Start a walking routine
You’ve decided to start walking on a regular basis because you:
- hate feeling winded every time you go up a flight of stairs …
- are worried about your weight or your blood pressure, or diabetes, or some other medical condition.
- sit at a desk all day and know it’s not good for you
- remember a time in your life when you were more active and want to re-capture that good feeling …
- are feeling a slow decline in your cognition and memory …
Any one of these will do, as will plenty of others.
When you have a powerful reason for becoming an active walker it means you are more likely to follow through on a walking plan. Motivation really is the key. Your reason for walking must be so strong that it trumps the alternative, a sedentary life which is almost certain to bring you an assortment of health issues and wear you down slowly.
Intuitively, you know that by becoming more active through walking you will experience greater joy and vitality. benefits will have a positive effect on your work and your relationships as well.
For most people, walking is the ideal vehicle on the road to optimal health. The fact that you are choosing walking as your preferred activity bodes well for you. A National Cancer Institute study of more than 650,000 people found that those who walked briskly for 150 minutes each week gained an average of 3.4 years of life expectancy.
In terms of exercise, it’s hard to beat the all-round beauty of walking. It’s fun; it’s easy; and it’s wonderfully energizing. The fact that it also brings us a multitude of benefits for our mind, body and spirit is icing on the cake.
We can walk just about anywhere, anytime. If you are creative and have a supportive employer you can even do it in the workplace. You don’t need any special skill (hey, we all know how to walk) nor any special equipment. And you can’t beat the price because it’s free.
Now that you have articulated the important reasons for wanting to walk, let’s talk about some other things you’ll want to do in order to insure that walking will become a part of your regular routine. Think of it as stacking the deck in your favor so that walking can become as natural for you as eating or sleeping.
The first step is to define exactly what it is you want to achieve through walking. This is the time to spell out your goal in some detail. Think in terms of what it is exactly you want to accomplish. This is critical.
Of course, every person’s goal is unique.
For you it may be to walk for 30 minutes, 4 days a week. Someone else may be to improve their aerobic capacity so they can run a local 5K race in three months. A third person may wish to lower their blood pressure by 20 points and reduce their need for medication. The point here is to take your vision for a healthier, more vibrant you and translate it into something very real and measurable.
When you think of your goal it is best to define it in writing. By expressing your goal in this way it takes on a more tangible quality. Think of it as giving your goal a certain stickiness which will help it to remain in the forefront of your consciousness, rather than getting lost among the gazillion other thoughts you have each day.
Even better, consider the added value you might get by taping your goal to the front of your refrigerator or on the bathroom mirror. In so doing you will have a frequent reminder of what is most important to you today.
In health coaching we also talk about SMART goals (those that are: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-framed). Only when goals have these characteristics are we able to know if we’re making any headway on them. When we are able to see, feel and measure progress, we experience added fuel for the challenge.
Yes, in truth, we need more than a powerful motivator and well-defined goal in order to succeed. If it were that easy we’d all be out walking most days of the week.
Often, in spite of our best intentions, we end up not sticking with the plan. We find ourselves sitting on the couch instead of going out for a walk.
If you’d really like to see your plan work this time, you will need to be more fully aware of the obstacles that could sabotage your ability to stick to the plan. If you think of the times you started on a new, healthy regimen only to find that it didn’t last, you know what I’m talking about. Something got in the way and undermined your best efforts.
In terms of walking, there could be any number of hurdles that will need to be addressed if your walking plan is to succeed. Perhaps you:
- don’t have good walking shoes
- have a hard time getting up early enough to walk before work
- tend to be too exhausted after work to go for a walk
- don’t like to walk alone
- need to find child care if you are to have the freedom to walk.
Being fully aware of these hurdles means that you know what must be overcome if your strategy is to work this time. With resourcefulness on your part, and the application of the steps we’re talking about here, your probability of success will go up considerably.
The next step here is to do an inventory of all the supports that you can use to help you. These are the things that you may never have considered before and which can be thought of as resources that can work to your advantage. For example, you:
- have a good friend who is willing to be your walking buddy
- live near a park that would be ideal for walking after work
- found an app for your phone that would be perfect for tracking your progress
- have learned of a walking club in the area
- have a partner who is willing to watch your children while you walk
- realize you have favorable circumstances at work that would enable you to walk at lunch
Let’s face it; we need every advantage we can get. This time will be different because you will be utilizing more of the resources in your environment.
Having decided which new resources you will now utilize, the next logical step is to secure those resources. If it is a friend or partner who is going to be your support person, let them know you’re ready to get started and agree on how they can best help you. If it is a new device (Fitbit, Jawbone, etc.) you’ve decided to buy – make the purchase. If it’s a new app for your phone – download it. It it’s a walking club in the area – call or email their contact person.
The final step here is to commit. This is where you move the plan from concept to action. You pick a start time and you begin. Naturally, the sooner you can begin – the better, as it enables you to convert your excitement into to something tangible that will bring you early dividends.
OK, let’s summarize the plan:
- Think about a big reason why you would like to begin a walking routine. When you have a strong reason for walking (the big Why), it serves as a powerful motivator for adopting walking as your new favorite physical activity.
- Decide on a goal for yourself that specifically describes exactly what you wish to achieve through walking. The key here is to phrase your goal in such a way that it can be measured. Be sure to find the right balance between being ambitious and realistic.
- Survey your landscape and identify those things that might prevent you from accomplishing your goal. When you know what they are – you can begin to think creatively about solutions.
- Identify all the resources (include friends, family and co-workers) that can be enlisted to help you surmount the hurdles that may have derailed you in the past. And then secure them.
- And do so feeling stronger than ever that you have everything you need at this moment to incorporate walking into your life. The path to optimal health for you begins today.
Every time we walk we engage in one of the simplest yet most enjoyable activities known to the human race. The fact that walking also brings us a multitude of health benefits makes it all the sweeter.
My wish for you is that you are able to find many opportunities to walk often. If I can help create a unique strategy that really works for you, let me know.
Here’s to your health!