Getting and Staying in Shape for FREE

It’s time to start thinking about the dreaded “S” word: {swimsuit}.  The mere mention of it strikes fear in the hearts of many of us.  And after nearly a year of forgoing vigorous workouts (due to unfortunate injury), I was dismayed to see the number on the scale some weeks back.

With careful eating and lots of walking, the jiggles are starting to firm up, and the number on the scale is no longer shocking.  In fact, I like that it keeps going down!  It’s the walking, the increased activity, that has the biggest impact on my fitness.  Walking keeps me from putting something in my mouth.  It gets my aerobic response going, and keeps my metabolism working at optimum.  It gets the cramps out of my legs and back side.  Walking gets me in the fresh outdoors, with a little sun on my face, and puts a little color in my cheeks.

My favorite thing about walking is that it’s FREE!  And with this gorgeously warm weather lately, it’s actually a pleasant activity.  No need for expensive gear, just comfortable shoes and socks.  If it’s cold and/or windy (this is Nebraska), throw on a coat, hat, earmuffs, gloves.  You can still move, just watch for slick patches.  Although, I would caution against fitness walking when it’s snowy or icy out, as many residents don’t get to clearing off their sidewalks every time the drifts form.  Still, this winter it hasn’t mattered much.

Omaha has a great trail system, and many of them are accessible within local neighborhoods.  Even if you don’t go for miles, a walk around a city park can be a great workout, and fits in nicely with a lunch break.  Here are some tips for safe, effective springtime walking.

  • Wear comfortable shoes with socks.  Keep the laces snug from toe to ankle for proper foot support.
  • Dress for the weather, in layers.  Wear sunglasses in sunny or snowy weather.  Don’t forget gloves.
  • Walk during daylight hours.  Take your cell phone and photo ID.
  • Use the path or trail provided; don’t walk in the middle of the street, especially side-by-side. 
  • When using paths, stay to the right, and listen for bikes approaching from behind.  They should alert you with, “Coming on your left,” or similar verbal signal.
  • Walk moderately for the first minute or so, increase your pace and maintain it for most of your walk, but allow five to ten minutes to slow down toward the end.  Plan your walk so that you are not climbing a hill at the end of it; allow for that cool-down.
  • Depending on your activity level, you may want to start with 15-minute walks (about 3/4 mile), and build to 3 miles in half an hour, over several weeks.
  • Drink plenty of water before and after your walk.  If you like, take a small water bottle with you (great for longer walks in very warm or hot weather).
  • Wearing a pedometer can be a great motivator.  Try to increase your steps each day.  The recommended number of steps for optimum heart health is 10,000 per day!  You can get a FREE pedometer  from JollyTime popcorn: details HEREOr, get one from Amazon for less than $1!  (While you’re there check out the clearance walking shoes.)

Today I got in 20 minutes of FREE fitness walking in the warm sunshine, chatted with my neighbor, and I feel great!  It was supposed to be a longer walk, but the visit won out.  I’m considering that “exercising friendship.”

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