Fitness Articles

Choosing a Walking or Running Route

On the Road to Fitness

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Fitness can be incredibly simple. Sometimes, the most effective workouts don't need celebrity spokespeople or a payment plan. Walking and running are excellent ways to stay in shape year-round. These basic workouts are convenient, feasible almost anywhere, and require only a good pair of shoes- all you need is a place to go!

Depending on the time of year, as well as your fitness goals, you can map out a route to suit your needs. Some things to consider include:

The Scenic Route
Don’t underestimate the motivation of a scenic route—enjoying your surroundings will make your walk or run more fun, and keep you coming back for more. The variety of changing seasons and new routes are advantages of exercising outdoors, although practical considerations sometimes require some indoor workouts. Some research suggests that simply being outdoors, especially in more "natural" surroundings, has a positive effect on your health.

Look for routes that include green spaces such as parks, woodlands, and the countryside, as well as waterside walks along lakes, rivers, canals and the beach. In cities, look for tree-lined streets with interesting buildings, attractive public open spaces, and low traffic roads. You may even want to use a "promoted route," such as a bike path, that’s been designed for fitness pursuits and displays distance increments for you.

To measure the distance you’ve gone on any route, consider using a pedometer.

Terrain Variety
Keep in mind that the most effective routes for walking/running are those with varied terrain: flat levels for a brisk but steady pace; gentle hills for a challenge; and steep slopes, which are more demanding on the way up and require better balance on the way down. Walking up a hill with 15% slope uses about a third more energy than walking on a flat surface, while walking downhill takes about the same energy as walking on level ground-- unless the hill is very steep, in which case your muscles must work harder to keep your balance.

Ground Surface
Contact with a poor ground surface is one of the five leading causes of injury for outdoor exercisers. The best surfaces for both walking and running are uniform, cushioned surfaces such as grass or loose granular tracks. Uneven, yielding or sticky surfaces, such as rough stony ground, mud, or sand, take more work and concentration, and will likely slow you down, especially if hidden by grass or other vegetation. Especially if you have bone or joint problems, you’ll want to avoid hard surfaces like asphalt, concrete, and rocky gravel. Minimize your risk of injury by wearing good quality shoes with proper cushioning, support, and traction for those slick spots.

Water Stops and Resting Places
When possible plan a route that has water stops: park fountains, spigots outside buildings, neighbor’s hoses, or your own. Consider an "out and back" circuit in your neighborhood that allows you to stop at home for a quick drink, or carry water with you. On hot, humid days, look for ways to get wet: pass through a sprinkler or splash yourself from a water fountain or tap.

Even experienced walkers and runners can sometimes use a rest; novice walkers even more so. Routes with seats, shelters, or café stops may be welcome respites that allow you to re-hydrate before you push on. If you’re working out in hot weather, you may also want to pick a shady route that’s cooler and provides protection from a broiling sun.

Safety
Last but not least, always consider safety. Avoid high-crime or deserted areas, but also look for areas that are not overly congested, either with cars or other types of traffic such as roller-bladers or cyclists. Wear light-colored clothes or reflectors so that drivers can see you, walk or run facing traffic, and use sidewalks whenever possible. Employ the buddy system—especially during the early morning and late evening hours.


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Member Comments

  • Good article great information .
  • I live in a rural area. I go walking with my daughter and my dog, but it is a pain having to deal with ticks. I hate the little buggers. My husband got really sick, and I can't help to wonder if one of these little buggers was the cause.

    When we don't feel like dealing with the ticks, we just head out to the schools track. Not as scenic, but it is worth not having to deal with ticks. At least with winter coming up, we can use the scenic route again.
  • I live in hilly Frankston a beach side area of Melbourne. I run down to the beach via a reserve filled with trails, bridges and stairs. I meet my wife often for a coffee at the end of my run at the beach. When I am feeling like a challenge I make a circuit of it by running back home. It is a challenging 50 minute + run. I love the run for its variety of road, bush and sea.
  • i live on a lake in a rural area. i have pretty much two route choices when I go out my door - north or south! The road is asphalt with no sidewalks or shoulders, but at least there is little traffic (except for summer weekends). There are a number of hills, so that puts some challenge into it. The best part is the lake view, the birds, and the occasional deer or fox.
  • For some reason I enjoy walking on rocky, uneven trails. I think it's the concentration needed to pick routes through the rock. I do use a walking stick on rocky and steep trails.
  • I enjoy walking period, but choosing a bridge to walk is awesome as you know the length you will be walking, the steep hill on both sides along with not having much traffic to cause you to stop in your tracks for lights to change. I will start hitting the bridge along with different terrains other than in the home.
  • MANISHVSHAH
    Yeh You are Right
  • The community where I live is remote without much traffic. My best part of my walking route is through the park where the walkways are rubbery. Wonderfully bouncy. My main concern is always animals that could present danger. No bathrooms though and if I need to I can go in the bush but prefer not to.
  • KZINRRET
    One thing missing in this article is bathrooms! I can carry plenty of water with me and seats are pretty easy to come by (even the ground works in a pinch), but I make sure all my routes have plenty of bathroom stops available. Nothing kills the enjoyment of a walk faster than a full bladder with no relief in sight!
  • HILLSLUG98239
    Few runners run on the sidewalks because concrete is harder on the joints than asphalt. I alternate between each side of the road because the surface isn't flat; the road crowns in the center, which means whichever leg is closer to the center of the road is a little "shorter." Switching between the two sides of the roads evens out the stress on the knees.

    BUT - I never run wearing headphones, I keep my ears "open" listening for cars, in low light I wear light colored clothing and something retroreflective, and I recognize it's my responsibility to be as visible as possible. I know how much it upsets me to get "spooked" by someone who's wearing dark clothing and who doesn't appear to take their own safety seriously.
  • "use sidewalks whenever possible" ...my husband (DH) says that on his very early AM trips to work (dark out), he frequently comes close to joggers on the roads where there ARE sidewalks. They are running WITH traffic, and he feels like they are setting themselves up to get hit. What's the deal???!

    Out here on the rural roads, there are no shoulders, just ditches. It really isn't possible to get off the road every time a car goes by. Cars don't much give a care if there is a car going both ways. -- I find that walking with nordic poles seems to cause the cars to move over and give me space.
  • Portland Oregon has the Waterfront, has lot of Parks. some with Walking Trails and other places to walk. Get our and Enjoy the Nice Weather this Summer. God Blessings to Everyone. Have a Wonderful Week. Take Care. Hugs!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    !!!!!!


  • I have a lovely park with all the things mentioned...chang
    ing seasons, a lake, a river (with a walking bridge across it), lots of people to chat with, and it is just a 2 mile bike ride away.
  • The article had many interesting tips. I live out in the country so to pick scenic routes to walk would mean me driving. I live on a street that is several miles long, flat & hilly that I can walk on when I don't have time to go somewhere.
  • I used to try walking 'every day' but found that I kept postponing throughout the day 'til it was too late!!! Then I joined a MEETUP group and now have walking buddies - sure makes the walk enjoyable. We walk daily at 8:30 am for an hour - home by 9:45. Also found a Meetup Nordic group and walk on Saturday morning with them.

    There are many meetup groups out there - or maybe start you own!


About The Author

Rebecca Pratt Rebecca Pratt
A freelance writer who contributes to various newspapers and magazines, Becky loves covering ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

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