Walking mistakes may be keeping you from your best results. Doctors often recommend walking as a best exercise. However, the blanket “walk” advice leaves a lot of information out. You’ve got less room for error after 50, especially if you’re in menopause. And, especially if you’re walking for weight loss after 50.
If you’ve added a walking program – or plateaued using one – or you’re thinking about starting a walking program, avoiding these mistakes will help you keep moving in a more effective way.
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#1 Too Much Too Soon
Fitness mistakes like this are the #1 reason for injury. I so understand the desire to get results yesterday’s yesterday, however it just won’t work out in the long term. You’ve got to have a foundation before you ramp up to more.
“Smart starts” lead to flipping fantastic finishes. Have you ever tried to read the last page or last chapter of a book without reading the middle? It’s not satisfying. It doesn’t have the impact or desired outcome on you. Neither will your fitness program.
Walking mistakes like this are the cause of overuse injuries like tendinitis most often in the IT Band, or bursitis of the hip, or plantar fasciitis.
Did you know that if you’re walking for weight loss the real reason for it working is not the calorie burning. You’re not actually burning that many. Like any after 50 exercise, the real benefit is what the exercise does to your hormones. Walking for weight loss is more related to what it does for your cortisol (done outdoors walking is a great stress reducer) and stress is a roadblock to weight loss. In addition to that, walking timed right is excellent for improving insulin sensitivity and controlling blood sugar. What’s ideal? After meals.
Flip: Walk frequently but short periods to start. Add 2 or 3 minutes a week to your walk per week. So week one you walk 20 minutes, week two you walk 23 minutes. It may seem slow but in a month you go from 20 minutes to 32 minutes of walking, and that’s significant. Yet you’ve allowed your joints, ligaments, and muscles to adapt.
#2 No Intensity Changes
Walking mistakes like this one will prevent fat loss during menopause. That covers a lot of years since it’s not uncommon for women to experience perimenopause symptoms for a decade.
First of all it’s important to know, we should all be walking. It’s movement. But just walking has become necessary because we all sit so much. You need however to have some intense walking, some light walking, and some intermittent high and low intensity (interval) walking in your routine.
You’ve got three energy systems. So a single intensity all the time is going to ignore two. It’s not good to go all out all the time. It’s also not good to go super comfortable all the time.
The most common mistakes:
- Always intervals
- Always long walks
Have purpose to your workouts. Every single one of them. Even if you’re at your ideal weight and you “look fine and don’t need to lose weight,” your best aging happens when all systems are go. Think down the road. If you’re walking for weight loss, be sure that you get breathless several times during a walk at least once or twice a week.
Flip: Plan a long slow day, a short interval training day with at least 4 repeats of 30 seconds or a minute of fast or hill walking alternated with recovery, and a moderate intensity day in each week.
#3 No Strength Training
Walking is cardiovascular work that will have very little positive influence on your lean muscle mass. You lose muscle easier than you gain it after 50. To preserve it, and to gain any, you absolutely must strength train.
You’ll be decreasing your percent body fat by increasing your lean, and that ultimately will support a higher metabolism that then helps fat loss.
The real clarification you want to make is that fat loss, not weight loss, is your first and highest priority. You can lose weight, but if it’s muscle you are also losing metabolism and will gain fat.
Don’t go walking down that road after 50! (pun intended!) While you may think that weight training will slow progress according to the scale, long-term, you’re changing your body composition in a way that will stoke your metabolism so you’re burning more calories around the clock.
Your posture and power in push off during walking will improve too so every step is more effective and efficient.
#4 Skipping Right to Intervals
Similar to #1, you’ve got to have that foundation. Speed is known to cause more injury than resistance. So before you try something, anything really, fast, you want to have learned the proper way to do it slow.
The desire to use intervals when you walk, especially if you’ve been doing them elsewhere – say attending a spinning class or doing elliptical – may be strong. However every mode of exercise has it’s nuances and the body needs a chance to get used to it.
Even if you’re not breathless or feel as if you could do more your body has parts that need to adapt.
Flip: Return to #1 and review. Make sure you’ve been walking regularly for a few weeks before you ramp up interval training.
#5 Skipping Warm up and Cool Down
Sure, it’s just walking, but you want to begin it slowly. You may not need a static stretch before you start. However, if you have a history of ankle, knee, or hip issues I would definitely take a few minutes and stretch before you go.
By the way, ankle-related issues are an age-related problem. Don’t read that to say you’re bound to have them. But doing range of motion exercises, and warming up before doing more than daily activities of living, can help you maintain range of motion as you age.
Be sure to take 5 or 10 minutes to stretch at the end of a walk. Your muscles are warm and ripe for flexibility and mobility benefits of stretching. You can do a joint and muscle specific stretch or hit several muscle groups at once (for example, a warrior pose from yoga).
Now, how does that help weight loss? Warm ups and cool downs certainly aren’t “calorie burning” necessarily. But, hey, if you’re sidelined because you tried to take short cuts? You’re fitness suffers and so do your walks.
No idea how to do warm ups and cool downs or pull it all together? You might like this.
#6 Same Path Every Time
Walking mistakes like this are easy to fall into if you always walk from your house. Walking on the same terrain repeatedly can be a problem though. You’d notice it more if it were a sharp grade on the side of the road, but you may miss it when it’s just a rolling hill walk on what seems like a flat surface.
On a track for instance you may notice every other day runners are told to run clockwise or counter clockwise. That can be a problem for runners who go every other day! Not helpful!
It can still cause you to overuse the same muscles and joints if you do it often enough.
Flip: Change routes, go backwards, walk on the other side of the street (for safety you should walk toward oncoming traffic if you’re on the side of the road or walking a bike path).
#7 Looking Only at Calorie Burning Benefits
If you’re only paying attention to calories you’re very likely going to go long all the time or go hard all the time or both. Which, in return will commit several of the mistakes above.
It’s important to know your hormone status, or start listening to clues so you understand it. Are you constantly stressed? Can’t get up in the morning? Then a short and slow walk may be the best thing for you. Not because it burns calories, but because it helps reduce cortisol.
Calories don’t control your weight (or fat): hormones do. So pay attention to hormones.
You can learn more about hormones, their signs and symptoms and what that means for exercise here.
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