I’ll never forget the moment I decided to make walking my fitness activity. I probably did it backwards, but that actually cemented it for me.
In my late 40’s I made a promise to myself to get fit and healthy. I was gaining weight and not feeling well. At the time, I believed it was a blood sugar thing. It may have been, but I’ll never really know because I didn’t go to the doctor. Instead, I started running.
I don’t recommend this, by the way. If you’re not feeling well…go see a doctor! I’m not a medical professional. I’m not even a personal fitness trainer. I’m just a guy who walks a lot and likes to tell stories about walking.
My first run was literally from one mailbox to the next. Each day I tried to stretch it by one more mailbox. After many weeks of struggle and pushing forward, I finally ran a full mile. That felt like such a huge accomplishment!
Six months later I ran my first half-marathon. Over the next five years I ran a bunch of 5k’s, a couple 10k’s, lots of half marathons (my favorite distance) and one marathon.
On January 2, 2013 I got my first Fitbit. Like many, I heard that 10,000 steps should be the goal. I expected I was already doing much more than that because, after all, I was a runner!
The same day I got my Fitbit I also got the surprise of my life. I was way short of 10,000 steps…even after a three-mile run. Most of us over-estimate how much we move during the day and I’m not the only one who has experienced the “Fitbit First Day Shock.”
Since I wanted to reach 10,000 steps, I started adding a one mile walk onto the end of my daily run. I still fell short which motivated me to find other ways to move throughout the day.
A few months later I realized I loved the one mile walk far more than I enjoyed the three mile run. It was almost as if the walk was my reward for running. My mind was free to think, create, and solve problems while I was walking. I couldn’t do that while running because I was too focused on my pace, what was hurting now, breath control, etc…
Walking also reduced my stress and calmed me in ways that running never did. To be fair, this is not every runner’s experience, but it was for me. Walking was simply better.
But, what about the health impact? Isn’t running better exercise? Here’s the thing…you get the same health benefits walking a mile as you do running a mile. You even burn the same number of calories…100…whether you walk or run a mile.
You might be thinking that doesn’t make sense. If you measure by distance the benefits are equal. If you measure by time…running is better. In other words, if I have 30 minutes, there are greater benefits running than walking. I’d burn twice the number of calories.
But, I was measuring everything by distance and three miles walking was just as good as three miles running. In fact, walking was better because those nagging running pains disappeared.
So, one day as I was getting ready to run, I stood there and asked myself, “Why?” Why run if I truly preferred walking? And, in that moment I decided to walk and I’ve never looked back. Walking is my foundational fitness activity and my Fitbit tells me I’ve averaged 21,000 steps a day since January 2, 2013.
I firmly believe that everyone can and should walk for fitness. Even runners! Walking offers some pretty powerful immediate benefits. If you’re having a bad day, a walk is truly helpful. If you have a problem to solve, take a walk and don’t be surprised if a solution pops into your mind pretty quickly. And, walking can also increase your creativity!
Unlocking the long-term health benefits requires walking intentionally as a fitness activity. If you walk at a pace of three miles an hour for 22 minutes every day, your physical activity will reach the CDC’s recommended minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.
One of the beautiful things about walking is just how sustainable it is long term. You’re not just building a fitness habit for today, you’re creating a fitness journey that can last the rest of your life. I want to age well, and walking is a big part of this goal for me.
If you’re ready to make walking your primary fitness activity, here’s a brief guide to getting started.
Walking for fitness doesn’t cost a lot of money. Most of us can just open the front door and go for a walk. You don’t need to belong to a gym, although if you live in a place that isn’t safe for walking or the weather is a problem, an inexpensive gym membership can provide access to a treadmill.
For most of us, the most expensive gear you need for walking are good shoes. I highly recommend you visit your local running store to learn which shoes are best for you. All shoes are not the same and the specialists that work at running stores are trained to find the shoe that works best for you. Don’t skimp on footwear. Unhappy feet don’t make for a positive long-term fitness experience.
Also, keep track of how many miles you put on your shoes. They start to lose their ability to protect and keep your feet healthy after about 500 miles. Because of all the walking I do, I need to replace my shoes every three months.
I’m less passionate about the clothing I wear while walking. I’m comfortable wearing t-shirts and cargo shorts in warm weather and jeans with layers on top when it’s cold. The bottom line is to find clothing that is comfortable for you while walking.
If you’re just getting started, keep it simple. Can you walk safely around your neighborhood? If so, start there. As your fitness capacity increases you can explore different options, but the it’s best to keep the “fitness friction” as low as possible in the beginning.
Fitness friction is all the extra stuff you have to do before and after exercise. Driving to the gym is fitness friction. Driving to the park is fitness friction. Most days these things don’t matter, but on those days when you’re struggling with time or motivation they do.
I love that all I have to do is open my front door and go for a walk. I have a bunch of directions I can go, but there is no friction to starting. Choose a basic route that is easy and as friction less as possible. You can eventually change it up to keep it fresh, but don’t worry about that now.
If you’re just getting started walking for fitness your first goal has nothing to do with step counts or distances. The first thing you need to do is create a fitness habit. In other words, making fitness a regular and consistent part of your daily schedule is your first priority.
We’ve all been told…or at least we’ve all come to believe…that it takes 30 days to establish a habit. But, research has exposed that as a myth. It actually takes, on average, 66 days to create a habit. And, for some people it takes even longer…perhaps up to 254 days.
Good habits are hard to build and easy to abandon. Instead of focusing on how many steps or long-term fitness results, we first need to focus on building a sustainable habit. This is why New Year’s Goals of going to the gym for an hour a day rarely last beyond a couple weeks. That’s an almost impossible habit to create. It’s way too big and has way too much friction. And, the results happen way long after the emotional motivation fades.
Instead, let’s start small with a ten-minute walk every day. It’s also best to choose a time when you can do this every day….even on weekends. My schedule is free in the early morning so that’s when I have established my walking for fitness habit. I don’t have to worry about schedule interruptions.
When can you walk for ten minutes every day? It’s also best to pick a time that has little friction. For example, don’t add friction by thinking you can wake up ten minutes earlier every day for a walk. Don’t cut your lunch break short by ten-minutes if you already find it challenging to get everything done in that time window currently.
Once you have determined when you can walk, your next step is to make a commitment…a promise to yourself…to walk every day for ten-minutes. This is key to build that fitness habit. Keep it simple and make a commitment.
To help you fulfill your daily fitness promise, I’ve started a ten-minute daily podcast called Walking Is Fitness. I record this during the first ten-minutes of my daily walk. This happens even on those days when the weather is challenging, I’m tired, or I have a busy day ahead.
Walking is Fitness is a podcast of action that provides a little extra motivation so you can keep your fitness promise to yourself. Listeners like Angie have said, “I was going to skip today’s walk, But I told myself no. Intentional steps. Dave is only a podcast away and if he’s willing to do this I am too.” And, with that, Angie kept her fitness promise to herself.
Check out the latest podcast episodes HERE.
If you want to change your fitness trajectory, make a commitment to walk every day for ten-minutes while listening to Walking is Fitness. Gradually, you’ll establish that fitness habit and increase your fitness capacity. After 90 days, that habit will start to feel like fitness momentum that you’ll really enjoy!
Fitness momentum is the gateway to fitness transformation. And, as your fitness capacity and enjoyment grow you can begin to think about adding other fun fitness activities to what you’re doing.
It all starts with a simple ten-minute walk and a simple ten-minute podcast of action.
Are you ready to do this? Let’s go!