Taking the First Steps: Tips for Starting a New Walking Routine

I know that plenty of people in this little community of ours are already regular walkers.  You’re out there getting in those steps, logging those miles, and reaping all of the benefits of being happy, healthy walking rock stars. 

But I also know that there are plenty here who are still just thinking about it.  I’m talking about the ones who want to make a change for their physical and mental health. Those who take the occasional walk around the block with your family and think, I could totally make this a thing.  You’re here reading posts and imagining yourself out on the trail, breathing in the fresh air, listening to a good book, and walking away all of the day’s stress. 

Can you really make walking a thing?  Yes, you absolutely can!  And if you’re ready to get started, I’ve got a few tips to help you flatten the learning curve and get you taking those first steps (see what I did there?) while looking like you’ve been walking for years.

Talk to the pros. 
And by pros, I mean your medical team.  As the old disclaimer goes, you should always consult your doctor before starting any exercise program—and walking is no different.  Before you get out there, talk to your doctor about what kind of physical activity your body can handle.

Start easy. 
No one’s expecting you to walk 10 miles on your first walk (or your second…or your tenth!)—and no one’s expecting you to start out walking a 14-minute mile.  This isn’t a competition; it’s a journey!  Walk at a pace that’s comfortable for you—and travel a distance that’s comfortable for you.  Listen to your doctor…and to your body.  When I started, I was happy just fitting in an easy mile—and I built up my pace and distance from there.

Get yourself some good shoes. 
You don’t have to buy the latest and greatest (and most expensive) running shoes.  But you should find some comfortable shoes that have good support—preferably ones that you’ve been able to try on, to make sure they feel right on your feet.  If you have any specific concerns, go to a running store that can help you find exactly what you need.  But if you want to start with something more budget-friendly, head to a sporting goods store or outlet mall to find something good to get you started.

Find what works for you. 
Do you prefer walking on a treadmill at the gym?  Walking through the neighborhood with a true crime podcast playing?  Walking on a wooded trail with your four-legged friend?  Exploring a walking trail with a good friend?  Try out a few things and see what makes you the happiest.  Maybe it’ll be a combination of the above—or something else.  When you find what works for you, you’ll be more motivated to keep it up.

Know your route(s). 
Going for a stroll around the block with your kid is one thing—but if you’re going to start walking on a regular basis (and you want to start going farther), you’ll want to have a plan.  Try an app like Footpath to help you figure out distances.  If you’re going on an out-and-back path, keep in mind that however far you walk, you’re going to have to do the same distance back—so keep your final distance in mind.  And, while you’re at it, look for a few different paths, so you’ll be able to change it up when one path gets a little too monotonous.

Dress for the weather. 
If you’re walking outside, make sure you’re dressing for the weather conditions that you’ll be facing on your walk—keeping in mind that if you’re planning on building up to a good pace, you’ll want to plan for temperatures about 10 degrees warmer than the actual temperatures.  Polyester fabrics tend to be more comfortable than cotton—because they’re more breathable, and they dry faster.  If the temperatures are cooler, and you’re just not sure—you can’t go wrong with layers that can be removed.

Don’t leave home without something to drink!  As you’re sweating it out, you’ll need to replace those fluids with some water (or the hydration beverage of your choice).  So be sure to fill up a water bottle before you head out.

Track your progress.
I love having something to show for my hard work, so I keep track of my miles in a walking journal.  I write down my daily mileage and time, maybe a thought or two, and I add up the totals at the end of each week. (You can find a great printable journal at the Will Walk for Coffee Etsy shop!)  Or maybe you’re more of a visual person, who would rather color in a square for every mile—or every walk.  Figure out what’s most gratifying for you, and do it!

Reward yourself. 
Set a goal and a reward.  You can work toward walking 100 total miles—or a mile a day for the entire month.  Or maybe work toward completing a 5k—and sign up for a virtual race, so you’ll get a medal when you complete it.  Set the goal, write it down, and plan to treat yourself when you accomplish it.  And if you need a little extra motivation along the way, feel free to give yourself small treats for sticking with it.  If you went for a walk when you REALLY didn’t feel like it, you totally deserve that iced coffee from Dunkin.

Stick with it! 
It takes time and effort and commitment to start a new habit—some people say 21 days, while others say 66 days or more—and, for many of us, willpower alone won’t get us through those sleepy Mondays and rainy Thursdays.  So find a way to keep yourself accountable.  Maybe it’s a goal chart.  Maybe it’s an accountability partner.  Just make sure it’s something that will keep you motivated to keep moving.

Once you get in the habit of walking regularly, you’ll start to feel the differences—not just physically but mentally, too.  And we’ll be here to cheer you on!  Be sure to share your stories, so we can celebrate with you!


Kristin has been hitting the trail (or the treadmill) for a walk almost every day for the past several years, and she recently completed her first half marathon. She loves sunny fall days, cushy walking shoes, and coconut caramel iced coffee from Dunkin.

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