How can I improve my (unusual) exercise regime?
March 28, 2010 8:01 PM   Subscribe

How can I improve my (unusual) exercise regime?

I really needed to get more exercise, I don't like gyms, and I have a child who I want to spend as much time as possible with.

My solution was to get up early and walk to work three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). It's about six and a half miles, and it takes me around two hours.

So I'm fairly happy with the solid, fairly low-impact exercise I'm getting, and I can feel the improvements: my legs are stronger, and the same amount of exercise makes me sweat, and pant, less as time goes on.

But I think I'm at a plateau, and I don't feel I've actually lost much weight or changed my appearance, which I rather vainly hoped I was going to happen. I've still got a beer gut.

So, assuming I keep up with this program, what should I do next? Try to jog part of the way? Vary the route to include more hills? Stop in a park on the way and do some sit-ups? Just try to speed up gradually? Walk every day with no rest days?

Like I said, I don't want the kind of exercise regime where I leave my family at home and go to a gym, I want to keep up my slightly unusual system. What are your suggestions?
posted by AmbroseChapel to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Either start jogging/running, or start biking the trip.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:11 PM on March 28, 2010

bike to work and then take a walk with with your family when you get home before or after dinner?
posted by katinka-katinka at 8:14 PM on March 28, 2010

Trying to get to work a little faster. Start walking faster, then jog a little, then run a little until you're running the whole thing will definitely help.

You don't mention the age of your kid but a good start would be taking walks with the kiddo. If the kid is too small for walking and in a baby buggy, that's OK too since you'll be getting a better workout pushing the kid around.
posted by birdherder at 8:14 PM on March 28, 2010

If you really want to change how your body looks, resistance training is really important. You could get a few exercise dvds you can use at home. Also, if you want to spend time with your child, you could get a Ninetendo Wii with some active games and play that with your child. There is a really fun walking game called Walk it Out which can be played with more than one player, you have to walk to accumulate points and then you spend the points unlocking things in the game like trees, buildings, new songs etc.
posted by JoannaC at 8:15 PM on March 28, 2010

Is your kid in school? Maybe you could ride him to school and drop him off?
posted by katinka-katinka at 8:15 PM on March 28, 2010

How old is the kid? My daughter and I go for bike rides several times a week. It's not a super tough work out for me since I'm keeping pace with her, but it does feel good to move around and I get to do it with her!
posted by serazin at 8:20 PM on March 28, 2010

Seconding the Wii for exercise with your child. Wii Sports Resort is captivating for young kids.

And though the question doesn't mention diet, I do have to think that if two hours of walking isn't showing results, it's time to look at the input side of the equation.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:26 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

consider a diet change. i went off of corn and wheat gluten and dropped 25 pounds in 6 months. i also cut out red wine and lost the pooch. i was exercising 3x/week, low-ish impact. the diet thing changed everything in regard to the gut.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:28 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Walk to the moon, but you know in order to reduce weight you'll need to burn more calories than you take in. Have you modified your diet?
I'd also say that a good ass-kicking hill will add the next big factor in your routine, and will move you off your plateau.

Congratulations on your results so far.
posted by artdrectr at 8:31 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

also, if you are female and have the gut, consider getting checked for fibroids
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:34 PM on March 28, 2010

How about carrying some dumbbells during your walk, swing your arms... I've seen people jogging while carrying around a length of rebar [gis]. Either would be a little extra to your walking, and give you a little upper-body work.

Depending on how you carry it, you can also improve your core/abdominal strength/endurance (lift dumbbells in front of you, maybe 45`angle, twist torso left/right a couple of times, few steps, repeat). People on ask.meta have recommended shovelglove, which you might be able to incorporate into your walks.

It might look weird, but you could substitute water bottles/gallon-milk-jugs (filled with varying amount of water) instead of dumbbells. The benefit is that, when you`re starting out, you can drink or pour out some of the water as you go and reduce resistance. You can also buy pretty inexpensive 2- or 5- or whatever pound dumbbells in various colours. They`re pretty small - you can stash them in a locker or a desk drawer.

Jogging is good, but you should have the correct shoes for it. Carrying a heavier backpack (maybe filled with jugs of water?) might also help burn a few more calories.

Spot training doesn`t work, so crunches won`t do anything particular to help with your belly, but core strength is a great thing, in general.

Best of luck!
posted by porpoise at 8:41 PM on March 28, 2010

High Intensity Interval Training
posted by CathyG at 8:58 PM on March 28, 2010

I don't feel I've actually lost much weight or changed my appearance,

Exercise, sadly, will do very little for your weight issues. Walking for two hours burns about 450-500 calories, ie nothing. *nothing*. That's like a snickers bar. It's nothing.

The key to weight loss is diet.

Exercise has lots of other benefits, however, especially cardiovascular, you should keep that up! Consider throwing in some pushups with your walk.

With where you are at your fitness, please don't try high intensity interval training, it will make you puke. Shovel glove is a great way to hurt your back.

Consider the couch to 5k program (it's free). It's designed perfectly for people less fit than you, it will challenge you, but in a safe, supportive, gradual way.
posted by smoke at 9:15 PM on March 28, 2010

How long have you been doing this? I believe the key is consistency. Do whatever you know you will continue to do. You probably haven't lost weight because you've gained some muscle. And yes, try walking a bit faster and then as you gradually take less time to get to work, add extra mileage. Adding some hills is a also a great idea. Just keep doing it!
posted by nelvana at 9:30 PM on March 28, 2010

I agree with the folks who say you should work in some strength training. Since I've started working out regularly, I've noticed the greatest effects come from my strength workout. I like to keep it simple and work the greatest number of muscle groups with the fewest exercises possible. So, I do pull ups, tricep dips, sit ups, push ups, and squats. The whole routine takes about 30 minutes and can mostly be done at home, so you could do it after your kid goes to bed or when you get up in the morning. The suggestion to carry dumbbells on your walk is a good one. You can do some bicep or tricep curls and shoulder presses while you walk. Also, adding hills should help. Have you considered adding lunges? It might look kind of silly, but maybe do a few lunges every so often, as this will help build strength in your legs and core. Also, the couch to 5k program is excellent for beginners. I started this shortly after having my son (this means over 10 months of inactivity), and it's really helped improve my fitness.
posted by lexicakes at 9:43 PM on March 28, 2010

I walk about 6 miles every day (with my dog) and o hate to say it but it doesn't really do much for my weight at all. Running would probably be much more helpful.
posted by fshgrl at 10:18 PM on March 28, 2010

I don't feel I've actually lost much weight or changed my appearance, which I rather vainly hoped I was going to happen. I've still got a beer gut.

Just coming in here to reinforce what many before me have already said: walking won't do anything for your problems. It should make the transition to jogging slightly easier, though. My old roommate used to walk to work every day, about 3 miles each way, in addition to all the normal walking (in Boston, that's a lot). Never looked any thinner (he was slightly overweight w/a gut). His calf muscles got incredibly strong, however.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:14 PM on March 28, 2010

I hate to break it to you, but if it takes you two hours to walk 6.5 miles then you either work at the top of a mountain or you're going painfully slow. Try pushing your time down to around 90 minutes. For a real challenge, try pushing it down to around 70 minutes. At 5 - 6 miles per hour, you actually burn more calories from walking than you would from running the same distance.

Average walking pace is three miles per hour. If your goal is to attain some modicum of physical fitness, then walking at a leisurely pace just won't cut it.
posted by MaxK at 1:32 AM on March 29, 2010

I don't agree that walking is nothing: you're getting some exercise and burning some calories.

But if your goals are to lose weight and change your appearance, you do need to pay attention to your diet. Start a food diary, see how many calories you're eating, then cut down on the items that have the most calories and give you the least pleasure.

I don't really see how walking helps you maximize the time with your child though, since it's a pretty time-consuming form of exercise that you have to do outside the house. You might want to substitute a more intense form of exercise that you can do inside the house. There are a lot of options: body-weight exercises, aerobics videos, buying an exercise bike, buying a dumb-bell set. Or if your kid is young enough you could buy a bicycle and fit a child seat and go cycling with him/her.

Also, I really wish people asking for exercise advice on Ask Mefi would state their age group, physical condition, gender and goals. It's a bit difficult to give sensible advice when you don't know whether you're helping an octogenarian grandmother fight osteoporosis or a twenty year-old man prepare for his triathlon or a 400-pound forty year-old lose weight or what.

If you're overweight or unfit or asthmatic, the walking may be pretty sensible; but if you're young, healthy and in reasonable shape, it's a bit unambitious.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:08 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

A recent article basically agreeing with this thread... An hour a day (average) of moderate exercise (walking that slowly probably falls back into light exercise, but you can ramp it up a little) is enough for skinny people to stay skinny...but does nothing for slimming those of us who are already overweight. You need to diet.
posted by anaelith at 5:37 AM on March 29, 2010

MaxK, around here, 6 miles per hour is the average speed of a middle of the pack runner in a 10K! Though I still think walking a little faster is a good idea. Also getting active with the family should be good for everybody. Depending on the age and size of the kid, a jogging stroller might be a good thing to try.
posted by advicepig at 6:48 AM on March 29, 2010

So, assuming I keep up with this program, what should I do next?

To my way of thinking, what you're doing isn't really a "program." You're walking to work three times a week. That's good and all, but if you want this to be an exercise program, you need to track variables and plan for an increase or decrease in them. e.g., you track your time and try to regularly decrease it; you add weight and try to regularly increase it, as folks above have suggested. Something like that.

Another way to say this is that there's lots of ways to "get exercise," but not all of those will constitute training. I walk places all the time, but that's now how I train. If you want to make your walking into training, you've got to have something to aim for and a way to increase the difficulty.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:15 AM on March 29, 2010

You'll burn more calories on the walk if you're lugging more weight. You could consider wearing a weight vest. If you aren't concerned about appearances, maybe bring along some hand weights and do arm exercises as you walk. But I also agree with many comments above - jogging this distance will do more for you than walking does.
posted by lakeroon at 9:25 AM on March 29, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, lots to take in, I really appreciate your thoughts.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:57 PM on March 30, 2010

Response by poster: Just a quick follow-up, what I've done is start timing myself, and divided the two hours into 15-minutes sections and I'm trying to improve my time and put a bit of a jogging in each section. I'm improving my times, which is good.

But I think Best Answer is shared between all the people who said diet was my next step. And lakersfan, who specifically mentioned red wine, get those spy cameras out of my house.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:52 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

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