Use these expert tips to inspire you to keep lacing up your shoes and pushing yourself to reach a new level of fitness.
This is Step #7 — the final step — in the 7-Day Power Your Walk Challenge. Find the full step-by-step guide here. And download the activity guide here. Thanks for joining us and keep on enjoying your walks!
There’s a good chance you’ve been in a state of flow before. It’s when you’re so immersed in an activity that time slows, your worries melt away, and your task seems effortless.
Maybe you’ve felt it while painting, writing, or playing music. Or even during movements like dancing, meditating, or yoga.
Turns out, finding your flow during exercise is key to sticking with fitness goals long term.
A 2021 study out of Norway followed beginner exercisers for a year after joining a gym to see who stuck with it, and why. Researchers found that the single biggest predictor of whether someone was a regular gym-goer or not was pure enjoyment.
In other words, they liked the experience of moving their bodies in that way and wanted to keep coming back for more.
There’s no better exercise to find your flow than walking. “The human body is made to walk,” says Michael Lynch, a clinical exercise physiologist, registered dietitian, and owner of Nutrition with Heart in Edmonds, Washington.
“This allows us to get into a rhythm,” says Lynch. “And once you find that rhythm, then it’s like grooving when you’re playing an instrument. It feels good just to do it.”
Of course, not all of us are there yet. (That’s what the 7-Day Power Your Walk Challenge is for, after all.) It might take time to build up your strength and mobility until you feel confident in your body. But know that it’s possible — no matter your ability level.
“There will be a point where walking is energizing. And experiencing this state that feels genuinely good will be an encouraging motivator,” says Lynch.
Use these expert tips to stick with your walking goals — and work your way to finding your own state of flow.
Tip #1: Be Patient
Finding your groove takes time. “If you’re new to walking or exercise, I recommend going nice and slow,” says Pam Peeke, M.D., M.P.H., author of Fit to Live and board member of the American College of Sports Medicine. “It will build your fitness gradually and get your body used to the movement.”
Being consistent is what counts. Holding back at first can also make you even more excited to get back out there and try again.
Tip #2: Track Your Steps
Is this “flow” thing not your cup of tea? Or are you more of a numbers person?
It can be really motivating to track your steps or activity minutes and see them add up over time, says Lynch.
“It’s visual, like putting pennies in a penny jar.” You can set daily, weekly, or monthly goals and challenge yourself to meet them.
If you’re looking at minutes, aim to get at least 150 minutes of brisk walking per week. Try to work in at least two days of strength work, too. Our Walk Tall Strength Circuit is a great place to start.
As for steps, aim to work up to 6,000 to 8,000 steps a day. That’s the amount shown to protect against premature death in adults over 60, according to a 2022 international review in The Lancet.
Tip #3: Ease Your Body Into Your Walk
Enjoying walking to its fullest doesn’t mean we still won’t have aches and discomfort. But a little bit of preparation can go a long way to making your walk more comfortable, right off the bat.
“If you have achiness in your joints, it can be worthwhile to spend a little bit of time warming your muscles and joints before you head out,” says Lynch. “It’ll help reduce tension points and allow you to simply enjoy your walk or hike.”
Wondering where to start? Try our 5-Minute Pre-Workout Mobility Moves before your walk, and our 6-Minute Post-Workout Stretch to boost recovery when you come back.
Tip #4: Find Your Why
What’s going to get you out the door when it’s the last thing you want to do? It comes down to your values.
“Check in with why you wanted to do this in the first place,” says Dr. Peeke. “Yes, there are the health benefits. But why do you want to be fitter or live longer? What conveys meaning and purpose in your life?”
For you, this could be being around for your children or grandchildren. Maybe you’re in the process of writing your next book. Or maybe you want to stay independent, be able to travel, and enjoy all that life has to offer.
Whatever that “why” is for you, put a reminder (ex. a photo or sticky note) in a place that you’ll see it, such as on your door or next to your walking shoes.
Recommended reading: Find Your Fitness Why
Tip #5: Create Accountability
Announcing to the world that you’re making a commitment is a surefire way to hold yourself responsible. Going public makes it real, and let’s others know so that they can support you in your efforts.
For you, this may be a post on social media, a conversation with your family, or asking a friend to be your accountability partner.
That said, Dr. Peeke believes that the most powerful accountability partner can be yourself. That’s why she has her clients take out their phones and record themselves saying what their goal is, and why it matters.
“You remind yourself of all the important things. And then when your motivating is waning, you pull out the video and listen to yourself.”
Learn more about accountability by reading 5 Tricks to Stick to Your Workout.
Tip #6: Try Mindful Walking
Is your mind running a mile a minute while you’re hoofing it around your block? You may be missing out on a key benefit of walking outdoors — and making it harder to find your flow.
“The beauty of walking is that it can put you in the present moment,” says Lynch. And that’s especially important if you tend to be anxious or worried about what’s to come.
“If a future-oriented goal is making you feel overwhelmed, then that’s inhibiting your present by being afraid of or worried about the future. When you break the mindset that keeps you stuck, then your motivation uplifts, you feel more rested and at ease, and you can take that energy and run with it,” says Lynch.
Your job: Be here now. Focus on what you’re doing and what’s going on in your environment. What’s your breathing like? How do your feet feel on the ground? Listen to the birds and the rustling of the leaves.
If your mind slips, it’s OK. Just catch it and bring yourself back to the present.
Tip #7: Have Fun
Working out doesn’t have to be all work.
“Don’t forget to play,” says Dr. Peeke. “One of the most important things for health is your intensity, or how hard you’re exercising. But you can also challenge your body and your muscles in different — dare we say fun — ways, too.”
- Change the terrain. Depending on your comfort level, you can mix up the surface you walk on. That would be grass, asphalt, dirt, or trails.
- Head to a playground. Play around with the equipment, as you feel comfortable. “OK, so maybe you’re not going to get up on the monkey bars,” says Dr. Peeke, “but maybe you head for the swings.”
- Take the road less traveled. Do you walk the same loop every day? Maybe it’s time to find a new route, or a few, that you can mix into your rotation.
- Hit pause and play. “You can stop and interrupt your walk with all sorts of interesting things to do,” says Dr. Peeke. “Use as much creativity as possible.” One idea: Take a frisbee with you on a walk with friends.
- Get out in the community. Does your neighborhood have a walking club? What local walking events or races can you sign up for? Sprinkling different commitments into your schedule can definitely keep you inspired.
Here are the other steps in the 7-Day Power Your Walk Challenge:
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