I'm a HUGE fan of my outdoor walkies. Love, love, love them! But along with getting some much needed fresh air, sunshine, and all sorts of nature, I'm also burning calories and toning my entire body!
Don't give me the crazy eye. I know what I'm talking about . . . well, actually I know just enough to be dangerous, but that's another story. Yes, you too can tone your muscles without ever going to the gym! It doesn't take much, except a conscious effort to tighten your muscles while you walk. If you go to a gym, then you'll tone your body, but not quite in the same way, in my opinion.
I'll break it down for you.
PACE -- I tried jogging numerous times over my lifetime, but I can't do it. If it isn't my lungs (asthma), then I manage to injure myself because I jog too quickly (last time it was left groin and knee and right ankle). But I'm a quick walker. In fact, I've been known to walk as fast as some people jog. The one time that I went to the gym in the last 8 months, I comfortably walked at 4.0 mph, which is about a 15-minute mile. I didn't start off this fast, nearly, but not quite. If you have to start off slowly, then do it, but ALWAYS break a sweat when you are at the 10 minute mark. If your pits aren't sweating then you aren't trying hard enough! And you should be breathing a little more heavily than normal. Slowly increase your pace until your body is having to work hard, which in turn, burns calories.
TERRAIN -- A treadmill has one surface--a moving rubber mat. Period. Boring . . . An outdoor walk gives you a variety of terrain: asphalt, cement, gravel, grass, sand, dry leaves and plain old dirt. I don't know about your walks, but the path I follow isn't nice and even like a treadmill (boring). For the most part, I walk on asphalt, but it isn't level--most paths have a little bit of an angle away from the center to aid water drainage. The path I walk is cracked due to normal temperature issues. Cement has the same issues. Grass gives you a little more padding, but you have to deal with ruts, grass tufts and a variety of uneven textures. Sand, leaves and gravel move when you step on it. It slips and slides from under your feet, forcing your center CORE to compensate, which in turn, you tighten your muscles to keep from falling.
INCLINE/DECLINE -- Depending on the degree of incline/decline, your body will have to adjust to maintain a stable central point. When walking up a moderate incline, I tend to keep the same pace and stride length, but tighten my abs as my upper body tilts slightly into the hill. A steep incline will result in a shorter stride length with more thrust from your hamstrings and gluts on your uphill leg, while your quads (front part of thigh) will stretch on your downhill leg. Walking a decline forces you to tighten your gluts, abs and back muscles as your center of balance shifts to the rear.
WEATHER -- I will walk in heat, cold and wind, but I won't walk in rain unless I miss timed my walkies, or snow and ice, which is just dangerous. RE: rain--I'll try to time my walk in-between storms if at all possible, but I have walked in the rain with an umbrella before. Uh, it doesn't work so well when you add an Oklahoma wind to the equation. Rain, frost (on grass) and humidity will cause most surfaces to become slick, which adds another benefit to your walk as your body is constantly adjusting to balance. Wind is a big factor in your muscle toning. Walking into a strong headwind is the equivalent to walking up an incline. You tighten your abs as you angle your upper body into the wind. A tailwind will try to push your feet out from under you, so you lean ever so slightly backwards. And the fun one--sideways wind gusts. You're walking along minding your own business when a gust of wind tries to knock you sideways, you do a weird little sidestep as your body compensates for the wind.
These four factors can help you tone your muscles, but what about those days when you're on the treadmill or your walk is not exciting? That's when you think about your muscles as you use them.
1. Posture -- chin up, shoulders back, stomach tight. Be proud of who you are. And yes, at first everything will jiggle and wiggle, but by exercising those abs you will be toning and tightening your CORE.
2. Think about each step and tighten the appropriate muscles. Remember your thighs and gluts. They are the big muscles doing all the work--make them work a little harder by adding a little more thought into squeezing them. My butt 'shelf' used to talk to my jiggly tummy, but not any longer!
3. Carry an aluminium water bottle. My bottle holds three cups of water, which equals to 24 ounces, which equals to 1 1/2 pounds! Yes, you are toning your arms without realizing it!
And there you have it. You, too, can walk and tone without ever belonging to a gym or doing a bench press!