Nearly a quarter into 2021, I feel it is important to take a step back, see where we have been, and re-address some things. Our journey began in January with my first exercise of the month article on walking. I want to revisit walking and the importance of this somewhat simple yet powerful activity.
Our goal in January was to just get up and walk. I am now challenging you to step up your game – pun intended! And, if you are just joining us, welcome! There is no time like the present to get up and get moving.
Exercise is necessary and crucial to health. If you suffer from any health condition, consult your primary care provider before beginning exercise. They know your medical history best and can provide the best guidance for you.
Once cleared by your provider, begin slowly by walking just 10 minutes every day. Gradually progress to a goal of 30 minutes every day. How fast you walk is up to you. The goal is to maintain a conversational pace hard enough to push your body, but easy enough for you to talk. If you cannot speak while walking, you are walking too fast!
Listen to your body
Listening to the messages your body sends is both complex and simple. Some of us are relatively healthy with no underlying health issues. Others face challenging health conditions that require monitoring.
If you become short of breath or feel lightheaded, take it as a sign to throttle back and stop. Rest or finish up early for the day. If you feel pain while walking, do not try to be a hero. Pain is your body’s message that something is going on. Slow down or stop and speak with your health care team. Exercise is supposed to be fun and good for you!
Be aware of your surroundings. Some places are better suited for walking than others. If you live in the City of Florence, there are many great places to walk including:
- Florence Rail Trail – 45 miles of connecting trails that follow old railway lines and offer natural and paved segments throughout Florence
- Freedom Florence Recreation Complex – 1.5 miles of trails in an outdoor sports and recreation complex
- Florence National Cemetery and Stockade Trails – a walk through Florence history during the American Civil War
- Florence Veterans Park – pay tribute to those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces as you stroll past numerous monuments
- McLeod Health and Fitness track – a completely paved track that is well-lit at night and early morning
The weather can put a significant strain on your body and can make activity truly miserable. If the day is supposed to be hot, get up early to get that walk in while it’s still cooler. If it’s calling for really cold weather, wait for the afternoon when the day is at its warmest. Weather conditions to avoid during your activity include:
- Very low temperatures
- High temperatures mixed with high humidity
- Strong winds
For those of you who have been walking since January and have done well with it, I present a new challenge: incorporate running into your walking routine. I have two options for you. The first, the mailbox method, is my absolute favorite and comes from my dear mother who taught me how to run and completed the Marine Corps Marathon years ago. Get out in your neighborhood or a neighborhood you trust and try this out:
- Run from one mailbox to the next mailbox
- Walk the next two mailbox lengths
If the pace is too challenging, increase how many mailboxes you walk. Too easy? Decrease how many mailboxes you walk. As your body adapts, you can increase how many mailboxes you run and how few you walk. It is a fun option and gives you a visual goal to reach for at every cycle.
Minute Ratio Method
- Walk for five minutes
- Run for one minute
Slowly decrease your walking time and increase your run time. Soon you’ll be running for five minutes and walking for one minute. With either method, listen to your body. It will direct you how to progress. Have fun with it and remember to log your activity to motivate yourself on those tough days!
I’ll see ya out there!
Kayla Thompson, MS, ACSM-EP
Kayla Thompson is a patient support representative at the HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence and is a certified exercise physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. She has a Master of Science in clinical exercise science.