It’s safe to say, like millions of other people, the pandemic changed my relationship with walking. Pre-Covid, the idea of heading out for a walk rather than a run or doing a HIIT workout would have been laughable, yet when the world shut down and we went into lockdown, I longed for that hour outside every day. I loved nothing more than heading out with a podcast and a cup of coffee, and trends like the Hot Girl Walk prove I’m not alone. Walking helped boost my mental health at a time when everything felt pretty scary, and it became part of my fitness routine for good.
Two years later, I walk more than ever, now with my cocker spaniel puppy, Toby, in tow. Together, we walk for an hour every morning before I sit down to work. Some mornings I’ll lace up my best running shoes and run instead, but it’s the walks that bring me the most joy. Studies have shown that walking for just 30 minutes per day has both physical and psychological benefits, plus walking is a fantastic way to lose weight and get in shape.
In honor of World Happiness Day, I decided to level up my daily walk with a walking workout — read on to find out what happened.
What was the walking workout?
To find inspiration, and put some more meaning into my walk, I opted for one of the best walking workouts, written for Tom’s Guide by Craig Mason, coach for the audio-led fitness app WithU. I did the 24-minute workout as part of my morning dog walk, wearing a pair of the best walking boots and really making the effort to get my heart rate up, not just stroll along.
Here’s the workout, with form tips from Mason:
- Warm-up: 3-minute easy stroll. Start by getting yourself into a nice easy walk, rolling the shoulders back, chest up high, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth – check in on your surroundings as you go and throughout this workout. Check you’re activating through these glutes. Every time your foot hits the pavement, squeeze your bottom, as this will help fire up the glutes.
- Interval and rest period 1: Power walk for 3 minutes. Take a rest period of a slower walk for 1 minute.
- Interval and rest period 2: Power walk for 2 minutes. Take a rest period of a slower walk for 1 minute.
- Interval and rest period 3: Power walk for 1 minute. At this stage, bring your breath back, and your heart rate back down. Slow your breath, elongate your breaths, and get oxygen into the body. Take a rest period of a slower walk for 1 minute.
- Interval and rest period 4: Power walk for 3 minutes. Be sure to check in on your form and straight back at this stage. Take a rest period of a slower walk for 1 minute.
- Interval and rest period 5: Power walk for 2 minutes. Take a rest period of a slower walk for 1 minute.
- Interval and rest period 6: Power walk for 1 minute. Start to get a little slower as you draw to a close. Take a rest period of a slower walk for 1 minute.
- Cool down: Cool down with a 3-minute relax. Take it nice and easy and walk slowly, focusing on breathing in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Allow your arms to drop down to your sides, keeping your shoulders pulled back through the ears, trying to relax the body as you slow down.
I leveled up my morning walk — here’s what happened
I focused on my form
Turning my regular morning stroll into a workout made me really think about my form as I walked. Often I’ll just walk naturally, but doing the intervals in this workout kept me focused — I thought about engaging my core and glutes as I power walked along.
Mixing up my regular routine with intervals of fast and slower walking also completely revolutionized what has become quite a boring route. If, like me, you’re sick of lapping the same paths you walked in lockdown, turning the walk into a workout can help mix things up.
I raised my heart rate
While I’m not walking to lose weight, I found doing the intervals in this workout raised my heart rate and burned more calories than I would on my regular dog walk. When it comes to walking for weight loss, it’s important to put some effort into the walk — swing your arms, squeeze your core, and try and move quicker than you would if you were strolling alone. My faster walking pace averages out at around 3 miles per hour, but this will differ depending on your height and fitness level.
I really enjoyed it
The best part? I really enjoyed this workout. I went to my local park with my dog, played my favorite podcast, and followed the different intervals that I’d set up as a workout on my Apple Watch Series 8. I’m in a much better place mentally than in the dark days of the pandemic, but this workout reminded me how fun walking can be. I felt invigorated when I sat down at my desk at 9 am. The fact that walking is a relatively low-impact activity also makes it accessible to most people, and I know my legs appreciated the break on week 11 of my London Marathon plan.
Research has found that walking in nature is more beneficial than exercising on a treadmill. It also lowers your levels of the stress hormone cortisol; raised levels of cortisol leads to an increased appetite, and fatty, sugary foods are often the first choice. Walking in nature is also good for your mental health
Other ways to level up your walk
Whether you’re looking to inject some more fun into your walking routine, or get some serious fitness goals from your regular walks, here’s a few ideas on how to up the ante:
Add some weight
While we definitely don’t recommend donning a pair of ankle weights for your morning walk (this can put too much strain on your ankle and knee joints), if you are training for a longer hike, it’s a good idea to practice walking with a backpack, or hydration vest. Start adding a backpack with a water bottle to your hikes to get used to engaging your core and carrying the extra weight. Another option is to jump off the train a stop early on your commute and walk part of your journey to the office carrying your belongings (although we’d recommend packing them in a backpack and wearing it on two shoulders).
Find a new route, or a new walking buddy
Another way to level-up your workout is to add hills to your training. Walking uphill increases your heart rate and burns more calories, but also forces different muscles to work harder than walking on the flat. Your hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles all have to engage to help you climb up a hill. If you don’t live near any hills, jump on a treadmill and give the 12-3-30 workout a go.
Walking with a friend can also help you walk further and faster, as you’re more likely to find it more enjoyable. If you’re struggling with motivation, putting time to catch up with a friend while walking also makes you more accountable.
Mix up your playlist
If you’re bored on your walks, mix up your playlist and try to walk to the beat of the music. This Taylor Swift walking workout, for example, increases your pace throughout the workout, while keeping you engaged. It’s designed to be followed on one of the best treadmills (or best under-desk treadmills for that matter), but there’s no reason why you couldn’t put the playlist together and try it outside.
Walk your meetings
If you’re struggling to find time to add regular walks to your routine, why not try walking your meetings? Log into your Zoom or Teams call from your phone, and stroll as you listen, or talk. Not only can this multitasking help you get some more movement into your day, but it can help you to be more productive when you’re back at your desk.