If you’ve established a regular walking habit, you’re probably meeting your daily and weekly physical activity goals and feeling healthy and active. Some people don’t mind following the same walking routine day in and day out, but others need to mix it up so it doesn’t start to feel stale.
“Every fitness regimen eventually becomes repetitive,” says Jamie Hickey, a certified personal trainer based in Aston, Pennsylvania. “You start a new workout routine with renewed motivation, dutifully exercising six days a week. Then one day, your motivation suddenly drops and unhealthy habits start creeping back in.”
To prevent boredom from sabotaging your goals, try these ideas to keep things interesting:
Instead of walking at a steady pace, speed up for a minute or two, then drop down to your usual pace for a minute or two and repeat. You’ll burn more calories in the same time frame, and you’ll become more focused on what you’re doing, which can engage you and make things seem more fun.
“The varied intensity gives you something to focus on, which helps the time go by in a more enjoyable manner and can also increase effort and output,” says Jeremy Kring, a certified personal trainer in Middletown, Pennsylvania.
Walking uphill is more challenging than walking on level ground. By choosing a hilly route in your neighborhood or playing with the incline on your treadmill, you’ll work different muscles and achieve new fitness goals.
“If you’re going to do an up-and-down program, then you’re basically doing a high-intensity interval training workout, since you’ll be at a more intense walk going up and an easier pace when coming down,” explains Hickey. “If you want a full-out, high-intensity, steady-state type of workout, pick a program that continually increases the elevation, keeping your heart rate elevated the whole time. Just keep in mind you won’t be able to sustain it for as long as a normal workout.”
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If your walk becomes too easy, challenge yourself by adding additional time or mileage. “If you’ve been walking for a while and find, for example, 3 miles is pretty easy, a great place to start could be to challenge yourself to add half a mile or more,” says Sarah Grimaud, a certified personal trainer based in New York City. “In terms of increasing time, you could add on 10 or 15 more minutes. Or, challenge yourself to work on decreasing the time it takes you to do a mile.”
Even if you’re motivated to walk, you may be bored taking the same loop through your neighborhood every day. Branching out can make things exciting again, especially if you walk with a sightseer’s mindset. “Mixing it up with an urban hike or trip to a new park can open your senses to new sights, sounds and more that will keep walking fresh,” says Drew O’Connell, a personal trainer based in Los Angeles.
While there’s something to be said for walking with a friend — it can spice things up with conversation, and you’re more likely to walk when you’re accountable to someone else — there are also benefits to walking alone. Take advantage of the fact that when you’re walking, you’re away from your work and home responsibilities. Instead of always focusing on your phone or listening to music, enjoy the silence, and tap into your inner thoughts.
“Walking can be a total-body meditation that also provides aerobic benefits,” says Mimosa Gordon, a fitness and Pilates expert based in New York City. “A walk is an ideal time to problem-solve, strategize or have practice dialogs in your own head. All of that mental exercise adds to engagement, which keeps things exciting.”