Fed up with pounding the same route every day? These 8 tricks will improve your motivation and make your 10,000 steps a breeze
There was a video doing the rounds on Instagram last week by Big Brother’s Nikki Grahame, who captured the spirit of the nation and our collective ennui when it comes to walks, wailing that all she’d done was "walk, walk, walk..." We get it, never has the phrase "we could go for a walk?" passed our lips so often.
While we totally relate to Nikki, there are compelling mental health reasons to stay walk-motivated. Exercise outdoors improves mood, reduces stress and anger and improves confidence and self-esteem , vital given this week's news that nearly one in five people, who have had Covid-19 are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety, depression or insomnia within three months of testing positive. The research by University of Oxford and NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre also found that people with a pre-existing mental health diagnosis were two-thirds more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19 than people without.
With gym and pools closed a walk is the best way to get our daily dose of vitamin D and exercise. But in limited daylight hours, it takes even more commitment and motivation to get those 10,000 steps in. So how do we make our walk more appealing.
“Many of us have seen the same scenery over and over on our daily walks this past year, but there are ways we can keep things interesting,” says life coach and motivation expert Dave Knight . And we don't just mean plugging into a podcast.
Make getting out of the door less of a chore
First things first, you need to find your motivation to get up and go. Getting out of the door is many people's biggest barrier. “From the moment you think about going for a walk, there are a series of steps before you actually get going, such as getting changed, finding your playlist, getting your trainers on and so on," says Dave.
He recommends focusing on one thing at a time to reduce your 'thinking ahead' – the part where you talk yourself out of the things you don't want to do. "You just need to know about the very next step you need to take. If you do this you can transform the session into something all the more pleasurable.”
Once you're out the door, here are six ways to make your daily walk more appealing.
1. Challenge (and reward) yourself
If you walk the same route every day set yourself small challenges. “Can you do your route in a faster time? Why not add ankle or wrist weights or something else that restricts you?” suggests Dave.
Katie Anderson, heading of training at London yoga studio Fly LDN , us also a fan of goal setting. “Use the landmarks you see on your daily stroll and measure the time it takes you to get between them. For example, lampposts, benches, bins or trees. Alternate between your average pace and a brisk walk between the landmarks. Continue this until you’re either home again or you feel hot and your heart rate feels considerably higher than when you were sitting still at home.”
A reward after the challenge is key too, Dave points out. “If we did achieve our aim of walking faster that’s surely worth a reward. Be kind to yourself – even an affirming pat on our own backs to recognise our efforts can be a nice treat." We'll take a cappuccino and a brownie, thanks!
2. Add a workout section to your walk
This might sound like the devil's work, but hear us out. “Add an activity to the middle of your walk to keep it more interesting,” says Amber Gamble, trainer at exercise studio F45 Chelsea . “This is a great way to not only make your walks more interesting but your workouts too if you’re tired of tuning into YouTube in your living room. You could aim to walk 15 minutes to a nice spot where you can set up a workout using a fitness app.”
If you prefer your walks to be tech-free, you could join the ranks become of those impressive people you see doing burpees in the park, or arm dips on benches.
3. Play walking bingo
“Before you set off for your walk, write down some things you might spot or do and try to tick them all off,” says Eliza Flynn, a pre- and postnatal fitness expert from wellness app Biamother . “This is a great way to enjoy your walk in an unusual way and gets you moving differently." If you have children or a housemate, ask them to draw up a list of challenges for you. Take a photo while you are out to show challenge completed.
Your list could include:
* Find a branch and hang off it for as long as you can
* Find a really good walking stick,
* Spot five (different) squirrels
* Identify four trees correctly,
* Run down a hill
* Walk through a puddle
4. Walk somewhere unknown
“Often when we set out for walks, we have an idea of where we’re going to walk," says Eliza. "Add spontaneity and excitement to your walks by taking different directions when you come to crossroads. You can make this fun; bring a die and pick different numbers and assign them to routes.” Obviously not ideal if it’s a lunchtime walk and you need to be back at your desk within the hour, but this sounds ideal for a weekend wander. You could also hop on a bus a few stops and walk back.
5. Download a walking app
Both live-stream exercise app Peloton and fitness studio Digme offer walking workouts as part of their subscriptions to jazz up your daily jaunt. If you love music, try Peloton's outdoor walking classes set to different playlists, varying in length, style and music genre. From a 20-minute '90s Fun Walk' or to a 45-minute 'Club Classic Power Walk' to a 30-minute 'Funk Fun Walk' or a 30-minute 'Hip Hop Power Walk'. Instructors guide you through the walk, which changes pace throughout, with motivational chat to keep you going.
6. Invite your friends virtually
While government regulations say we can currently only walk with one other person, you can make your 'online' walks more sociable by virtually inviting friends along. "On the Peloton app, you can set a time and have your friends join you on the app and swap metrics at the end," says Peloton instructor Rebecca Kennedy, who is director of Strength and Tread, the walking arm of the app. The app also has GPS tracking for the outdoor classes, so you can measure your distance along a map which tells you where you started, finished and time/distance splits for each mile. Outdoor metrics will also show your pace, distance and elevation. Peloton subscriptions cost £12.99 per month for the app.
Or you could just use the time to phone a friend, even make it a regular catch up.
7. Join a 'live' walk
Digme offers a ' Wake Up Walk ' series which is a feel-good, live-streamed 30 minute guided walk on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8am. The walk is guided by inspiration, music and the odd special ‘Walk and Talk’, where guests will join the conversation. Come rain or shine, the walk will be on; all you need is your headphones, mobile phone, a connection. If you're a subscriber to their streaming service Digme At Home membership the walks are part of the package or you can buy them as a one-off for £6.
8. Walk on different textures
Potentially difficult if you live in a big city and pounding the pavements is your main option, but Eliza suggests experimenting with walking across as many different textures and types of ground as you can, from fallen trees, to muddy puddles, to thick leaf blankets, it’s great for getting the small muscles in our feet moving and keeping this interesting.”