Sarah Kusch is a fitness phenomenon. A nationally respected, certified trainer, Sarah has done every workout—from CrossFit to Zumba. But it wasn’t until she rediscovered walking a few years ago that she realized she had found the perfect activity. “I get benefits from walking that I can’t get from more intense exercise routines,” she says. Her new found love of walking inspired Sarah to develop and coach the brand new 21-Day Walk a Little, Lose a Lot Challenge, a RodaleU course that starts Jan. 1, 2016. Sarah will coach students through this 3-week transformation that will have you shedding pounds, eating better, and bursting with energy! Read on to learn how walking changed Sarah’s life, and be sure to check out her Challenge so you can get the same results. —The Editors of Prevention
1. Mental Clarity and Emotional Balance
You know how some days everything just seems out of whack? When you just feel down for no good reason? The easiest fix for me is to get up and get out for a walk. Within 15 minutes I’ve reset my focus and I feel like I’ve walked my cares away. I’m reminded that nothing is worth stressing over. When I’m on a walk, I can solve problems—no obstacle is too much to overcome.
2. CreativityOn a walk, I’m able to relax my mind and let it wander, and just take in the people and scenery. Whenever I’m stuck while trying to write or come up with a new fitness program, I lace up my walking shoes and head out the door. I know for a fact that on my walk, something or someone will spark a new thought. The simple act of letting go and wandering helps me access ideas I’ve filed away in my head.
For years, my career has required high-impact, physically demanding work. Walking is a respite from this while still giving me the workout I crave. I remember a day on which I felt physically worn down yet I was planning to go running. My body just said no, so I went for a walk instead. What happened next was amazing: I worked up a sweat without killing my joints! I felt rejuvenated and inspired, and I had a sense of accomplishment. Even better: I burned the same amount of calories in my 40 minutes of walking that I would have in 25 minutes of running. And those extra 15 minutes were priceless because they helped my body and brain recover.
I have met so many interesting people walking in new cities or places. In fact, I met my best friend through walking: We happened to both be out striding and we struck up a chat. We had so much in common that in no time, we became friends. And now she’s one of the most important people in my life.
5. Stress ReliefA walk provides almost instantaneous stress relief. Numerous studies show that it can lower levels of stress hormones. But I know from personal experience that when I am feeling crazed and overwhelmed, I need a walk. Immediately, I begin to feel better physically, mentally, and spiritually. Stress hormones can cause weight gain, memory loss, and high blood pressure; I’ll take my Rx of walking, please!!!
6. Hip Mobility
My hips can lock up, thanks to my profession of leading high-intensity, demanding workouts. Since I started walking, my hip mobility and flexibility is much improved. I also believe that walking breaks up lactic acid in the muscles, which helps me recover and allows me to build more lean muscle.
7. Better Perspective
When I started walking around my neighborhood, I looked at the nature, people, and surroundings in a different way. I live in Santa Monica, CA, which is a pretty busy city. It’s easy to rush around in your car and miss your surroundings. Once I began walking, I discovered beautiful gardens and houses that I had never noticed. I began greeting the people I see every day, getting to know them and their dogs. I was able to tap into a small-town vibe in an otherwise big city.
8. A New Kind of Toning
After walking for a few months, I became aware that I was targeting and building muscles that my other routines neglected. Then I noticed my legs were looking better than they ever had; the arm pumping during walking improved my upper back definition and increased my range of motion, opening up my shoulder blades.
9. Cultural Exchange
I’ve been traveling a lot, so I’ve been walking everywhere. Instead of relying on a car in a new city, I lace up my shoes and take to the sidewalk. Now I have interactions with locals that I would have missed in the past. I’ve found shops and restaurants that are off the beaten path. In France, I was walking with my daughter and we stopped to chat with an elderly man. He mentioned that he owned the restaurant we were standing in front of, and then he offered to take us to the kitchen and teach us how to make some French dishes. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, made possible by walking.
10. It’s Just Fun!
Last and definitely not least, walking has added so much joy to my life! Movement is a gift: I always look forward to a walk. I never see it as something I have to do—I want to do it.