We all know walking can help you stay fit and healthy, but not enough of us warm-up before setting off.
No matter how well-conditioned you may be, pushing your body into a long, brisk walk or hike isn’t exactly ideal. You may over-exert yourself, strain a muscle, or become fatigued faster than you might like.
With a warm-up, your joints and muscles become more limber and less likely to be strained. You’ll also increase the flow of blood and give your muscles more oxygen, increasing your comfort and overall performance.
These are the benefits, but what are the best ways to actually warm-up for walking or hiking?
Work those Ankles
Try this first.
Stand on one leg, and lift the other in front of you, nice and steady. Now, move the raised ankle in a complete circle, leading with your toes.
After you’ve done eight circles, switch to your other leg. Perform the same routine, taking it slow until you get into the rhythm.
Swing your Legs
Next, a little something to loosen your legs, ready for a brisk walk.
Start one one leg again, and swing the other front to back, from the hip. Try to keep this as relaxed as possible, and keep your foot no more than 12 inches or so off the ground.
Aim for around 15 reps, and then move onto the other leg. You should start to feel more limber already.
Prep your Hips
This is a great little warm-up to work your hips and prepare your entire body for walking or hiking.
Start with your hands on both hips and bend your knees. Stand with your feet at hip-width apart, and keep your back straight. Now, do 10 slow circular motions with just your hips: ease forward, left, and then right again and again.
Work your Shoulders and Arms
Stay in a standing position, with both arms at your sides. Now, lift these out away from your body, to the sides, in line with your shoulders.
Take it easy with this movement: move your arms in slow backwards motions, tracing a circle with each hand.
Aim for around 20 reps backwards, and then start on forward circles. Again, be sure to use steady movements, or you may strain yourself. This is a real risk if you’re doing a warm-up straight out of bed in the morning – never underestimate just how stiff you may be.
Now that you’re a little more limber and loose, do between 10 and 20 jumping jacks.
These are obviously a little more intense than the other warm-ups on this list, so keep your movements steady. Don’t spread your legs or lift your arms too far, or too fast. Keep your back straight and face front.
Before you try these, you may want to stretch your arms and legs for 10 seconds, to minimize the risk of straining yourself even more.
Once you’ve gone through this brief but effective warm-up routine, you should feel ready to enjoy a brisk walk, no matter what terrain you’re facing.
Running on a treadmill is private, convenient, and even allows you to exercise in a comfortable temperature.
But there’s no denying it: when you run on a treadmill, you deny yourself certain pleasures.
For a start, you’re out in the fresh air, away from the sweat-tinged confines of your gym. You have beautiful surroundings to enjoy, and a clearer goal to work towards: rather than thinking ‘I want to hit five miles today’, you can say ‘ I want to reach the top of that gorgeous hill’ instead.
You can run outdoors at any time, in any weather (safety permitting, of course). Perhaps you prefer to get a half-hour in at dawn, or two hours after work. Perhaps you prefer throwing on a hooded top and working your legs in winter’s chill rather than summer’s sweltering heat.
Running outdoors is fun, free, and invigorating. However, if you’re just starting out, it’s important to prepare. Not only can a little research help you avoid injury, it can also help you get more out of your time on the trail.
Let’s take a look at a few expert tips for beginners.
Pick a Popular Running Trail
Feeling self-conscious about exercising in public? You won’t be the first or the last.
However, don’t let your anxiety lead you down unfamiliar paths. Choose a popular running trail or spot in your area. If you have no idea where this may be, ask around: speak with colleagues, friends, and family to pick their brains.
Not only is this safer to avoid your getting lost, it also means there will be other runners around to ask for help or advice should you need it.
Don’t Push Too Hard
As with any form of exercise, you have to ease yourself into running.
You might be tempted to run as hard as you can, for as long as you can. However, if you do so, you may well end up injuring yourself.
Start off slowly, and run only for short periods. Don’t set unrealistic goals. Be prepared to stop before you feel ready.
Warm Up First
Not planning to warm up before you start running?
Well, you may risk injury and strain. Even something as simple as a quick five-minute walk around the block can help get your body ready for a more intensive workout, along with a few minutes of stretching.
Be sure to cool down after your run too. Again, allow yourself a brief walk and stretch your legs to minimize discomfort.
Take Supplies (Just in Case)
Even if you only plan on a quick run, you have to stay hydrated,
Take one larger bottle of water, or two smaller ones, in a backpack. You should drink little and often to avoid dehydration, especially if running in hot weather.
Don’t forget to pack a protein bar or two if you plan on running for long distances, to replenish lost energy. You might also want to take a map if in unfamiliar territory, or a book if you plan to stop at the halfway point for a break.
Taking a waterproof backpack is ideal in rainy conditions, to keep your supplies safe and dry.
Running can be fantastic fun, improve your health and well-being, and give you a new lease of life. Take care when you start out – and accept that you won’t be able to run a marathon on your first day!