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Can Walking Be a Workout?

June 26, 20236 min read
Can Walking Be a Workout?

I have recently had this discussion with a number of people in a broad array of contexts so I feel it’s worth bringing up:

10,000 steps a day is NOT a workout, nor does it count as a replacement for a workout.

Sorry to burst your bubble…

First off, it’s MOVEMENT we are seeking with the idea of 10k steps. Moving that breathes life into an otherwise sedentary body:

1)The heart beats faster forcing the lungs to transport more oxygen in and more carbon dioxide out
2)The extremities (arms, hands, legs and feet) all get more blood and nutrients pumped to them and get the opportunity to push harsh metabolites up and out of the body
3)Similarly, more blood flow helps improve digestion so the food you consume actually provides the nutrients and energy you expect, rather than it sitting like a toxic food bomb in your gut.
4)And, the brain craves the stimulation of different environments and sensory inputs, which heightens your ability to complete more complex tasks when you get back to work.

Second, the 10k concept is assumed to be totally arbitrary, like many mainstream ideas. The Yasama Clock company in Japan developed the first commercial pedometer in 1965 named, “Manpo-kei” which translates to 10,000 steps meter. It’s not a bad idea to shoot for 10,000 steps in a day but that equates to 2 hours of walking for most people.

If you get that during a work day, great! But trying to achieve that over the course of a 10+ hour work day with minimal breaks might feel impossible. The likely result, you give up on it and sabotage the progress you made with comfort food/drink.

So, if all this is true, why would the title of this article be, “Can walking be a workout?”

I’m so glad you asked 🙂

Imagine that you were a new contestant on the Biggest Loser. You weigh 350 lbs, easily 150 lbs more than what is deemed a healthy weight. And when you show up to the gym the first thing your trainer has you do, walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes.

It’s a brutal workout. Sweat is pouring off of you, soaking your t-shirt and drenching the treadmill. You are likely in tears because, “it shouldn’t be that hard.”

Fast forward to the end of the program where you have successfully lost that 150 lbs. But now, just to remember what that first walk felt like, you strap a 50 lb vest on, load up 50 lbs into a backpack, sling it over your shoulders and go for a walk pulling a sled that weighs 50 lbs.

This also sounds brutal right?

And the fact of the matter, loaded carries ARE brutal. And for people that are 150 lbs or more overweight, the sheer magnitude of taking a 30 minute walk daily will help them shed a good amount of weight. Remember to get 10k steps, they need to do the equivalent of that walk 4 times every day.

But, at a certain point, walking becomes ineffective to improve fitness levels.

More importantly, the vast majority of people I encounter focusing their efforts on getting 10k steps in a day aren’t severely overweight.

They are conscientious about the fact that they don’t move much in a day and know that they should do SOMETHING productive. But time is often a big constraint.

So, I’m here to tell you, if you are that person, that you would get far more out of far less if you focused instead on loaded carries.

That’s right, loaded carries: walking while intentionally carrying extra weight!

Above I offered up 3 different carries that would, individually, be effective from a loading standpoint:

1)Weighted vest (probably 30 lbs+ for most individuals is necessary to elicit a response when walking)
2)Rucksack or weighted backpack (probably again 30+ lbs for most individuals. Bigger stronger people can do upwards of 60 lbs. This is a great tool to make your hikes more demanding!)
3)Sled drags or pushes (weight varies TREMENDOUSLY based on surface, type of sled, and how far you want to go with it!)

And if you decide to get after all three like I suggested, you are killing it!

So, why loaded carries?

We often discuss the idea that training is meant to make your life more enjoyable. What makes walking around on a daily basis at 200 lbs more enjoyable than training like you weigh 230 lbs?

In addition, loaded carries require little to no skill. You put the weight on or, in some cases, pick it up, and walk with it. You could go backwards, sideways and do zig zags, but you can also just go straight and far!

Plus, loaded carries can be loaded VERY heavy or VERY light. Being able to do a farmers walk with ½ your bodyweight in each hand is something that most people are capable of achieving in a short period of time with focused effort on heavy carries. Additionally, there are tons of military veterans or fledgling recruits walking miles upon miles with a loaded rucksack to mimic the rigors of military training or active duty.

And probably the most important thing: loaded carries breed confidence. There isn’t a more powerful feeling than carrying something really heavy through the finish line and dropping it knowing you won the internal battle against yourself and the weight.

Then, when you come back from grocery shopping and have that long walk to your front door, you simply snatch up all 10 bags in your two hands and walk confidently into the house because, “it’s no big deal, I did WAY more than that during my training today!”

Okay, so if you are convinced and want to get started ASAP, here’s a simple protocol:

1)Set a clock for 30 sec of work and 30 seconds of rest (or just set a repeating timer for 30 seconds)
2)Grab anything you have that you would deem as heavy: softener salt bag, dog food bag, dumbbells, kettlebells, bags of mulch or potting soil, or just load up a backpack with some heavy books.
3)Walk FAST for 30 seconds trying to cover as much ground as you can.
4)Rest 30 seconds
5)Repeat AT LEAST 5x and up to as many rounds as you have time for.
6)Stop during the rest period of the 5th set and realize it’s only been 5 minutes and you were working hard for just HALF of it! Holy SH!T

Now, here is the key factor to make this much less daunting on your precious time in a day: find ways to make the amount of rounds you do HARDER

Try things like changing the orientation of the weight, switching to only one hand or one shoulder or simply adding weight!

This will build consistency more effectively because 5 minutes of increasingly more difficult activity is much easier than trying to add 5 minutes every time you go carry something.

As you get consistent and build 3-4x/week of carrying into your routine for 2 months, then you can play around with longer carries using lighter weight peppered around your heavy carry days.

If you want to get REALLY heavy with your carries to develop strength, a killer metabolic effect and some serious self-confidence, it’s best to seek out professional coaching.
Reach out to us at FIT and we can either help guide you ourselves or find a quality coach in your area!

Remember, 10,000 steps a day is great for a lot of things, but an actual workout isn’t one of them.

Luckily, you now have loaded carries as a tool in your toolbelt to truly make walking a WORKOUT!

Coach Jared

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Functional Integrated Training

The Functional Integrated Training blog is passionate strength training blog and is an authority on functional strength training. Based in the heart of Fitchburg, WI, FIT is a premier strength training facility dedicated to helping individuals achieve their fitness goals. With years of experience in the fitness industry, the Functional Integrated Team possess a deep understanding of functional integrated training methodologies. Through their captivating blog posts, they share their expertise and guide readers on how to enhance their strength effectively. These Madtown writings center around unlocking the full potential of the human body through targeted exercises and training techniques. Whether you're a beginner looking to build a solid foundation or an experienced athlete seeking to reach new heights, FIT's blog will provide you with valuable insights and actionable tips to improve your strength. From explaining the science behind strength training to discussing the benefits of specific exercises, Functional Integrated Training articles are both informative and engaging. The team simplifies complex concepts, making them accessible to readers of all fitness levels. Ready to embark on a journey of strength improvement? Join the Functional Integrated Teams blog and unlock your true potential through functional integrated training. Get ready to witness transformative results and become the strongest version of yourself.

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