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Would walking get in the way of a workout?
September 3, 2014 10:44 AM   Subscribe

A friend of mine started walking about an hour a day earlier this year, and now, 6 months later, says he has lost the enthusiasm to start his other anaerobic workouts.

Up until early this year he was doing a non-aerobic workout 5x weekly, alternating arms and legs. He was using one of those rubber bands workout sets, dumbbells, a pull-up bar, and doing pushups. He has a thick notebook with all of his exercises recorded for a year and a half. But it's tapered off to zero over the last 6 months as he's been walking more and more.

We're trying to figure out: Is the walking getting in the way, or is he just subconsciously sick of his workout routine, or what? The walking has done a lot for him, but he says his upper body and abs are noticeably weaker. But when he goes to work out, he just can't find the energy or motivation.

His walks are pretty good exercise, with a couple good uphill sets. He's afraid of reversing the gains if he backs off. He's very stiff when he gets back and usually feels pretty tired afterwards. I think he gets about 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
posted by circular to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm having a hard time figuring out how an hour of walking could sap one's energy for doing core and upper body work.
posted by entropone at 10:54 AM on September 3 [2 favorites]


Sure it could; if he's tired from his walks, it would naturally follow that he has less energy for his other workouts.

The obvious think to do would be to decrease the walking time or intensity, unless I am missing something else.
posted by bearette at 10:56 AM on September 3 [3 favorites]


I'm having a hard time figuring out how an hour of walking could sap one's energy for doing core and upper body work.

I'm not. An hour of walking briskly, plus hills, could certainly make sometime physically tired.
posted by bearette at 10:57 AM on September 3 [4 favorites]


Well, walking is lovely. You get to be outside, you're seeing things, breathing fresh air. You're moving forward, which feels nice in itself, and you have maybe a distance goal.

Most gyms aren't as pretty as parks, and unless you're engaged in a program with goals built into it or are performance minded about lifting, picking things up to put them down again might feel like a drag (especially compared to hiking up a beautiful green hill). Or if your friend got a little obsessed with the earlier workouts, the walking might feel freeing.

What about doing strength stuff outdoors (using trees, benches, etc.)?
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:05 AM on September 3 [2 favorites]


Is your friend wearing athletic shoes and stretching before and after? If he feels stiff after, good stretching is key.

Is he listening to music/podcasts/generally having fun during the walk or is he muscling his way through it? Part of it could be mental -- if he's used up his workout willpower already he won't want to do other exercises.

An hour of brisk "workout-style" walking up and down hills *per day* with no rest days ever sounds like a lot, in my opinion. What if he started taking 1-2 days off per week to see what it did to his energy level? He's worried about losing gains -- sometimes, with specific muscle groups, less is more. A well-rested body is more likely to gain strength than a tired body.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 11:24 AM on September 3


Oh and -- is he drinking enough water and eating enough carbs (if he eats carbs), protein & veggies? You didn't mention if he had changed his diet. Sometimes restricting calories over a long period of time can lead to constant low-level exhaustion. And he's probably sweating during his walks but may not notice and rehydrate.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 11:35 AM on September 3


After an injury sidelined me, I went from being a tennis nut to walker and hiker and never looked back. I found walking energized me more than tennis did, cleared out mental stress and cobwebs better, and so much more. The fresh air, the sky, nature, light, the seasons, and the fact that I could just walk out the door became like food and water to me--something I craved and needed. People would ask: "How many miles do you do?" Or: "How long do you go out?" I never measured the experience that way and just walked--sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes uphill, and sometimes not. Walking helped me be more creative, productive, and more at peace with myself. Hiking may be the next level of exercise for your friend if you live in a hikeable area.

During the recent gawdawful winter when walking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing were difficut, I forced myself to go to a gym for the first time in my life. The many kinds of exercise I did there at fairly high levels did not compare to the benefits I got from walking. So maybe your friend just finds walking gives him back more than he got from more structured exercise. BTW, I do yoga and weight lifting at home in addition to walking. However, the idea of traveling to a "place" for exercise when the perfect place is right here or out the door seems absurd to me. So maybe your friend can set up some kind of upper body equipment he can do at home to add another dimension to his workout.
posted by Elsie at 11:48 AM on September 3 [3 favorites]


> The obvious think to do would be to decrease the walking time or intensity

I think he's concerned that the gains might not be worth the losses. The change from walking has been far more dramatic than the change from his other workout.

> What about doing strength stuff outdoors (using trees, benches, etc.)?

I asked him about this and said he did it before and it was fun, though embarrassing. Apparently he was doing pull-ups on a tree that shook a lot. He said he's going to try that again.

> Is your friend wearing athletic shoes and stretching before and after?

Yes on the shoes, but he doesn't do a lot of stretching before or after.

> Is he listening to music/podcasts/generally having fun during the walk or is he muscling his way through it?

He told me it really helps to listen to podcasts and he doesn't worry too much about walking speed. He regularly sees people walking much faster than he does, but he doesn't think he can keep up that kind of pace.

> What if he started taking 1-2 days off per week to see what it did to his energy level?

That's a good idea. I know he's concerned about getting off the fat-burning coaster but you're probably right that it might have a beneficial effect.

> You didn't mention if he had changed his diet.

I don't think he really has. What should he change? He does hydrate, from what I've seen. He eats stuff like cereal or pancakes for breakfast usually, a sandwich and fruit for lunch, and American variety-food for dinner, like last night I think they had some quinoa mexican casserole, but it's usually mexican or asian or e.g. burgers, etc. I don't think he thinks of himself as an athlete and I'm pretty sure he has no idea what to do except try to burn up the food he eats. He did mention that he is never sure if he should eat before exercise or not, and feels about the same either way--tired.

Thanks everybody.
posted by circular at 11:49 AM on September 3


Maybe he could do some of his old exercises before each walk. That way, he's not going to be too tired from the walking, and he can adjust the length of his walk to take into account any tiredness from the exercises. The walking will also act as a 'cool-down' after the push-ups, sit-ups, dumbbells, etc. Of course, he can probably restrict himself to upper-body and trunk exercises - the walking will do the rest.
posted by pipeski at 11:59 AM on September 3 [10 favorites]


If I were him, I'd take one or two days a week to do a resistance workout, and walk on the other days. Or I'd just forget about doing anything but walking until I felt a need to switch things up to keep my interest. If he's somewhere that the weather will be getting colder and nastier as we head toward fall, that may happen naturally. In any case, having a workout you enjoy enough to do consistently is way more valuable than having some perfectly balanced routine that bores you.
posted by Kriesa at 1:26 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


Yeah, if he's tired all the time, he may be overtraining. Everyone is different. I would say drop a couple of the walks each week and, if his energy goes back up, swap them with strength training. Cardio + strength training is supposedly the best combo for fat loss (with diet being the #1 factor).

Re: food, IANAN (I am not a nutritionist) but maybe he should check if he's eating enough protein. I don't do Paleo/Atkins any strict low-carb diet but one of the reasons a lot of athletes (and your friend is in this category if he's doing 1 hour of cardio every day!) like those types of diets is because the protein keeps them full and energized the way grains just don't. He could try adding a couple high-protein snacks a day - hard-boiled eggs, almonds - and seeing if that helps the energy level.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 1:39 PM on September 3


Thanks everybody!
posted by circular at 5:21 PM on September 3


If this were me, I wouldn't be so much physically tired as just mentally checked out... As in, "OK, I did some exercise, does that mean I can skip the gym, because the gym is boring?"... But it sounds like maybe he walks harder than I do.

Your buddy should look for a parcourse/exercise trail near where he lives.
posted by anaelith at 8:40 PM on September 4


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