First of all, I don’t want to say “ditch running and go walking!” Running is beautiful; it’s healthy and I deeply respect people who run or jog, and I’m not even talking about marathons. Those people are like super athletes to me.
I’d like to talk about why walking has served as the ultimate keep-in-shape workout for me for nearly a decade now.
Why I walk and never run
This is the question I often ask myself: really, why? Looking at this running phenomenon that borders on obsession, at those athletes in Lycra, I sometimes ask myself if I want to switch?
Several times, I did it. I like the feeling I get after running – a feeling: like a sprinkle of endorphins, pleasant tiredness and an injection of dopamine – deep satisfaction that I did it, and now I’ve earned a well-deserved rest.
Old back injury
One health factor that prevents me from running is an old back injury – from my student days when I worked as a waitress in high heels twelve hours a day, carrying heavy trays and dishes. Two discs in my spine got compressed and my feet hitting the ground for a long time makes the pain return. I can run for a week or two, then the pain in my spine comes back.
I just walk but I walk fast
What I do is speedwalking. I cover 3 miles in 45 minutes – a good intense walking speed which has a fat burning and therapeutic effect. My speed is a little over 4 mph. It’s slightly slower than the average jogging speed, but much faster than an ordinary walking pace.
Now let’s get to some objective points about why I prefer speed walking to running:
Physical factors about walking
Walking has no medical limitations
I mean it’s recommended to anyone, in almost any health condition. Pregnancy or back pain don’t prevent you from walking. It’s such a natural activity, you don’t need to consult your doctor about whether you should start walking.
Young or old, pre-natal or post-natal, walking is something 100% recommended to everyone.
Walking is easier on the heart
I’m still too young to think seriously about heart issues, but the thought that I train my heart more carefully makes me feel better.
The American Heart Association (American Heart Association) considers it best for the health to do moderate exercise at a pulse rate of 50-75% of the maximum.
In order to reach that mark, most of us will be fast enough doing vigorous walking. Only athletes need to go for a run.
Less pressure on the joints
My husband is an eye-doctor and we often laugh about the fact that humans have two knees and two eyes, but you can still do pretty much everything with one eye and do pretty much nothing with one knee.
Being careful with your joints (and especially your knees) is a life-long investment. Walking puts less pressure on the knees, which I believe keeps them stronger.
Joints are like the mechanical parts in your body – the more you exploit them, the more they wear out.
Walking is still a high-intensity aerobic activity
Speed walking is still quite an intense workout; it’s placed right after running, ice-skating, cycling and swimming for its aerobic parameters. (FYI, cross country skiing tops the list when it comes to aerobic load).
Most importantly, to increase the training benefits walking should be quite intense and regular – 30-60 minutes at least 4 times a week. Jogging won’t really give you a more intense workout than this.
Walking makes breathing more natural
Even while walking at a high speed, you breathe through your nose – this is not possible while running for most people, as it requires special breathing training.
As we know, it’s more natural and healthier for humans to breathe through the nose. When you start breathing through your mouth, air goes straight into your body: it’s not cleaned or warmed, which can lead to infections and colds, especially during the winter/fall.
Yoga places paramount importance on breathing through the nose. There are special long-term practices for calm, conscious nose breathing. Walking makes this practice naturally possible: I practice conscious nose breathing while walking.
At the end of a walk I feel calmer and happier because I also had a good breathing session.
Walking benefits our mental health
Walking relieves stress (well, running does as well), but walking leads to more pleasant thoughts – by taking measured steps, you can even meditate. You can slowly observe beautiful landscapes and clear your mind. Usually after 40 minutes, I have to force myself back to reality! I have no thoughts in my head any more – just observations.
It’s such a precious thing in our busy stressful lives – to indulge in unconscious contemplation!
Walking normalizes the central nervous system
Namely walking normalizes the balance of excitation and inhibition. Why is that so important?
Modern life has a high level of emotional stress, as we all know.
Thus, our central nervous system is dominated by processes of excitation. This leads to an increased number of hormones-stimulants (adrenaline and others) being released, which adversely affect the body and can cause a variety of diseases – from hypertension to heart attacks and strokes.
Walking calms, which in medical terms means that it inhibits the nervous system: through the monotonous movements and calm breathing through the nose, it works wonders for our nerves: slowly but steadily.
Walking relieves stress
The scourge of modern society. is our well-known neurasthenia with increased irritability and excitability, headaches and sleep disturbances.
Intense walking perfectly relieves emotional stress, normalizes the processes of excitation and inhibition in the central nervous system.
This means a good night’s sleep and a good mood, calmer, less emotion-driven decisions, and an overall more positive life attitude.
My personal reasons for walking
Walking is easier to keep as a habit
Running is intense exercise. It requires stamina.
Walking makes you less exhausted after a workout so it’s easier for you to get moving, even if you don’t really feel like it. You can walk even if you feel sleepy or tired after a long day at the office.
This makes walking more regular – and there’s nothing better than regular training as everyone knows.
Walking is the king of convenience
I don’t need to shower after walking; I’m not actually that sweaty. It’s enough just to freshen up a bit in any ladies room, if I’m not going straight back home. I always have a fresh t-shirt or something I want to wear, I freshen up with water or wet towels and I’m fine.
I can hardly imagine anyone going straight to a meeting after a running session. It’s simply not possible. First of all, you’re sweating and need a shower.
Secondly, you’re wearing a Lycra running outfit and most probably running shoes. But walking is just opposite:
Walking doesn’t require sportswear
You can walk in a skirt, jeans, pants, dress – whatever. The only requirements are comfortable shoes. They can be ordinary flat shoes, or sneakers, flat sandals, flat boots – they’re all good. I usually wear something comfortable on my upper body – pretty much anything, and carry a light piece of clothing if I need to change afterwards.
Walking is a time saver
Well, to get a proper workout you actually need more time – walking 3 miles takes longer than running them. But there’s a but. If I need to get from A to B – I choose to pack my PC in my backpack and then hit the road. I have my training on the go. The ability to combine training with my daily routine is amazing. Plus no special outfit and no shower – voila! I clearly save lots of time and still have my daily workout.
My personal tips on making the most out of walking
You think running is better for the buttock and leg muscles? I have my own tricks that keep my body in good shape by just walking daily.
Tip #1. Take bigger steps
Running makes your legs and buttocks more sculpted? Same with speed walking. Just take bigger steps. That’s it.
Feel your hips and buttock while walking – speed up and take larger steps. You’ll be just fine: tight and toned lower body guaranteed. Don’t just walk using your calves: feel your buttocks and inner hips take the load.
Another trick – take larger steps when you’re tired. It switches the load to the hips and butt, larger and stronger muscles, which makes you feel like you can walk faster and also gives your most desirable body parts a good workout 😉
Tip#2. Switch your walking surfaces
Walk on sand, snow, uphill and downhill – take a packed backpack and keep going. Don’t stick with the same route and the same type of walk. Walk against the wind. You’ll be bending forwards, which significantly increases the load. Usually I feel more tired when walking against the wind along the sea coast. Feel the difference in your workouts and never stop experimenting.
Tip#3. Combine walking with other sports
I have a simple recipe: in fall and spring I put rollerblading top of my workout list. Winter is cross country skiing once a week – it’s hell for me – so exhausting – but I love it! Summer is too hot to do intense workouts, so I add some water sports, like SUP, wakeboarding or windsurfing (it’s good to surprise your body occasionally!)
Tip #4. Stretch after walking
Never, never ignore stretching.
Stretching is the reason my legs are nicely shaped: I always do my 5 minute stretching routine. Apart from sculpting the legs, stretching relaxes those very well worked out body parts. Stretching increases overall flexibility, which means you stay younger longer.
I have a special 5 minute stand up stretching routine, which I developed specially for moms who can’t carry a gym mat to lie down and stretch, or have no time to go home for a stretching session.
I prefer walking for many objective reasons, such as an old back injury and because it’s less harmful to my health. I also find walking easier to work into my daily life.
I find it more beneficial for my mental health and nerves.
I have special tricks to enhance the impact of walking and make it almost the only physical activity that keeps me in great shape!
Do you have any experience of speed walking, or would you consider switching to walking from running?
Do you think that walking can give you as good a workout as running?
Let us know what you think!