Any type of meditation is really just the practice of being fully present and aware, says Webb. “Many times we don’t check in with ourselves and our needs, which can mean we’re spending too much time in our minds, worrying or stressed,” she says. “Take a moment to be grateful for what your body does for you. Your heart pumps blood, your legs and feet carry you from place to place, and your hands do labor. Mindful walking is a chance to return to ourselves, and this frees up energy to help us maintain positive perspectives in life.”
2. Set an intention.
Think about what you want your daily walk to be about. Do you want to use it as a time to reflect on your day? Is it an opportunity to think about what your body needs and wants? Or maybe it’s simply walking toward a goal, like making it a certain distance or trying a different route. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it; just be sure the intention is unique to you and leaves you feeling energized and inspired, Webb advises.
3. If you can, walk outside.
A treadmill is a great training tool, but getting outdoors is really important too, says Teddy Savage, head of health and excellence at Planet Fitness. It’s smart to walk further than the distance that you’re training for on some days, and this can be easier to do outside when you’re not staring at the mileage on a treadmill screen. Also,“outdoor walking forces you to deal with changes to terrain, like periods of uphill and downhill, which strengthens your muscles by working them harder,” he adds.
4. Listen to tunes.
Bopping to your favorite songs can help you walk better and breathe smarter. “Music, or even just humming a tune in your head, can be helpful when it comes to stride and even breathing,” says Savage.“Try to match your foot strikes and breaths to the rhythm. This helps ensure that you’re using your energy efficiently, which can lead to a better time or simply push you to finish.”
5. Or, just listen.
Pay attention to the sounds you encounter, tune in to your thoughts and emotions, or find a podcast that helps you channel the right message and energy for the day, says Webb: “Over time, and with practice, your awareness will expand to include more aspects of your body and your environment.”
6. Carry some weights.
Strength training is an important part of any exercise routine, walking included, so why not try bringing the weights from your living room to the sidewalk? “Carrying light weights while you walk can add a little extra challenge to your workout as well as help improve your arm swing so your legs aren’t doing all the work,” says Savage. Trying a weighted vest, if you’re interested, can boost your cardiorespiratory fitness (a.k.a. your endurance) to help you walk longer or faster. But don’t walk with ankle weights—these can mess with your gait, leading to potential injury, he says.
7. Add drills.
Spice up your walk by incorporating different forms of exercise such as power skips, walking lunges, side shuffles, hills, or intervals of power walking or sprints. “Adding these functional drills can help improve your performance by strengthening your muscles and loosening your hips, two things that propel you forward,” Savage says.
8. Find excuses to walk.
Tack on extra steps wherever you can, and don’t be afraid to get creative. Challenge yourself to walk up and down every aisle of the grocery store instead of heading straight to the one you need, walk or bike to the post office instead of hopping in the car, or volunteer to drag the trash cans out front on garbage night. Any movement counts!