1. Check in before you head out: Take a moment to tune in to your body and mind before you take a step. “It’s important to adjust your walk based on how you’re feeling,” says Danny Dreyer, author of ChiWalking (Simon & Schuster). Feeling drained? Head out for a stressrelieving stroll. Feeling great? Push your pace.
2. Go outside: Instead of hitting the gym, walk around your neighborhood or check out a local trail. “Being outdoors helps you tune in to your surroundings, which inspires more mindfulness and a better sense of what’s happening in your body,” says Garrett Sarley, CEO of the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Mass., and co-author of Walking Yoga (Fireside).
3. Take precautions on the treadmill: If you are relegated to the gym, avoid gripping the treadmill’s rails—something that can happen if you go too fast, says Todd Sinett, D.C., a chiropractor and applied kinesiologist in New York City. “Walking requires your top and bot tom half to move,” he says. “If your torso is stiff, you’re more likely to get hurt.”
4. Ditch distractions: Your gym probably has a row of plasma TVs in front of the treadmills to keep you entertained. But it’s not a good idea to watch them, says Tom Kersting, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in New York City and author of Losing Weight When Diets Fail (Harbor Press). “Watching TV or even listening to music on your iPod increases your odds of just going through the motions,” he says. You’ll burn more calories if you stay focused on your workout.
5. Find more bliss through your breath: Just as you do in a yoga class, take a moment before you start walking to deepen your breath. When you start to walk, breathe in a pattern that relates to your steps, suggests Sarley. Making the connection will transform a regular old walk into a moving meditation with real stressrelieving benefits.
6. Create an image in your mind: When Kersting wanted more chiseled abs, he visualized himself as a snowman melting away to reveal a ripped, muscular body every time he went for a walk. “Visualization techniques like that are a great way to integrate your mind into your workout, which leads to better—and often quicker— results,” he says. Just make sure the image you call to mind is a positive one. “If you focus on what you don’t want, you’ll get more of what you don’t want,” Kersting warns.