Summer is just around the corner and the days of finding excuses not to walk are almost over. As spring is now upon us and the first rays of sun are beginning to find their way through the clouds, the time has come to get outdoors and start walking.
Magazines, newspapers and websites are full of the health benefits of walking. According to the Heart Foundation of Australia; hitting the footpath promotes healthier blood pressure and blood cholesterol, builds stronger bones and muscles, reduces your risk of heart attack and some cancers and helps to manage your weight. Holistically, walking can aid relaxation, clear your mind and provide a sense of achievement. After a stressful day at work, a walk helps to distance your working day from your personal life and can improve your mood.
The Wynn Vale Dam walk travels from Wynn Vale to Valley View along a sealed linear trail. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Walking is the most convenient and inexpensive fitness activity. All you need is shoes, sun protection, somewhere to walk and the motivation. Getting started on a spring day is easy, continuing when the weather is colder can be hard, but in addition to the health benefits, walking can provide opportunities to see places in a different way using two feet instead of four wheels, meet new people and connect with those you already know while experiencing the outdoors together.
The Little Para River Trail is a combination of sealed and gravel paths, although some think the river is more appropriate on a hot day. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
To get you ready for summer, here are my top ten tips:
Prepare to walk
If you are just starting out walking, returning after a break or injury, it's a good idea to first check with your doctor or health practitioner before you get started. Get the right shoes, well fitted comfortable sneakers for walking or hiking boots for hiking, are essential to avoid injuries and allow you to enjoy your walk. Look for shoes with high quality uppers of leather or breathable mesh to encourage moisture wicking. The brand and type of shoe will depend on your feet and your activity, so visit a reputable sports/outdoor store for a professional fitting. Appropriate and comfortable clothing is also important.
Sometimes the walking trail has unexpected obstacles. Norton Summit. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
It's important to walk in surroundings that you enjoy. For some, that is a linear park walk on a sealed trail like the River Torrens Linear Park Trail, which travels from the Athelstone to Henley Beach or the Little Para River Trail through the suburbs of Salisbury. Others prefer a coastal walk such as the Coast Park Trail from North Haven to Sellicks Beach. The advantage of the Linear Walking trails, is that you can start, stop and turn around at many points on the trail, so as you build up your fitness level and when daylight saving comes into play, you can venture a little further. Most local councils provide a list of walking trails on their website, check it out to find a trail near you. If you prefer to try a bushwalk, there are many short walks to begin what might become a new hobby. Try Morialta or Black Hills Conservation Parks in the North or the Sturt GorgeCleland or Hallett Cove Conservation Parks in the South.
Nasty Hill walking trail is a great trail to try if you are new to bushwalking. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Whether your companion has two legs or four, walking with a friend provides motivation and a commitment to walk. If you have small children, there are plenty of stroller friendly walks around Adelaide to introduce your littlies to the great outdoors. If you don't have a walking companion, take your camera or smart phone, there are some beautiful and amusing things to photograph and share with your friends and family.
Make daily appointment with yourself
We all lead busy lives with competing deadlines, it is easy to find excuses not to walk, so make your health and fitness a priority. Develop a routine and if you miss a day, don't let that be a reason to ruin your routine, it happens, start again tomorrow.
Moralita Falls Conservation Park has easy and difficult walking trails in a bush setting. The walk from the car park to First Falls in a scenic easy, dog friendly walkPhoto: Hazel Cochrane
In this technological age, with the abundance of smart phones, there are many free Apps such as Map my Walk, Walk Diary or Runkeeper, which can provide the motivation and accountability to keep you on track. Some Apps, talk to you as you walk, providing details of your distance, pace and calorie burn, others count steps quietly in the background. Some provide GPS maps of your completed walk. Alternatively, you can invest in an activity monitor such as a Fitbit, Garmin Vivofit or a basic pedometer. These have become very popular and are proving to be great motivators. How many times have you heard a work colleague or friend, commenting on their step count and the need to reach 10,000 steps. Whatever you choose, when your chosen technology reminds you that you need to get moving, get out of your seat and go.
Hallett Cove Conservation Park is part of the Marion Coastal Walk, The boardwalks are suitable for most fitness levels. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
If you walk on your own, the right music can make a dull walk into an amazing and motivating workout. Make yourself a playlist of your favourite up-tempo songs, songs that make you want to step up and move. Some Apps, such as Runkeeper allows you to select your playlist. There are even cordless earphones, so you will not have to worry about the cords as you walk.
A walk along the coast near the beach is a relaxing and energising. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
If you don't like to walk alone or want to venture out of your normal walking routine, there are many walking groups around Adelaide who welcome new members. If you are interested in bushwalking, try the Friends of the Heysen Trail who lead twilight walks and short bushwalks around the state. Check with your local council for walking groups.
Cape Jervis on the Heysen Trail, one of the longest and most beautiful walks in the country. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
A little competition can be fun and motivating. Some of the technology discussed in Point 6, provide the facility to take part in or issue challenges. Alternatively, you can join programs like Corporate Cup or start a challenge with your work colleagues or family members.
Sturt Gorge is a more challenging bush walk. with some steep sections and uneven surfaces. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Twice a year, on New Years Eve and the first sunny day in spring, many people decide to get fit. Often the result is sore muscles and a declaration that fitness is not for them. Start slow, especially if you are returning to walking after a break. Set realistic goals. As your fitness increases, try increasing the length of your walk, or decrease the time it takes you to do two laps of the block, incorporate some hill walking.
Set a realistic goal and reward yourself when you achieve it!
Your goal might be to increase your fitness, lose weight or walk the City to Bay. Whatever you goal, prepare, start slow, build and enjoy our environment while you get fit and fabulous for this summer.