The fix: “Trick your body past its plateau by walking at a harder intensity for short bursts,” says Adams, who designed this 1-month plan of attack. It wakes up your walks with interval training, hill climbing, and strengthening moves designed to crank up your calorie burn and—finally—help you shed stubborn pounds. Once you’ve reached your goal, you can resume your regular walking workout or continue with one of the plans that follow. (Burn calories and build muscle—all while boosting your mood—with our 21-Day Walk a Little, Lose a Lot Challenge!)
Remember to do a 3- to 5-minute warm-up and cool-down before and after each walk, and don’t skip the rest days (two or three per week).
How Hard Should You Push Yourself?
To gauge the intensity levels in this workout, think about how hard you exert yourself while doing the everyday activities below, then compare that to your exertion levels while exercising.
Too Easy Levels 1 to 3: Barely moving
Sleepwalking Zone Levels 4 and 5: Strolling
Rut-Busting Zone Level 6: Walking to work; Level 7: Rushing to work; Level 8: Late for work and out of breath
Rarely Push Yourself This Hard Level 9: Racing to catch the bus (not doable for more than 90 seconds); Level 10: Racing to catch the bus you left your purse on (after 30 seconds, you’re toast)
Week 1: Build Your Base
Monday: Grab a stopwatch and time yourself while you walk as fast as you comfortably can for 1 mile on relatively flat ground. (You can measure a route beforehand using your car odometer.) This is your target to beat. Walk a second mile at a leisurely level 4 pace.
Tuesday: Walk for 10 minutes at intensity level 5. Walk an additional 5 minutes at level 6, and 5 more minutes at level 5. Total time: 20 minutes
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: Walk for 10 minutes at level 6. Now stop for a forward lunge workout to firm up your thighs and butt. (Step your left foot 2 to 3 feet in front of your right. Keeping your left knee directly over your ankle, bend your left knee and lower your right knee toward the ground. Then press back up. Do 10 of these lunges, then switch legs.) Continue walking for 10 minutes at level 5. Total time: 23 minutes (Check out your body on walking)
Friday: Rest day
Weekend: Walk for 30 minutes at level 6 on Saturday or Sunday. “Congratulations!” says Adams. “Your aerobic capacity should already feel stronger, and by adding lunges you’re strengthening your walking muscles, too.” Total time: 30 minutes
MORE: Walk Off 5 Times More Belly Fat
Week 2: Pick Up Steam
Monday: Spend 1-minute speed walking (level 8), moving as fast as you can. Recover for 2 minutes while walking at a moderate pace (level 5 or 6). Alternate between speed walking for 1 minute and recovery walking for 2 minutes, 10 times. Total time: 30 minutes (See the incredible results you get from walking 30 minutes a day.)
Tuesday: Walk for 10 minutes at level 6. Up the intensity to level 7 for 10 minutes, and finish with another 10 minutes at level 6. Total time: 30 minutes
Wednesday: Walk for 15 minutes at level 6. Go for an additional 15 minutes at level 7. Total time: 30 minutes
Thursday: Walk for 10 minutes at level 7, and another 10 minutes at level 8. Finish with 10 more minutes at level 7. You’ll burn up to 20% more calories this way than you would by staying at level 7 for the whole time, Adams says. Total time: 30 minutes
Friday: Rest day
Weekend: Time yourself as you walk as fast as you comfortably can for 1 mile, to see whether you’ve improved from Week 1. “If you haven’t gotten faster, push yourself a little harder for the next 2 weeks,” says Adams. Remember to take a second rest day.
Week 3: Tackle Some Hills
Monday: Walk uphill for 15 minutes as fast as you can. (No hills in your neighbourhood? Use a treadmill on incline setting 7.) At the top of the hill, stop and do 15 forward lunges, then switch legs. Walk for another 15 minutes on flat ground at level 6. Total time: 35 minutes
Tuesday: Find the steepest hill around (or use a treadmill on incline setting 9) and walk up to it for 10 minutes as fast as you can. “If you’re running out of steam, visualise yourself standing at the top of the hill,” suggests Adams. “That sort of positive mental picture will get you to the top.” Return to flat ground and walk for 10 minutes at level 7. Find some smaller hills (treadmill incline setting 5) and walk for 10 more minutes as fast as you can. Finish with another 10 minutes on flat ground at level 7. Total time: 40 minutes
Wednesday: Pick your own route, varying between hills and flats for 40 minutes. Remember to walk the hills as fast as you can and the flats at level 7. (Or use a treadmill and vary the incline every few minutes.) Total time: 40 minutes
MORE: 3 Treadmill Workouts That Beat Boredom And Blast Calories
Thursday: Walk uphill for 10 minutes (or use a treadmill on incline setting 7). Stop and do 2 minutes of backwards lunges. (Start with feet together. Take a big step backwards with your right foot and lower into a lunge. Press back up to the start position and repeat, alternating legs.) Walk for another 15 minutes at level 7 and then do 2 minutes of walking lunges. (Step forward, drop into a lunge, and then rise, bringing your back foot forward to meet your front foot. Continue walking forward, alternating legs as you do lunges.) Finish with speedwalking at level 8 for 10 minutes. Total time: 39 minutes
Friday: Rest day
Weekend: You should feel in great shape by now. Walk 1 mile and see how much your time has improved. Savour another day off.
MORE: Your 10 Biggest Walking Pains Solved
Week 4: Mix It Up
Monday: Walk at level 8 for 30 minutes. Walk up some small hills for 10 minutes (or use a treadmill on incline setting 5). Finish by doing 10 forward lunges with each leg. Total time: 43 minutes
Tuesday: Rest day
Wednesday: Walk at level 8 for 45 minutes. Finish with 20 squats. (Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at sides. Bend your knees and hips, sitting back until your thighs are almost parallel to the ground. Let your arms come forward as you sit back. Then stand back up.) Total time: 48 minutes
Thursday: Walk uphill as fast as you can for 10 minutes. Speedwalk (level 8 or 9) on flat ground for 1 minute, then recover by walking at level 5 for 2 minutes. Alternate between speedwalking for 1 minute and recovery walking for 2 minutes, 10 times for a total of 30 minutes. Total time: 40 minutes
Friday: Rest day
Weekend: It is race day! Walk for 1 hour as fast as you can and record your time. Make a note on your calendar so you can race against your time once a month.