When Gary D. Yanker wrote The Complete Book of Exercise Walking, he probably had no idea that he would start a fad moving 50 million Americans, or solve a serious problem for a friend of mine.
My friend was having (like many military training organizations), a continual loss of manpower due to injuries during the training period. The vast majority of the injuries were caused by running, jogging, double time and sprints. Improper warm-ups and cool-downs before and after high-intensity exercises were also taking their tolls—the old “hurry up and wait” aspect.
I suggested that double-time, jogging, running, sprinting and over-eating be replaced by walking, some double time, a few sprints, and less calorie intake by the trainees. My friend nearly fell from his chair.
Walking my way to life
My own experience with walking exercising and proper dieting has taught me that physical fitness, by young or old, is not just a dream. I quit smoking, began dieting and lost 33 pounds in 12 weeks. I have gained only two back in two months, both of which I wanted to regain to meet my original minimal weight requirements.
However, before starting any change of lifestyle which involves physical exercise, food intake or nutrient supplement, one should always first consult their doctor.
Walking is the almost perfect means of exercise for all ages. A walker doesn’t have to be overly muscular, have an abundance of stamina or be a lettered athlete from a “Big 10 Conference” university. A major factor in becoming a walker is persistence, especially if one wants to lose weight, build a stronger body, develop stamina, and feel really good.
Doctors and fitness experts say that walking is the healthiest form of exercise, requiring the least effort and having the fewest dangers. Walking will keep the legs, hips, waist, buttocks and bowel movements in good order, all of which makes the long hours of walking worthwhile.
It’s true that jogging, running, swimming and biking can provide the same health effects, but also many problems. About one in five joggers is forced to quit due to injuries to the ankle, knee or lower back. These were some of the problems my friend was having with his trainees.
Starting a walking exercise program may also correct body problems related to blood fats, heart disease, coronary-artery disease, hypertension, oxygen intake, physical endurance, stress and tension, appetite, circulation, varicose veins, tension headaches, blood clots, osteoporosis, arthritis and posture.
There are several walking techniques, and some say as many as eight or nine. I won’t argue the point. How one walks is their decision. I attempt to walk as fast as possible, swing both arms in a pumping motion, lifting both feet as high as possible (without looking like I am marching) and for as long as necessary to complete my exercises or just to go from one point to another.
According to Yanker, one mile of brisk (3 ½ -4 MPH) walking will burn up approximately 100 calories. The mile should take approximately 15 minutes to walk. Thus, if you walk for a full hour, you would cover about 4 miles and burn nearly 400 calories, based on a 180-pound bodyweight.
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The trainees which my friend was working with found the walking to be a lower bodybuilding exercise and a rapid method of removing a lot of “baby” fat. In the nine weeks of basic outdoor skills, most of the trainees lost the extra weight, even though their calorie intake remained normal.
In military training situations, it has been found that smaller-bodied people tend to be more prone to leg injuries than the heavier peoples of the world, especially after weight loading the field packs. Although my friend’s trainees were young, the entire walking exercise program did not produce a single casualty.
Conversely, a second group of similar size and age trainees that continued the normal military-type training had the usual 20 percent casualties. Three men failed to complete the training, whereas the walking group had 100 percent of graduates.
Most people, especially over the age of 50, start their walking-exercising program off with casual strolls for a few minutes each day. Over a few weeks, the time of walks, the distance, and speed increase.
As you become stronger, you may want to change your style of walking. A more vigorous gait or arm swing will increase calorie burn-off. It will also help trim the waist and stomach, plus aid in buttock reduction and muscle tone of just about every muscle in the body.
Just when you think you are ready to walk around the world, add a few pounds of extra weight to your feet, arms and/or back. It is like starting all over again … but somewhat easier on the body.
I do my exercise walking wearing the heaviest hiking boot I own, ankle weights of two and one-half pounds each, dumbells of 6.6 pounds each in each hand and a day pack or fanny pack weight loaded up to 50 pounds.
By walking for one hour at approximately four miles per hour, I can burn off nearly 500 calories this way.
Extra weight-loading, calisthenics, and sprints should later be included in your program, but only after several weeks of body conditioning. Like any exercise program, the best results come from long hard hours, not short bursts of fast exercising.
Give your body a chance to adapt to your new life activities. Overexertion, in the beginning, can easily be the beginning of the end.
One major advantage walking has over most exercises is that a real warm-up is not needed for the simpler forms of walking. If you want to walk to the corner grocery for the exercise, you need not perform a 10-minute warmup.
However, should you plan a 10-mile, weight-loaded type walk, a warm-up is very much needed to prevent leg cramps and soreness. Before any high-intensity exercise, I do a few warm-up exercises such as wall push aways, sit-ups, push-ups, running in place (2-3 minutes) and leg muscle stretches.
After completion of the walking exercises, I repeat the warm-up exercises in a slower motion. This helps the blood settle down at a controlled speed, rather than being dropped off all at once. People have been known to pass out from failure to cool down properly after tennis or hard walking.
Equipment for walking
Unlike most sports or exercise programs, walking can be done very inexpensively if that is what you want. Dress for the weather, wear soft-soled shoes, good socks and a hat if desired. These are the basics and all you will actually need.
Where and when possible, I always wear shorts or bush pants, a T-shirt, good polypropylene wool socks and a comfortable hiking, walking or field boot.
Some walkers will wear a sweatsuit regardless of the temperature. Working up a sweat doesn’t mean you are getting in shape or losing that extra weight. Keeping your body cool is better for you and will keep everything functioning at peak performance. If the body gets overly warm, it tends to slow down.
For rain walking there is nothing on the market better than a rain suit. I always have a rain suit attached to my fanny pack or in my ruck. The light-weight fabric keeps the rain and winds out, yet permits the body condensate to evaporate to the outside.
Plastic or PVC laminated suits must be continually ventilated when walking in them, or you get just as wet inside as you do outside.
During the winter months, your exercise walking program should continue, regardless of weather conditions. Some people go to the local mall or gym and walk around in the controlled heat. An excellent method of keeping the winter fat away, but I prefer the outside, regardless of temperature or conditions.
Having spent more than one year in the Arctic. I learned that cold is not as cold as you think, if properly dressed. The main factor is to dress in such a fashion that you do not become overheated during the walking sessions. If you make the mistake of over-dressing, you will spend a lot of time un-zipping and un-snapping, zipping and snapping and sweating and cooling.
The colder months actually are worse than the hot ones, to me. In the coldest months, I usually wear a 100 percent Wool Navy Watch Cap or 100 percent Wool Jeep Cap, hooded sweat short, T-shirt, sweat pants, two pair socks: one poly-pro, one 100 percent wool, leather walking/hiking boots and if needed, my rain suit. Mittens and gloves are worn if called for.
Being a highway or road walker, I must contend with moving traffic. I walk against the traffic, which gives me time to react if the oncoming vehicle doesn’t see me. I wear a bright orange vest or bright yellow jacket when walking on the sides of the road.
Keep alert, as some drivers tend to aim at you once their eye catches your movement. Planned trails and old abandoned railroad tracks are much safer than highways. Backtrail and roads can be hazardous as well, from both man and animal.
When I travel on foot, I usually carry a small-caliber handgun. I have found the lightweight Quickfire holster to be perfect for walking and backpacking. The handgun is not totally protected, but it is accessible. The left-or-right hand design and the multi-size frame holster is strong. Be sure of gun laws before “totin”‘ a gun into parks or certain states.
In case of a severe accident, be sure to have plenty of identification on your person or equipment. Most hikers carry driver’s licenses or some form of state I.D. Some wear the G.I. style Dog Tags and some attach cards or signs to their equipment. I must be nuts, as 1 do all of the above.
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A lot of walkers schedule their walking exercise just before the evening meal. A brisk 30 minutes to one hour walk helps reduce the desire to overeat. The fewer calories you take in before going to bed, the better, as far as I am concerned.
In the winter months, the late walk usually puts me out after dark. Security and safety must then be increased, even for us rural folks. I carry a small flashlight with a red lens. As I walk on public roads, I swing the light to let motorists know that I am present. Against a fast-moving “18 Wheeler,” it isn’t much, but at least it is something.
Other walkers carry large handheld lanterns (battery-powered) and/or larger flashlights. Just he sure and have some form of light if you are going to be out after dark: be it head or tail light.
One item that is always in my fanny pack or ruck, especially when I wear short pants, is a pair of gaiters. There have been plenty of times I have stopped to don the gaiters due to briars or known rattler habitats. My gaiters are made from heavy duck which may or may not stop a snake strike, but at least they are a reasonable defense. The briars and other “stick ’ems” fail to get to the legs. All rural walkers should carry a pair.
By getting the family or friends involved, walking can be more fun. It does get lonely out on the back roads when you walk alone. If the family or friends won’t join you, then they are the real losers.
As you prepare your body, your mind improves, too. I can assure you that you can solve a lot of problems as you walk and think. One person that I know carries a tape recorder to make notes of things he needs to do or say in his work.
He claims that walking is his best recall period and the best new idea time. I agree. As one of the trainees, I first mentioned, said to me, “I can do that train-ing again!” I never thought that about boot camp … did you?
This article has been written by James H. Redford MD for Prepper’s Will.
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