Walk This Way 

click to enlarge walking.jpg

The 100-degree days are nearly gone, and crisp, cold weather is just around the corner. But don't settle in for hibernation just yet. There's still time to get outside.

Whether strolling through a local park or hiking up a difficult path, you'll find that Richmond and the surrounding areas are full of fantastic venues for fitness. Walking, running or hiking can be a convenient, affordable and pleasurable option for women of all ages and fitness levels. No matter what your experience with exercise, you can start being more active now. And what better way to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage?

Here are some things to think about:

1. Safety

It can be tempting to grab the most aesthetically appealing pair of athletic shoes you see and head out the door, but a quality walking or running shoe with good support is worth the investment. Stop by a local athletic apparel store and allow a sales associate to assess your gait and assist you in selecting the shoe that will most closely fit your needs. Remember that the type of shoe you need depends on your intended activity and expected terrain. Also, if you're unfamiliar with the area you'll be heading into, take a friend and a cell phone along. Don't forget to plan ahead for long hikes by packing water and a snack.

2. Effort

A leisurely walk is always an improvement upon lounging on the couch, but if you're walking for fitness, kick the intensity up a notch! Move at a pace that causes you to breathe deeply, probably even break a sweat, but make sure you can still speak a brief sentence. Heart-rate monitors or your own heart-rate check can provide more precise information.

3. Location

Walking outdoors can be one of the most rewarding ways to explore the city. You may be surprised at the boutiques, spas and galleries you discover once you're outside your car. If you live in a more suburban area, take the opportunity to exercise and greet your neighbors. Once you've explored the vicinity near your home, try a change of scenery. Live in the West End? Head down to the Fan, park your car or bike, and investigate the neighborhood. When you are ready for more adventure, check out one of hiking trails listed here.

More Motivation:

On Track for a Good Cause

Fitness and fundraisers don't have to be exclusive. Start! Richmond is an American Heart Association movement supported locally by HCA Richmond Health System. It calls on all Richmonders and their employers to live longer and more heart-healthy lives through walking and other healthy habits. Support a worthy cause and work up a sweat Saturday, Nov. 3, at 9 a.m. at the Start! Richmond Heart Walk at the Richmond International Raceway. Visit www.startrichmondva.org

or call 965-6512.

Three Paths

Not quite ready to traverse the Appalachian Trail? Here are some hikes

closer to home:

Deep Run Park. Nestled in the West End is a hiatus from the sprawling shopping centers nearby. You are sure to burn some calories while enjoying the serenity of Deep Run's five miles of paved and unpaved paths. Although there are a few rolling hills, this route is primarily flat, so it's a great opportunity to work on speed or even break into a light jog. Enjoy one of the park's highlights by walking the paved path that encircles a pond complete with a flock of geese. Visit www.co.henrico.va.us/rec/ for directions.

James River Park System. Lorne Field of the James River Park System suggests a challenging seven-mile hike that loops the north and south banks of the James River. Offering spectacular vistas of the James, the trail passes through residential areas, takes hikers through deep forest and offers glimpses of several historic cemeteries. Beginning at North Bank Park (Texas Beach), you'll head west on the North Bank Trail until you meet the Boulevard Bridge. Cross the bridge and connect with the Buttermilk Trail on the river's south side, follow the shoreline to scenic Belle Isle and meet up again with the North Bank Trail via the Belle Isle footbridge to complete the loop. Check out www.richmondgov.com or www.jamesriverparks.org for more detailed information.

Pocahontas State Park. Located about 20 miles south of Richmond in Chesterfield County, this state park offers several beautiful hikes through densely wooded areas opening into the occasional field. Maps are available. Try the 2.5-mile Beaver Lake Trail and weave through forest and waterfront views on this moderate-intensity hike with plenty of rolling hills. Enjoy the lake's crystal reflection of surrounding trees and plants in full autumn bloom. Visit www.dcr.virginia.gov and click on State Parks to get directions and fee information.



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