Let me preface this post by saying that I am in no way against running or runners. I think running is a great form of exercise and I still enjoy the odd 5 km jog once in a while. It’s just no longer the right exercise for me and if you keep reading you will find out why!
Here’s why I made the switch from running to walking
Let’s face it, running is hard and it kinda sucks. It’s hard on our bodies, it’s hard to find motivation to do it and it’s really hard to run up hills. Now I am not saying that walking is necessarily easy, but for most of us it’s definitely more doable. For some reason I feel so much less resistant to grabbing my runners (or winter boots if you are in Canada) and heading out the door with my podcasts and the dog for a nice, brisk walk. Now that I think of it, maybe the dog has more to do with me switching to walking than I realized… regardless, here’s my point:
It doesn’t matter WHY it’s easier, what does matter is that we generally engage in activities that we feel competent in or that we can achieve.
Now I totally made that statement up but I strongly believe it. If we are afraid of something, or just feel uncomfortable doing something we are waaay less likely to do it (am I right???). Think about it – when you wanted to join a new gym or new exercise class how long did it take before you mustered up the confidence to actually go and do it?? How many excuses did you use before you actually went? Those excuses were missed opportunities to get your butt moving!
Walking is one exercise that we already know how to do.
You learned how to walk when you were like 1 year old so you should be pretty good at it by now… however, some could argue that point. Nonetheless, walking is something we’ve been practicing for years, so naturally it will be easier and we will feel more confident doing it.
Running on the other hand is a bit trickier. We ran as kids and then some of us played sports well into our teens and adulthood but some of us didn’t (myself included). Losing the ability to run correctly is easier than you may think – you know the saying, if you don’t use it, you lose it – well it’s not far from the truth. Ensuring you have proper form for running, I would argue, is more important than for walking. I will get more into the logistics of why I believe this later in the post but my point here is that if you aren’t sure if you’re doing it right, then chances are you aren’t going to continue doing it or if you do, you likely won’t find it super enjoyable.
It’s easier on our joints…
Now I know I am going to get a lot of flack for this point from avid runners that swear running is not bad for your joints and I am not going to disagree. I think running can be just fine for some people’s joints but it might not be for others’. Some of us who have the proper form and muscle balance can get away with running everyday with no joint problems or injuries and that is awesome! Unfortunately, that is not the case for everyone. Walking on the other hand, seems to be tolerated well by most people’s joints and here is why I believe this:
Running is like little jumps, over and over again.
Running is higher impact because you are literally bounding from one leg to the other. Now let’s think about this for the average person who might not have great posture, muscle balance or running form. They are literally jumping over and over again for an extended period of time. They might be OK doing it once or twice a week, but as they continue to run over time and add milage, their body may start to break down and the muscle can’t do its job properly. So what can end up happening is the lower body joints (think ankles, knees and hips) start to take on the forces from the ground, resulting in joint injuries.
Walking is still impact, but the impact is lower.
Don’t get me wrong, walking still has impact so there will still be effects on our joints. However, it is much lower and our body is able to tolerate lower forms of impact for longer time periods, leading to less detrimental effects over time.
I speak from experience.
I was an avid runner and used to spend so many days and hours per week running to maintain or lose weight. I can now admit that I was actually obsessed with running and it wasn’t healthy. I felt I needed to run to be healthy or fit or feel good about myself. It was a sick cycle that unfortunately ended the hard way.
I got injured.
Yup. Me, who thought I was indestructible and in amazing shape. Turns out I wasn’t at all; I had major weaknesses and my flexibility was far from ideal. Long story short, I avoided the pain signals sent from my body and ultimately ended up with a pretty significant knee injury that took over a year to recover. I am still managing the injury to this day but I have figured out how to overcome it and my limitations.
This was a huge lesson for me.
Not being able to run for a whole year taught me a lot about myself. Mostly that I was using running to deal with a lot of things I didn’t really want to face in my life. The “running high” I got from running was only a temporary bandaid for some of the more important body image issues I was facing. It took a long time to figure this out and I am still battling these issues and others everyday, but now that I am aware it makes it easier to say “it’s ok if I can’t run.”
You don’t need to run to be fit, just ask my fitbit!
This one surprised even me!
This was another BIG misconception I had: I thought you needed to push yourself to your limits and sweat like crazy at least once a day to call yourself “fit” but it turns out you don’t! From my own fitbit stats, I actually burn more calories walking around all day than I would when I was doing one run or workout per day. I was amazed when I discovered that what I did most of the time was waaay more important than what I did once a day. After I realized that I started adding more and more little walks into my day and ended up burning MORE calories than I use to when I was in my old mindset. Score!!
Not to get too hung up on calories burned as that is no measure of fitness, but simply to point out that moving more and moving more often helps me feel happier, healthier and more energetic to spend time on activities with friends, family and things that are really important to me.
It’s like therapy…
Now this one you could absolutely argue for both running and walking but there is just something about walking that feels more therapeutic to me. You have time with your thoughts, you can enjoy nature and listen to your favourite podcast or playlist. You can even use walking as a time to connect with your loved one either side by side or on the phone.
It releases endorphins.
All physical exercise releases endorphins and walking included! These are feel-good hormones that do just that!
It keeps you from snacking after dinner.
Let’s face it, you know this is true.
You don’t need any fancy equipment, gear or short-shorts (unless you’re into that) to walk.
OK. You can argue that for running too, but I just wanted to highlight this point because it’s still important.
Bottom line is that walking is something that should not be neglected as a form of exercise just because it’s been labelled as “easy” or “boring”, because it’s actually an excellent form of exercise and you would be surprised at the positive health benefits it can have both physically and mentally!
Please feel free to leave me a comment below and let me know what your thoughts are on walking or if you’ve been struggling to fit more exercise in and what has been helpful to you. I’d love to hear from you!
All the best,
**ps. If you have always dreamed of being a runner or actually enjoy running but find you keep getting injured do not get discouraged! I strongly believe running can be a great form of exercise and that anyone can do it. If you would like more advice about how to safely add running into your exercise routine please visit my want more page or reach out to me on my contact page.