I Swapped My Intense At-Home Workouts for Walking for 2 Weeks — Here’s What Happened
Over the last year and a half, I’ve been able to establish — and maintain! — an at-home workout program that works (no pun intended) for me. And while it’s not an equipment-intensive routine, most of my workouts do benefit from 10- to 25-pound weights, which are the last thing I want to pack in a suitcase when I travel. So when I recently relocated for a month, I was also tasked with the challenge of finding ways to move my body in an efficient (and equipment-free) way.
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Then it dawned on me: What if, instead of following bodyweight circuits or high-intensity cardio sessions, I simply put on a pair of sneakers and… walked? If the main reason why I work out is to move my body and generate some feel-good endorphins, why couldn’t I use that time to take things all the way back to the basics?
So, in an effort to keep my fitness streak going without taking up too much space in my suitcase, I tasked myself to simply take a short walk every day for two weeks. Here’s how it went:
To start my mini challenge off on the right foot (OK, pun intended this time), I downloaded a few walking workouts on the Peloton app to keep me company as I moved. For the most part, I picked classes that were between 20 and 30 minutes, which felt like a doable length of time to be on the move, given my fitness level. (If you can, check with a doctor before starting a new fitness journey.) Following the cues through my headphones felt like listening to a podcast that was tailored specifically to me, and I appreciated when the instructor whose class I was streaming that day indicated we were at the halfway mark of the session so I could prep to turn around as needed.
I didn’t wake up with any soreness in my body like I sometimes do after a hard leg day or intense ab workout — and to be honest, I briefly missed that sensation of quality work. Even so, it’s possible to work out too much and too hard. “If you’re always sore, your body isn’t repairing properly,” Nike trainer Joe Holder told Health in 2017. “Recovery only happens when your muscles and nervous system get the nutrients and rest they need to adapt to fitness.” With that in mind, I laced up my shoes and headed out for my second walk of the challenge.
It can be all too easy to write walking off for its simplicity — but walking is an incredibly effective workout, especially if you interrogate what you mean when you call a workout “effective.” Did it get your heart rate up? Did you move your body for even a short amount of time? Did it help clear your head or help you work through an issue? Then you should feel empowered to chalk that up as a job well done. I was reminded of this when I thought my way through a knotty work issue while on my walk, and felt strong in a way that had nothing to do with upping my weight threshold for bicep curls (though that’s a great feeling, too).
By the time the one-week point rolled around, I was surprised to realize that I looked forward to my daily walks. (Just call me one of those moms in a yogurt commercial!) It was dedicated me-time, and while I certainly missed some of the more traditional modalities I’d gotten used to over the past year, I was already feeling excited and energized to return to them once I traveled back home.
You probably already know this, but let me just remind you: Walking can be tough! During the class I followed on day 8, the instructor asked us to increase our speed as we conquered a hill (either on the treadmill, or in the area where each viewer was walking). The combo sufficiently made me break a sweat, and my calves were pleasantly sore the next day. It was a much-needed level up.
The Rest of the Challenge
By the time two weeks wrapped, I learned a few things about my walking habits and preferences. First, I realized that while walking to the corner store certainly counts as part of a walking workout, I prefer to carve a few minutes each day to the task itself. Second, I found that by mixing my workouts up with walking classes, listening along to my own playlists, and even calling friends for a virtual walk-and-talk session, I rarely got bored (even if I was walking the same path more often than not).
I’m by no means going to abandon my living-room workout routine entirely, especially because walking and lifting weights often recruit different muscles in the body in different ways. Even so, the challenge was a good reminder of how beneficial walking can be, especially if it’s done intentionally. I’ll definitely be adding more walking sessions into my routine as either rest-day activities or workouts on their own, especially if there’s a hill.