression while walking to the car can also help kids relax and get some energy, she says, adding that “it helps me focus on my kids.”

Farr Davis also likes to trade his Zoom meetings for walking meetings whenever possible, especially with local colleagues. “When your body is moving, your brain is differently stimulated and you are more creative,” she said, noting that these moving encounters often lead to more interesting conversations between her colleagues.

Get the tunes

According to a recent meta-analysis, listening to music while walking or exercising intensely reduces perceived stress and increases physical performance. In other words, intense workouts don’t feel as tiring when we turn on our favorite playlists.

Fog-Wiltse added that she has seen similar results when her clients resorted to any type of “preferred listening” while exercising. “If music is not to your liking, podcasts can do the same,” she said.

Accept Fartlek

Fartlek is Swedish for “speed game”. Fartlek workouts use a type of interval training that involves a series of high-intensity snatches with recovery periods in between. The beauty of the fartlek is that, unlike traditional high-intensity interval training, walkers or runners don’t need to be tied to a watch or fitness tracker to boost their muscular endurance. Simply increase your gait to a light jog or brisk walk for a short time to get your heart rate up, slow down until you feel better, and repeat.


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