Thanks for the care and kindness during my mother-in-law’s last days; it made a difficult time more pleasant.
- Family member of a hospice patient
HOW TO GET STARTED You know you want to begin a fitness programm, but don't know where to start. It's easy! Walking is one of the easiest and most profitable forms of exercise. All you need is a good pair of shoes, comfortable clothing, and motivation.
How to start: First of all, start out slow and easy. Just walk out the door. For most people this means head out the door, walk for 10 minutes, and walk back. That's it! Do this every day for a week. If this was easy for you, add extra minutes to your walks next week and then more the week after to build up towards the 13.1 mile circuit. Keep adding 5 or 10 minutes until you are walking as long as desired. A pedometer will help you measure distance travelled.
WATCH your posture. Walk tall. Think of elongating your body. Hold your head up and eyes forward. Your shoulders are best down, back and relaxed. Tighten your abdominal muscles and buttocks and fall into a natural stride.
Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after walking. Incorporate a warm up and cool down. Start your walk at a slow warm up pace, stop and do a few stretches. Then walk for the desired length of time. End your walk with the slower cool down pace and stretch well after your walk. Stretching will make you feel great and assist in injury prevention.
The toughest thing about starting a fitness program is developing a habit. Walking daily will help (a minimum of 5 days a week is a good goal).
WARM UPS AND STRETCHING
Make every walk a complete workout by including these elements, and following the correct sequence. Neglecting to do so will make walking more difficult, and increase the risk of injury.
1) Warm up
2) Flexibility exercises
4) Cool down
1) Warm up - Warming up is exercising at a lower intensity in order to get the blood circulating and let your body know that you are preparing for exercise. For many of your walks it will only be necessary to warm up about five to ten minutes.
2) Flexibility exercises - These exercises are part of your warm up and should be done after you have warmed up with 5 to 10 minutes of easy walking. The faster you plan to walk the more time you will need to dedicate to flexibility exercises.
3) Walk - Now that you have warmed up you should be ready to complete your walk at your normal walking pace. For the first few weeks do not push too hard. Your breathing should be elevated, but you should not be gasping for air. A rule of thumb that works for most people is... If you cannot talk you are walking too fast, if you can carry a tune you are walking too slow.
4) Cool down - At the end of your walk you need to walk at a slower pace to cool down. The harder you have worked out the longer you should cool down. In the beginning your walks are very short and you only need to cool down a couple of minutes. As your walking time and intensity extends so should your cool down period.
5) Stretch - This is such a neglected area for many people. Start off right and take the time to stretch AFTER every workout. In the beginning stretches should take at least 5 minutes. As you increase distance and pace you will probably need to stretch longer.
There are so many stretches it is impossible to cover them all. Be sure to stretch all the major muscle groups, and put extra focus on any areas you have trouble with.