When you're trying to fit walking into your lifestyle, it's important to take steps toward having the proper attitude toward walking. After all, you're not as likely to find time to exercise if you look at it simply as a chore.
On this page and the next, you'll find some simple steps you can follow to make exercise a natural, convenient, and enjoyable part of your daily routine.
Step One: Set a goal. Goals are important in life. They give you something specific to work toward and a way to measure your progress.
When you're setting a goal, avoid vague generalizations like these: "I want to get into shape," or "I want to lose weight." Instead, set precise long-term, intermediate, and short-term goals.
For instance, if you want to lose weight, decide how much weight you want to lose in six months or a year. If you want to lose 20 pounds during that period, that is your long-term goal.
Your short-term goal might be three pounds by the end of the first month. (Your intermediate goal would be somewhere in between.) Ask your doctor for assistance in planning a healthy, realistic weight loss program.
What kind of goals should you set? What would you like to achieve? Whatever it is, write it down. Even if it seems unrealistic at this time, put it on a sheet of paper or a card and save it. This is your long-term goal.
Once a week, you can take out the sheet of paper, write down your progress, and make a note of anything that seems to be preventing you from achieving your goal.
Next, you need to plan how you are going to reach your goals. Write down your plan, and be specific. For instance, how many additional minutes of walking are you going to do each week to accomplish your long-term goal?
Finally, make a note of what you'll do today -- not tomorrow, but today. Write down how long, at what time, and where you're going to walk.
Step Two: Record your progress. For some people, the thing that makes sports like football, basketball, and baseball so endlessly fascinating is the competition. If competition really gets you moving, you can get it from racewalking -- or even from competing against yourself.
Just use a progress chart to record how well you're doing and how close you're coming to your goal. Charting your progress can give you the sense of achievement that helps keep many exercisers motivated.
And the chart doesn't have to be complicated. The simplest chart is just a regular calendar on which you write the information about your walking progress.
Many people record their mileage on a map. Your regular walking route may take you around the same section of your neighborhood every day, but you can mark off your distance on a map as though you were walking cross-country.
By the end of a year, you may find that you've walked a distance equal to that between San Francisco and San Diego -- or between New York and Miami. This helps in setting long-term goals, too.
For instance, you can promise yourself that by the end of the year, you'll have walked the same number of miles as you would had you walked from Chicago to Houston.
Step Three: Set a workout time. Have you ever noticed how easily you slip into routines? Perhaps you always brush your teeth before, not after, you shower in the morning; always put your left, not your right, shoe on first; or always take the same route to work every day.
And have you ever noticed how you tend to feel you've forgotten to do something important if anything should interfere with one of these rituals? You may find it easy to stay with a walking program if you can allow it to become part of your daily routine -- so much a part that you'll feel compelled to walk despite your own excuses for skipping a day.
If you can get yourself into the habit of walking at a certain time every day, you'll accept it as part of your regular daily schedule and not just something to do during your "free time."
Many people feel they can't find the time in their busy schedules to exercise. But exercise, including walking, need not take much time, especially compared to the amount of time most Americans spend watching television. It's simply a matter of priorities.
Others may feel so exhausted from work and their responsibilities at home that they feel they have no leftover energy with which to exercise. This can become a vicious cycle, though, because the more out of shape you are, the more easily you'll get tired out.
To break the cycle, make time for walking, and stick with it. You'll soon find you have more energy.
Step Four: Choose the best time of day to exercise. It's important to schedule your walking workouts for a time when you are least likely to have to cancel or interrupt them because of conflicting demands from work or home.
Some walkers like to venture out early in the morning, some even before daybreak. They like the solitude of early morning, when the streets are still empty of traffic and people. They can slowly get their minds and bodies going and do a little thinking in the silence.
And if they are walking where they can see the horizon, they can savor the exhilarating sight of dawn.
Even some walkers who are decidedly not morning people -- the types who ordinarily just drag themselves around till noon -- swear by an early-morning walk. They say their morning walks give them a "jump start" on the day, making them feel more alert and energetic on the job. By the time they sit down at their desks, they feel invigorated enough to tackle any work that comes their way.
Lunch hours are an increasingly popular time for regular, vigorous walks. Some people walk for the first 45 minutes of their lunch hour and grab a bite during the last 15 minutes. Walking at lunchtime gets them out of the office (or house) and into a refreshing midday break.
If you want to do your walking during your lunch hour, however, be sure you have enough time to accommodate the goals specified in your walking program.
Other walkers wait until they have left work for the day, putting their jobs behind them. A walk at this time provides a nice transition -- an opportunity to work off some of the day's tensions so that they aren't carried into family life.
Late evening seems to appeal to some people as the best time to work out. You might want to take a couple of factors into account, however, before you set late evening as your walking time.
When you put walking as the last item on your agenda for the day, it often gets treated that way -- last. You may tend to put other things in place of it or skip it because you don't have enough time or energy left.
Also, some people find that a walk right before bedtime revs up their metabolism so much that they have difficulty falling asleep. On the other hand, some people find that a walk in the late evening can help them relax and unwind enough to fall asleep. So you may want to experiment with walking at this time before you decide to make it a habit.
Find more tips on keeping a proper attitude to walking in our final section.
To learn more about walking, see: