Our gym reopened this past week after being closed for over three months.
As I waited outside at 5 a.m., six feet apart from the other sleepy people, I nearly wept with joy behind my pink camouflage face mask.
I was first in line even after I swore up and down I’d “wait and let management work out the new disinfecting routines” before I ventured back.
Fact is, I consider the gym a petri dish of toxic germs even on a good day, let alone during a global pandemic. It’s simply the nature of the beast.
Sweating + exhaling forcibly = Gross City
To help us stay safe, the gym established a new routine. You can’t just wander in willy nilly anymore.
Nope. You have to reserve an hour of time 24 hours in advance. After every hour workout, the gym then closes for “cleaning” and then reopens after 30 minutes for the next hour’s group of exercisers.
Rinse and repeat for the entire day.
I put “cleaning” in quotes because how they’re going to “clean” this massive, two-story gym in a half hour boggles my mind.
Unless they power wash the entire inside of the gym with undiluted bleach… it won’t be cootie free. Pretty sure.
Yet, even knowing all this. There I was. Standing outside with my gym brethren. None of whom I’ve ever spoken to. Yet we all shared a common bond: We’re all a little bit nuts.
But overall, it felt good to be back, sweaty mask and all.
Whether you’re back to the gym or DIYing it, maybe you’ve also decided it’s time to swap out all that banana bread baking for a little calorie burning.
And regardless of the current workout-flavor-of-the-month, walking will always reign supreme as a favorite routine.
It’s simple (not necessarily easy!), requires no equipment other than a sturdy pair of walking shoes (do not cut corners on quality) and all you need is a safe area to walk.
Plus, you don’t need hours of training.
Before you begin, if calorie burning is your #1 priority, ponder these calorie burns of varying intensities, each for 30 minutes for a 150-lb. woman:
|Walking 3.0 mph, fairly slow, on a firm surface||118 calories|
|3.5 mph, moderate pace||136|
|3.5 mph, moderate pace, going uphill||215|
|4.0 mph, brisk pace, flat firm surface||179|
|4.5 mph, very brisk (nearly jogging)||226|
As you can see, pace, incline and adding weight (which I only recommend if you’re completely free of any joint issues – and in the form of a weighted vest, not dumbbells) boosts calorie burn considerably.
With this in mind, the following workouts can help you get more from your time on the road – or treadmill – try ‘em!
Track your ticker
A heart rate monitor (available at any sporting goods store or on Amazon) helps you track your effort by measuring how hard you’re really working. Most of us think we’re exercising far more vigorously than we really are. Wear the heart rate monitor for a few workouts to find your average heart rate and strive for five to 10 beats above your baseline to make sure you’re putting effort into it.
Walk fast, then slow, repeat
Alternate going faster and slower and you’ll burn more calories even after you’re finished. How much more depends on how hard you worked and for how long. Start by alternating 30 to 60 seconds of higher intensity (a fast walk or light jog) with 60 seconds of easy walking. As you get in better shape decrease the slower times and increase the harder intervals. Do this no more than twice a week along with your longer walks or you’ll end up with an ice pack on your leg
Head for the hills
Walking up hills engages the glutes and hamstrings (note: avoid inclines if you have any back issues) and burns more calories. A 3.5 mph hill walk boosts calorie burn to 215 per hour versus 136 per hour for the same pace done on flat ground.
Walk like a cross-country skier
Using Nordic walking poles gets your upper body into the action, which increases calorie burn. Using walking poles also reduces impact on knees. Use them by firmly positioning the pole at a 45-degree angle behind you, then push back strongly against the ground to propel yourself forward.
I see women walking with hand and ankle weights, but these can not only throw off your gait but they can also hurt your joints. A better option: a weighted vest, which evenly distributes the work load (note: check with your doctor first if you have hip, knee or ankle problems).
Each one of these ideas helps you burn more calories than doing the same old same old.
Mix It Up
This approach weaves simple exercises into your walk
- Warm up with a light stride for 5 minutes to start
- Pick up the pace for 5 minutes
- Slow down and do walking lunges 20x
- Resume walking at a slow-moderate pace for 3 minutes
- Pick up the pace for 2 minutes
- Slow down and side shuffle for 10x each side
- Resume moderate-slow pace 3 minutes
- Pick up the pace for 2 minutes (as fast as you can walk or jog)
- Slow down to moderate pace, then pause and do 15 squats
- Follow with 15 calf raises (go up on your toes and down by dropping your heels down off a ledge and up)
- Stretch and cool down
Power your pace
For a change of pace from interval walking, try “power walking” to increase intensity without adding impact to joints. Tightening your core muscles and adding arm movements—such as pumping arms back and forth—can help you burn more than 400 calories an hour.
Power walking can be tiring but it should never be painful. Work within your fitness abilities.
Sample power walking routine:
– Warm-up at a slow-to-moderate walk for 3 to 5 minutes
– Increase your pace using short, quick steps
– Practice a heel-to-toe roll, pushing off from the heel, rolling through the foot and pushing off your big toe
– Pull in and tighten your abdominal (core) muscles
– Pump your arms: keeping arms bent with fists loosely closed, bring arms back and forth as if skiing
The key to avoid falling into the vast vat of fitness boredom is to vary your routine.
Which will you try this week? Let me know in the comments section below.
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