Walking Guide

14 Ways to Add Variety to Your Walks

While a walking program can be exciting and challenging at first, you don’t want to fall into a rut by doing the same thing month after month. Here are some ways to add variety to your workouts, whether outdoors or inside on the treadmill.

Add an Incline
Even adding a moderate hill can significantly boost your energy expenditure so you burn more calories, build more strength, and strengthen your bones.
  • On a treadmill, start with the incline at 2% and add 1% every few weeks. Don't add so much incline that you have to hold on to the treadmill or can't maintain proper walking form. If that happens, bring the incline back down to a more comfortable level.
  • Outside, vary your route to include more hills. The change of route will keep you from getting bored, and the hills will increase the intensity of your workout.
  • Try incline intervals. Instead of walking up a steady incline the entire time, walk up a hill or incline for a few minutes, and then walk downhill (or at a lower incline) to recover for a few minutes. Repeat these intervals during your workout to keep things interesting.
Try Speed Walking
Pump your arms (at a 90-degree angle) vigorously as you speed up your pace. Your arms should move front-to-back and not side-to-side (commonly referred to as “chicken wings”). You can burn 5%-10% extra calories by adding this faster, more deliberate arm movement to your walks. Practice this technique over short distances until you can build up your time and speed, being sure to breathe properly the entire time.

Just Add Water
Walking in the water (waist high and above) is harder than it looks. The water’s resistance makes walking much more challenging. In turn, walking on land will feel easier if you also train in the water. Plus, water exercise is easy on the joints.
  • In the shallow end, try walking the length of the pool (don’t forget to use your arms). Go as quickly as possible for 10 seconds, then slower for a 1 minute recovery. Start with 5 sets and build from there, alternating forward and backward. Be sure to walk with proper form and allow your entire foot to strike the bottom of the pool from heel to toe.
  • In the deep end, strap on a flotation belt for water walking. You can do the same "bursts" described above or vary your routine depending on your ability and preference: Try more or fewer quick bursts, longer or shorter steps, changing directions, etc.
Change Your Stride
Experiment with different stride lengths during your workouts. Try shorter and faster strides or slower and medium-length strides. You can try entire workouts at a new stride length, or change it up every minute or two. Different stride lengths and speeds will challenge your muscles in different ways so you can keep seeing progress.

Take Your Dog
Fido will ensure you are walking at a good pace. For an average person (and dog), you're probably in your target speed range when your dog is "trotting" too. Be careful--if Fido tends to pull a lot, it might be dangerous for him. Get more information about walking with your dog.

Change Direction
People move forward, and walking is no exception. As long as you're careful and don't have any balance issues, walking laterally or even backwards can be a good way to add a little variety to your program. Sideways walking is probably easiest and poses the fewest risks. Keep your body facing in one direction and focus on the movement of your outer and inner thighs as you step to the side. Don't forget to go both ways (lead with the right leg, but don't forget to turn the other way to lead with the left leg, too). On the treadmill, try a very slow speed with 0% incline. You can hold on to the railings for support.
Vary Your Program
There are countless of simple ways you can change up your walking routine, from experimenting with different workout durations (short, medium or long), different workout intensities (low, moderate and high), and even different days of the week. The more you change things up, the better your results will be, even as you continue to get more fit.
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Member Comments

Enjoyed your blog Report
We live in the country and on a hill with a woods. I love to walk in the woods and listening to the various sounds made by the birds, chipmunks, etc.. When walking on the trails on our hill, I listen to music. Report
Where I live there is no hills. East coast of Florida has no hills Report
my neighborhood is filled with hills and if I do not want that there are semi-level walking trails to the north and south of me in town. always mixing it up. Report
I’m lucky with my environment. I have hills and shoreline to vary my route vertically without thinking about it. Also as I have several safe routes I have variety over the whole week Report
I like the tip about changing direction. I immediately thought backwards, but laterally would be easier. Report
Walk and walk more. Report
Bottom line, stay out of the rut. Do something different. Something as simple as walking the same route in the opposite direction totally changes your perspective of the things you walk past. Report
Great suggestions, Thanks Report
I walk different trails. Some paved and flat, others that go thru woods. Tried doing machine but much prefer outside challenge. Joined a health center but use it for the classes and water program as well as nutritional programs. Report
GREAT Report
Great ideas! Report
Great ideas! Report
I love my water workout days. I may not burn as many calories as on the elliptical but I surely feel the difference in the walk. Report
Love these ideas in this article. I walk everyday and most times do not think about how to vary my walk other than changing the direction I head out to. I realize that moving my arms helps to shape my arms and moving my arms faster gets my legs to move faster! All these ideas add to the joy of walking. Thanks Nicole, Cathy at Walkapocket Report
Walking Guide

About The Author

Nicole Nichols
Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.
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