An Interval Plan to Get in Shape
It's well known there are numerous benefits to walking as a form of regular exercise. In an increasingly sedentary world that often keeps us at our desks, in our cars or on the couch, opportunities to get out and walk do not always easily fall into our daily routines.
Any exercise is good exercise, but unless it becomes a healthy habit our bodies don't reap the benefits. When it comes to the mechanics of our bodies, a "move it or lose it" attitude needs to be applied, particularly as we age. If those muscles and joints don't get the regular conditioning they require, then something as simple as walking can one day become a struggle. A decrease in stress and a boost in mental capacity (studies suggest regular exercise protects the brain from degenerative diseases of the mind like Alzheimer's) are some additional benefits of exercise – better than a crossword puzzle and less frustrating.
A walking routine can get a great boost with the addition of intervals of vigorous hiking or moderate running. New Hampshire is home to endless trails and other terrain suitable for exceptional workouts in nature. Depending on where you live your backdrop might include fields, mountains, forests or oceanfront. And you don't have to log lots of miles to reap the rewards of running. Getting the heart rate up at regular intervals throughout a walk or hike by jogging or running is great for the whole body and adds a new challenge to an otherwise ordinary workout.
June is the perfect month to get outside and into nature, enjoy the summer weather and a whole new, super-charged workout routine.
June 1-7 is "Walk New Hampshire Week" during which numerous walks and programs are held throughout the state in an effort to promote walking as part of a healthy lifestyle for residents of NH. Check out walknh.org for more information about how you or your group can get involved in this program.
While a good walking/running routine won't require an investment in tons of gear, a great shoe is essential if you are going to keep up with your workouts in comfort.
The low-profile and very durable Newton Momentum ($149) gets high marks as a great all-terrain shoe, suitable for walking, hiking and running wherever your feet take you. It's made of mostly recycled materials for those green-conscious consumers.
The Nathan Speed 2 Energy Belt ($44.99) is a convenient hydration pack to have when walking and running. It holds two, 10-ounce flasks and has storage for snacks, keys or other essentials.
The Athleta Energy Tank ($69) is a great all-sports top with extra support for the running portion of your hikes or walks. It's sleek, stylish and will move right with you. It features a rear zip pocket to stash keys or other small items.
Ideal for warm weather activities, the Brooks Sunshield Visor ($18) keeps both sweat and the sun's rays out of your eyes, and allows the top of your head to breathe.
Expert Advice with Danielle Fischer
Danielle Fischer is a category 2 USA Road Cyclist and triathlete, and has completed numerous cycling and running races, including five marathons and two ultra marathons, taking first place overall at the TARC Fall Classic Marathon in 2011. She's a former US Airways flight engineer and lives in Merrimack with her husband Curt and their four children.
Where are some of your favorite spots to exercise?
My favorite place is the Milford rail trail, which goes from the Oval all the way to Brookline. It's not technical, only a few roots and there are not a lot of climbs. It's mostly pine needles underfoot and it feels great. Mine Falls Park feels like an old shoe because it's so comfortable. Horse Hill Preserve is so close to me but not as comfortable. It has lots of turns and switchbacks.
What's the best method for incorporating running intervals into a walking routine?
I think hiking/running intervals are a great workout and really anyone can do them. If you are new to hiking, I would say start off with one minute of hiking then jog for one minute, alternating the two for, say, 30 minutes. That would be 15 minutes of running, which is great for beginners. Then try increasing the time running to two minutes with a two-minute hike recovery, then three minutes and so on. Maybe someone who is moderately fit can use just a 50 percent recovery, i.e. five-minute run, 2:30 hike; 10-minute run, 5 minute hike; and build from there. Pay attention to your breathing and you will find the intervals will come naturally. Once the breathing feels comfortable, it's time to go again. If it's a hilly course then run the flats and hike the hills as you would speed walk. Pumping the arms and taking smaller steps up the grade of the hill makes it more comfortable and you gain ground quicker.
For an extended outdoor hike/run, what sort of gear should you have on hand?
Obviously, here in NH you don't know what weather you'll get so you really need to plan for it. I would go with shorts; legs need to be able to breathe and they heat up quickly. I hiked in L.L. Bean wool socks this summer when I hiked the Presidential Range and they worked well for me; no blisters and I am prone to hot spots. I highly recommend a pair of New Balance 100s. They are lightweight, minimalist shoes with a rock-stopper plate in the sole. Layers for the top if it's cooler because you can always shed them and put them in your pack. I recommend a Nathan's or Zombie runner hydration pack. First of all it's easy to carry anything on your back, they are comfortable to run in and they have netting and compartments where you could store a windbreaker, snacks, hat or gloves. A sun visor for warmer temps, bug spray with Deet, a small tube of Vaseline in the event you start to develop a hot spot anywhere, a watch and cell phone. And lastly, always carry food with you – anything that has sugar, protein and carbs.