Your Winter Walking Plan: How to Walk Strong Outdoors

Some call it cold; we call it invigorating. You'll be glad you didn't miss the time outside, if you prep for the chill and rotate through these workouts by Carol Frazey, founder of the Fit School in Bellingham, Washington.

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WHY: You get fresh air, endless route options, and scenery more interesting than whatever a treadmill is facing.

HOW: Look for walking routes with sidewalks, if possible — even better if they're protected from traffic, like in parks or greenways.

WATCH OUT: The weather can make you miserable if you're not dressed right. Start with a synthetic base and pile insulating layers on top.

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Workout 1: Hill, Yes!

WARM-UP: Walk for 10 minutes or so at a moderate pace; plan your route so it takes you to the bottom of a hill.

MAIN WORKOUT: Climb and descend the hill for 10 minutes. If the incline is a long one, climb up for five minutes (feel your heart rate rise), then head back down. If it's short, just go up and down as many times as you can within 10 minutes.

COOLDOWN: Walk back to where you started at a moderate pace.

MAKE IT HARDER: If you're on a longer hill, push your pace and climb just a little higher each week. As you get stronger, you should be able to get a bit farther in the same 10 minutes of climbing.

Workout 2: Speed Play

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WARM-UP: Walk at a comfortable pace for five minutes.

MAIN WORKOUT: Pick a repeating feature on your route, like mailboxes, telephone poles, or trees, and walk quickly past three of them. Slow down as you pass three more. Repeat the pattern for 15 to 20 minutes.

COOLDOWN: Walk at a comfortable pace for five minutes.

MAKE IT HARDER: Each week, add one more tree/mailbox/whatever during the fast-pace parts, but keep the slow sections at the original three. That means that in the second week, you'll be going fast for four landmarks, slow for three. The one after: five fast, three slow. You get the idea. This keeps you challenged and the workout fun.

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Tip: Speed It Up the Smart Way

"To walk faster, don't increase the length of your stride," says coach Frazey. "Instead, concentrate on taking shorter, quicker steps. That's easier on your knees and more efficient than long strides."

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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