Running & Walking
If you love to run or walk but are tethered to the treadmill, head outdoors. Studies have shown that running a distance outdoors burns more calories than the same distance on a treadmill--but that's not all. "Being outdoors in greenery is a stress reducer," says Tina Vindum (www.outdoorfitness.com), an outdoor fitness trainer in Marin County, Calif. "We draw energy from nature. You might even exercise longer outside than indoors." In addition, walking or running on outdoor terrain, especially trails, works the small muscles of your feet and ankles and can improve balance, making for a more dynamic workout.
Whether you stay indoors or go out, sprinkle in some intervals, or pace changes. McMillan calls them "surges"--you simply change your speed occasionally instead of going at a constant pace. For example, if you typically walk four miles in an hour, you should increase your pace for 30, 60, or 90 seconds every so often. "It doesn't have to be long or hard, but it has to be a change. Even small changes can stimulate the body to get more fit," explains McMillan. After you've warmed up, walk or run faster for a minute and then return to your normal pace for two minutes, then continue alternating for 20 or 30 minutes total. If you're not a clock-watcher, "surge" your pace at every other telephone pole along your route. "The great thing about surge workouts is the options are endless--slower, faster, shorter or longer rest intervals, you name it," says McMillan.
Another way to spice up your runs or walks is to be playful. There's no rule that says you have to run for an entire workout--Vindum suggests doing lunges up a hill instead of running. Or do a set of squats once you reach the crest of a hill or a couple of chin-ups when you find a tree with a perfect bough. "Incorporating different exercises brings a lot of texture to your routine--and I'm not talking about the tree bark," laughs Vindum, who often leads classes on woodsy workouts. "It breaks up the monotony. Take off your blinders, check out the environment, and make it fun."