Gym walking at the gymnasium or health club can be approached in a variety of ways, such as walking on an indoor track, a treadmill, or a stair-climber. These options allow you to move your walking program forward when poor weather or safety concerns force you to cancel your outdoor walk.
This setting also offers you an excellent opportunity to integrate your walking program with weight training, aerobics, dance, swimming, and other physical activities.
Walking around and around the same track can be boring. If you are trying to walk a mile, it may take you 20 or more laps. Your mind can grow numb, and it is easy to become discouraged.
You can help fight this by walking with a companion, by varying your tempo lap by lap, by listening to music or books on tape, or by mentally organizing your schedule or planning your day as you walk.
If you are going to walk on an indoor track for several days or more, it is best to switch directions. By walking clockwise one day and counterclockwise the next, you will help avoid orthopedic problems that can result from continually rounding corners in the same direction.
Some clubs have even incorporated clockwise and counterclockwise days into their club's track schedule. This is particularly important if the track you're walking on is banked (slanted), because the leg on the down side will be subjected to extra stress.
Treadmills are not just for jogging. They are also good for walking. Essentially, a treadmill is a conveyor belt that is designed to allow you to walk or jog in a confined space. There are two kinds of treadmills: motorized and nonmotorized.
Walking on a motorized treadmill is as close to real walking as you can get without actually hitting the street or track. You simulate your natural freestyle walk almost exactly.
In motorized treadmills, an electric motor rotates the conveyor belt (sometimes called a walking bed) under your feet, forcing you to walk at a set speed (the speed can be adjusted).
The walking bed of many motorized treadmills can be raised at one end to simulate walking uphill or downhill, making the exercise that much more difficult and thus increasing its aerobic value. This is an especially useful feature for people who are in such good shape that they need to walk uphill to get their heart rates well into their target zones.
Perhaps most important, a motorized treadmill allows you to walk for precise distances at exactly measured speeds. This is particularly important if you need to monitor your fitness plan carefully or want to keep precise track of your speed.
Motorized models have mechanisms that adjust speed in small increments -- one-tenth of a mile or less -- so that you don't have to jump from a gait that is much too slow to one that is far too fast.
When you walk on a nonmotorized treadmill, your legs do the work of rotating the walking bed. Compared to motorized treadmills, nonmotorized ones are usually lighter and more compact.
Nonmotorized treadmills can also be adjusted so that the resistance against the running bed is higher, or lower, making the workout more, or less, strenuous.
Unlike motorized treadmills, they do not allow precise predetermination of the speed at which the running bed rotates, so you may have some trouble keeping track of your pace from one workout to the next.
Walking on a nonmotorized treadmill also tends to be less comfortable than walking on a motorized one. When you use a motorized treadmill, your legs propel you forward just as in normal walking. When you walk on a nonmotorized model, on the other hand, your legs push the running bed backwards.
Nonmotorized treadmills can be uncomfortable and difficult to work for the long periods recommended for aerobic conditioning -- 30 minutes or more. The belt is on rollers, and after a period of walking, exercisers may experience a "hot foot" because of the built-up friction.
Walking on a nonmotorized treadmill is fine if you're going at a slow to moderate pace, but it can lead to foot and leg irritation at faster paces. Nonmotorized treadmills are also generally built with an incline, which may be harmful to those with knee or hip problems.
Go to our final section to learn about walking safety.
To learn more about walking, see: