At first, admits Kortge, it may seem awkward to take a mindful or spirited walk. “But if you practice it, it will become familiar and will help you settle down quickly,” she says. Here’s how to start on your journey to a better kind of walking, whether you do it in 10-minute spurts or 30- to 60-minute bouts…
- Select a mantra to say silently while walking—one that you can repeat in rhythm to your steps and breathing. (See “Walking Mantras” for ideas.) Use simple words you can easily remember to replace the “negative swirl that automatically goes on in your head,” says Kortge.
- Do a gentle warm-up (for example, walk slowly and gently pump your arms) and then do some light stretches to loosen up muscles and joints and boost blood flow.
- Gradually pick up your walking pace. Observe good posture, but keep your eyes focused on the path.
- Silently, start to repeat your chosen mantra over and over again in your head. If thoughts invade, go back to your mantra. “You’re never going to be able to just focus on your mantra while you walk,” assures Domar. “It is human nature that your mind is going to wander, you’re going to trip over a log, you’re going to see a neighbor. You’re going to get distracted. That’s normal and healthy, and it’s going to happen.” But instead of getting frustrated or chastising yourself for not being able to do the exercise “right,” simply go back to repeating your mantra. “The more you do it, the easier it will get,” she says.
- Be aware of your breathing. Relax your abdominal muscles and allow yourself to breath deeply, advises Domar.
- Cool down and stretch again. “A mindful walk is a lovely thing that will give you a sense of peace,” concludes Domar. Besides, adding a relaxation component to walking may help to reduce boredom…which just may get you to stick with exercising regularly, she says.