Autumn is the perfect time to take a walk in the High Country. The air cools. The trees fill with color. The sunrise and sunsets are especially lovely.
There is a pattern of walking that will not only calm your soul and elevate your mood; it can also stoke your fat-burning fires, build your immunity, sharpen your mind and strengthen your bones. It’s called High Intensity Interval Training [HIIT]. When applied to walking it includes interspersing a moderate walking pace with short bursts of fast walking. Each interval is timed so you can catch your breath and recover.
You don’t need much to get started. A good pair of walking shoes and a stopwatch will do. If you prefer high tech, you can download a HIIT fitness timer app to your phone.
For a 20 minute HIIT session:
Start with a 5-minute warm up.
Start at an easy pace and gradually work up to a moderate pace (with 100 steps per minute). At a moderate pace, you should be breathing deeply but comfortably.
Move immediately into a two-part interval.
30-second burst: Take short, quick steps. Bend your arms and pump them forward and back. Your breathing rate will increase and deepen.
2.5-minute recovery: Go back to your moderate walking pace. Breathing deeply, but comfortably.
Repeat this interval 4 times.
End with a 3-minute cool down.
Decelerate to a slow and easy pace. Slow your breathing. Calm your mind.
Too easy? Increase the challenge in any of the following ways:
- Lengthen the burst to 40-60 seconds
- Shorten the recovery to 1.5 - 2 minutes
- Add hills
- Add speed
- Increase the number of intervals
Be sure to alternate your HIIT walks with steady-paced walking during the week. This will give your body time to recover, avoiding injury or burn out.
You'll find that your interval walking flies by quickly. Counting each burst and recovery helps take your mind off the effort of your workout. To make it even more fun, invite a friend to join you.
Be sure to check with your doctor to make sure that you are healthy enough for a vigorous workout.