Walking is an effective exercise, but it’s easy to get into a rut with your routine. When you continue to walk for the same time and distance at the same intensity, your fitness is no longer challenged and you may no longer see results. This doesn’t mean you have to stop walking. Add some of these creative variations to your workout to get the heart pumping and to continue improving your fitness.
By varying your speed throughout your walk, you can boost calorie burn without overexerting yourself. Start at a leisurely pace, walk a little faster for 60 seconds, and then walk as fast as you can for 30 seconds to 60 seconds. Return to your leisurely place for 60 seconds and continue to repeat the intervals throughout your entire walk. If you’d rather not keep time, use landmarks for your intervals. For example, walk quickly to the stop sign and then recover until you get to the fire hydrant.
Alter your environment
A boring walk feels like it lasts forever and your lack of interest could slow you down to a shuffle. Choose walking environments that energize you or those that relieve your stress, and alternate where you walk to avoid boredom. Take time to investigate what types of walking environments you have access to. You might be surprised to find nature trails, beaches, paved trails around lakes, high school cross-country courses, and quaint downtown streets, which all provide enjoyable places to walk.
Find an incline
Whether you are on a treadmill or outside, increasing the grade on your course is a quick and easy way to increase the intensity. On the treadmill, instead of changing the speed during intervals, try increasing the incline. If you are outdoors, find a hilly route or stairs to instantly challenge your fitness.
Your workout doesn’t have to be limited to walking. A 30-to-45-minute walk provides a great opportunity to work in some strength training. Walk for 5 minutes, stop and do a set of lunges. Walk for 5 more minutes and do a set of bicep curls with an exercise band. Adding some different activities will make your workout go faster and you’ll have both your cardio and strength training completed in one session.
Beat your time
Turn your walks into a competition with yourself. Stick with the same course and distance for two weeks. Record your total time on your first workout. On each walk that follows, try to beat the time before it. Not only will you increase your pace and challenge your fitness, you will gain a sense of accomplishment from achieving your goal.
Committing to take your lunch to school or work every day is just one step in the right direction. Once lunch time arrives, the meal needs to be appealing so that you won’t pass on it in favor of going out, and it should also be balanced in nutrients to keep your energy up throughout the afternoon. Here are a few tips to help you pack a healthy lunch that you will enjoy eating.
Pack a filling meal.
Taking a small lunch in an effort to save calories is a plan that can backfire. Your hunger may overwhelm you soon after the meal. Take enough food so that you feel comfortably full after eating. Choose foods that supply protein, fiber, and healthy fat. They will take longer to digest, keeping you full and satisfied. They will also help to sustain energy levels longer than a meal filled with simple carbohydrates.
Include something new in your lunch at least once per week. Try an exotic fruit or splurge on a infused-olive oil for your salad. Eating healthy food should be something you look forward to. Adding variety to your meals makes you less likely to be tempted by unhealthy options.
Keep it balanced.
As you pack your lunch, keep a mental list of all of the components of food that benefit your health -- protein, carbohydrates, fiber, healthy fat, vitamins, minerals, and plant phytochemicals. Select combinations of foods that will supply all of these beneficial nutrients. The more balanced your meals, the greater your food variety and the more nourished your body will be.
Include some foods that will help satisfy cravings and keep you from mindlessly snacking throughout the afternoon. Include a small square of dark chocolate or a mixed fruit salad for dessert. Instead of chips, satisfy your craving for something crunchy and salty with lightly salted air-popped popcorn or roasted chickpeas.
Make it interesting.
Most importantly, pack a lunch that you want to eat. A bland salad may make you feel like you are being good, but if you don’t enjoy it, a coworker’s offer to split her high-calorie take-out may be difficult to pass up. Pack food that is interesting and appealing. If you want to stick with a salad, dress it up with shredded cabbage, bok choy, fresh fruit, beans, colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes, and sunflower seeds. If you feel like you are in a lunch rut, try some of these ideas.
Cucumber and watermelon are refreshing summer ingredients, but they also have a high water content that helps keep you hydrated. This salad combines the two with fresh mint for an easy and delicious side dish.
Yield: 4 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
2 cups cubed seedless watermelon
½ cup diced Persian cucumber
5 to 6 mint leaves, finely chopped
1/8 tsp fine ground sea salt
Place the watermelon and cucumber in a medium bowl. Add the mint leaves and salt, and stir to mix all ingredients. Serve at room temperature or well-chilled.
Nutrition information for 1 serving: Calories 25; Total Fat 0.2 g; Saturated Fat 0 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 74 mg; Carbohydrate 6.3 g; Fiber 0.6 g; Sugar 4.9 g; Protein 0.6 g
The foam roller is a dense cylinder-shaped piece of foam used to give muscles a mini-massage with big fitness benefits. Foam rolling muscles lengthens and stretches the muscle, increasing blood flow.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, recent research shows that regular foam rolling can help decrease muscle soreness and improve range of motion. A reduction in muscle soreness may increase the likelihood that a person will stick with an exercise program. Improvements in range of motion (flexibility) may improve exercise form and overall performance. Research also shows that foam rolling can help prevent injuries.
Foam rolling can be used for myofascial release, which is a deep massage technique that reduces muscle tension by breaking down scar tissue and adhesions that form in the muscle. The tissue and adhesions can be caused by regular exercise, but they also develop due to stress, overuse, or low levels of physical activity. Foam rolling may also help relieve the pain associated with common conditions like IT band syndrome and shin splints.
The foam roller can be used to massage most muscles including the upper back, quadriceps, inner and outer thighs, hamstrings, and calves. It’s important not to jump into foam rolling without some instruction. Massaging a muscle with the foam roller isn’t always comfortable, but it is important that you perform it correctly so that you achieve the mild discomfort that works the muscle and do not risk aggravating injuries.
If you plan to use the roller at a gym, ask a trainer to provide basic instructions and evaluate whether you are performing the moves correctly. If you purchased your foam roller for home use, read the instructions carefully and review exercise examples or DVDs that are included. You can also seek out instructional videos or articles online from accredited fitness organizations like the American Council on Exercise.
Making it a part of your exercise plan
Foam rolling should be an addition to your workouts and not replace other components of your fitness plan. Warm up, cool down, and stretching exercises are all still important. Foam rolling should be incorporated with these activities to stretch and massage the muscles further and to reduce muscle soreness, help improve mobility, and reduce the risk for future injuries.
Sodas and other high calorie drinks increase the calories of your meal without giving you the enjoyment of eating food. A 20-ounce soda contains about 260 calories and a large sweetened iced tea contains 220. If you get refills, those numbers will climb. What’s worse is that they are consumed mindlessly while eating so it is easy to lose track of how many calories you have consumed. Focus on your food during meals and drink water. If you really enjoy sodas or sweetened iced tea, enjoy them in moderation as a treat and not as something to wash down food.
Choose an appetizer or dessert, not both.
It’s tempting to go all out at your favorite restaurant, but ordering three or four courses leads to too much food and calorie overload. Decide which is more important to you and choose one or the other. Doing so will save you at least 100 calories and more likely 300 to 500.
Pick the salad bar.
While buffets are usually frowned upon for portion control, a salad bar can help you enjoy a healthier meal. Make your own salad and add extra vegetables and protein sources like beans. Having control over the dressing is also a good way to save calories. The ladles on the bar usually hold from two to six tablespoons with the average ladle holding four. Stick to half a ladle and you’ll save at least 100 calories for most dressings.
Steer clear of casseroles.
Restaurants provide a variety of side dishes and often at least one plain vegetable. Choose these steamed veggies instead of vegetables that have been added to an au gratin or casserole. Pick the steamed broccoli over broccoli casserole as a side, and you can save over 150 calories.
Substitute your sides.
Even if it costs you an extra dollar or two, substituting a healthier side is always a good option. Ordering a plain baked sweet potato instead of sweet potato fries saves as much as 460 calories depending on the restaurant. Swap a side salad for those fries and you’ll save that much too, assuming you go easy on the dressing.
Leave off the sauce.
A sandwich can be a healthy option, but it’s not uncommon for a large sandwich to be topped with ¼ cup of sauce or dressing. Ask for thousand island dressing, cheese sauce, barbecue sauce, or ranch on the side. This way you can add just a little for flavor and not drown your dinner. A ¼-cup serving of thousand island dressing has 220 calories. If you add just a tablespoon, you will save 165 calories.
Take off the top bun.
Specialty rolls like croissants, bagels, ciabatta, and hoagie buns can be loaded with calories. For example, a ciabatta sandwich roll contains 340 calories. Take off the top bun, eat your sandwich open-faced, and you will cut your meal by 170 calories.
Choose vegetarian versions carefully.
Some veggie sandwiches, burgers, and pasta dishes provide healthier choices, but don’t assume that just because it is vegetarian that it is healthy. These foods can contain the same sauces, cheeses, and buns as those with meat. For example, a grilled portobello burger contains 540 calories. Order the sauce on the side, leave off the cheese and take off the top bun and you can save well over 100 calories.
Mentally portion your meal.
Restaurant portions are large, and while choosing a half order or a lunch portion will help, when this isn’t an option you are left to control portions yourself. Get familiar with what one ounce of meat or one serving of pasta looks like. Use this to mentally portion your meal so you know how much food is too much. If the so-called individual pizza you order contains 1000 calories and you divide it into quarters, you’ll save 250 calories by only eating three quarters of it and saving the rest for leftovers.