To plan a walk

If you want to get the most out of walking, a little forethought can go a long way. I used to walk my dog in a loop around my house for two thirds of a mile and call it good enough. Life was busy and this fifteen-minute daily routine seemed adequate. Now my husband teases me when I pity the couples I see striding curbside, and he asks if I want him to pull over to give them advice. I have yet to take him up on his offer, but I will post some notes here.

Tip number one: with a little effort you can find some great spots to walk within a very short drive of your home. Take a look on google maps and use the various overlay settings to find trails. Anything that is highlighted in green is usually a park or nature setting. Often there are paths along waterways from simple streams to the likes of the Mississippi River. A little sleuthing will guide you to a much nicer environments than the pavement outside your front door.

When you first take up walking it’s a hard to get a sense of distances and just how long of a walk you want to tackle. Perhaps you start with a twenty-minute commitment, which is about a mile. If there are no obvious loops, you can always walk along a scenic path in one direction and simply turn back to where you’ve parked your car. Before you know it one mile won’t seem like enough and you’ll be able to extend the length of your walk. We like three miles as we can get it done in a little less than an hour and come away feeling like we got some exercise.

It is quite useful if you have a watch which tracks your distance. I recommend keeping track of all your jaunts in the beginning, before you have a set routine. It’s easy to forget or making excuses to cut it short. Measuring is a great way to keep on track and feel good about what you have accomplished. There are a variety of apps that do this as well. I think Run Keeper offers options for running or walking, for instance.

Discovering new trails is one of the best parts. You have to open to a disappointment when trying something new, in case it doesn’t pan out, but more often than not you discover a delightful new path through mature oaks or sugar maples. It was always in your back yard, and you didn’t even know it.