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    Overcoming Problems When Starting a Walking for Fitness Program

    CinderErnstBy Cinder Ernst

    In our last column, we gave you the Easy Fitness system for starting a walking program ( The basic premise is to find your comfortable walking distance right now and start with that. It could be 10 steps, 10 blocks, 2 miles or anything in between. If you don’t know, then just start walking! Keep track and see how far you can go before you start to feel uncomfortable. That will be your starting distance.

    Today we’re going to address common situations that could become obstacles to your walking success. First, if you just can’t wrap your brain around this walking program thing, then you might need a small shift in your thinking to create more ease. Think of this walking program, not as a fitness program idea, but as a way to enjoy more life.

    For example, one of my clients wrote to me recently that she is walking a good number of steps each day, but mostly for pleasure: museums, playing with grandkids, shopping, etc. She wondered if that might not count. Just the opposite is true. Walking that brings you more pleasure, more life and more fun is exactly what we’re going for. If you happen to like walking for exercise, that’s good too.

    Walking for Fitness

    As you might imagine, the most common showstoppers when you are walking come from discomfort in your lower body. The lower body aches include foot, knee, hip and back pain. We have Easy Fitness fixes for them all! The other problem I see a lot of is shortness of breath. If you find yourself short of breath pretty quickly, and are not sure why, check with your doctor. Don’t just assume it’s because you are out of shape. If it turns out to be “out of shapeness,” worry not. We’re doing this to get stronger, so you are already pointed in a “build more strength and stamina” direction. Keep your attention on moving forward.

    We will start with foot pain and what to do about it. First and most obviously, get the right shoes for you. Sometimes having the right shoes can help all of the pain points. If you are in San Francisco, we have some excellent options for guided athletic shoe buying. The one I have recommended to my clients (and used myself) for 25 years is On the Run at 9th Avenue and Irving. They have gait experts who will evaluate you and recommend the best shoe for you. The folks at On the Run have generously offered you a 10% discount if you mention this article. If you are not in San Francisco, search for a local option. You will find that the stores specializing in running shoes often have gait experts available. Plan on spending at least $100 for your best bet walking shoes.

    An often contributor to foot pain—as well as knee pain—is tight calf muscles. Your calf muscles are at the back of your lower leg. If the muscles there are tight, they can cause Achilles tendon problems and bottom of the foot pain. If you’ve ever experienced Plantar Fasciitis, then you know it’s better to prevent that bottom of the foot pain. The correct shoes and calf stretches go a long way to safeguarding against foot pain.

    Here are instructions on how to stretch your calf muscle. You can do this anywhere. It’s good to do before you start your walk, and during, and after too!

    1. Stand with one leg in front of the other, with both feet pointed forward. Place your hands on a wall or tree or something else sturdy, flat and upright for support.
    2. Keep your back knee straight, with your heel pressed to the floor.
    3. Push your hips forward while pressing your back heel to the ground, if you need to feel more stretch.
    4. Hold for 10–30 seconds; then do the other leg.

    Next time, we’ll look at how to calm knee, hip and back pain, so walking is wonderful the Easy Fitness way!

    Cinder Ernst, Medical Exercise Specialist and Life Coach Extraordinaire, helps reluctant exercisers get moving with safe, effective and fun programs. Find out more at