How to start exercising

How to start exercising – Part 1

Welcome back!

In the last article I described why its a good idea to compliment your dieting with exercise.  In this and following articles I’ll suggest ways that you can do this, most of which are completely free, point you towards mobile apps that’ll help you count your exercise (including Strava and Map My Walk), and explain why this is called the Bank Diet.


The simplest form of exercise, that requires no lycra (unless you like it a lot), is to go walking.  If you have a dog or a particularly cooperative cat, you may be exercising just by walking them.  If not, then its simply finding somewhere you’ll enjoy walking and going there, and walking.  If you walk to your walk, then that’s even better.


I’m fortunate that I have country on my doorstep.  If you aren’t then you might want to visit your local tourist board’s website or simply google ‘best places to walk’ or similar to find a site that will advise on local walks you can do by driving to a start point, parking up and grabbing the walking boots from the back of the car.

A site that I came across that was easy to use is Walking Britain.  You simply add your town and it’ll find walks in your selected radius, e.g.

walking britain example map

Hovering over a red balloon on the map will give you a link which will then allow you to see details about the walk including how to get to it, and information on similar close walks with mileages and links to further information on them.

I know its probably teaching granny to suck eggs – after all what’s difficult about walking!  but, the following may be useful if only as a reminder.

If you’re looking to walk a few miles it pays to take a small backpack with water, the walks instructions, your mobile (charged up of course), some food in case you get hungry, waterproofs and perhaps a jumper in case the weather changes for the worse.  As its winter, its advisable to also carry a torch.  The key thing to remember is that there’s no downside to having more clothes than you need on a walk as you can always  take them off and chuck them in your backpack.  If you’re not a hat wearer and its cold, try to wear one as your head is more sensitive to changes in temperature than most of your body, and without one you’ll feel colder.

If you’ve heard that you lose 90% of heat from your head recent research alleges that this is a myth which began with incorrect US Army training manuals in the 1950’s.

If its pretty cold, take a thermos of tea or coffee.  If you’re walking in the country on exposed tracks, you’re subject to wind chill which will likely make you feel colder faster than you think.

Also, if you’re walking in the country, try to let someone know where you’re going and the time that you expect to be back, in case you run in to difficulties.

If you can find someone to walk with, all the better, as you’ll provide conversation and motivation for each other.   The Ramblers is a charity whose web pages say that their goal is to protect the ability of people to enjoy the sense of freedom and benefits that come from being outdoors on foot.  Their site includes information on local walking groups, which is why I’m including it here.





Try to take regular drinks before you feel thirsty.  If you feel thirsty then technically you are already dehydrated and this can disturb your energy levels.

I have read that you only need to be 2% dehydrated to lose 30% of your performance.  How you measure this is another thing.  I try to take a small drink every kilometre and this seems to work.

There’s no harm in taking more water than you need.   Getting thirsty with miles still to go is no fun.

Try to take snack(s) with you as well.  If you’re out for a couple of hours, snacking will keep your metabolism going.  Chocolate is a good snack while walking as it will provide fast energy should you start tiring.




If your walk is going to take you into dusk, try to take a torch and some bright or reflective clothing.  You may find yourself on a bridleway used by horses and mountain bike riders.  Mountain bikes can travel at some speed and may not be able to see you until the last moment if you’re completely blacked out.  Torch and reflective clothing also allows you to be seen by motor vehicles for those occasions when you need to take to or cross roads.

If you’re on a road without pavements, it makes sense to walk on the right hand side towards oncoming traffic but try to stay on the outside of corners, crossing the road beforehand if its necessary – traffic will see you a lot quicker.  If you can get hold of a red rear facing light you can clip on the hood of your jacket or backpack, this improves visibility to traffic behind you.    e.g. these lights from Amazon.

If you have a mobile with applications like Map my Walk or similar, then turn it on before you start, and just as important to your calorie control, stop it when you finish.  Nothing worse than finishing a walk, only to discover that you’ve been logging your footsteps around the house for a couple of hours afterwards.

Saying this, if you know what time you set off and finished, you can work out roughly how many calories you used.  Most people walk about 4 kms an hour and this consumes roughly 240 calories, or 60 calories every 15 minutes.

If you don’t use mobile walking apps, try to keep a simple log of how far you’ve walked.  It should show black and white improvement in distance and speed over time.

Walking Apps

There are loads of these and you don’t necessarily have to spend any money to get one.

‘Map my Walk’ is a good example and is downloadable from either the Google App store of Apple’s App Store.

map my walk example screenshots

It shows:

  • Duration
  • Distance
  • Current Pace
  • Average Pace
  • Calories Used

It also gives you an audio description of your stats every kilometre and shows you in map form where you have walked.  The map is useful if you’re not on a circular walk and need to check that you’re returning the way that you went out.  The app will also usefully let you takes photos of your location and let you add a journal entry describing your walk.  You can also see your walk history.

You can pay for premium analytical services which I haven’t yet tried, which give you services including:

  • Live location tracking
  • Interval Training
  • Audio Coaching
  • Heart Rate analysis
  • Routing services (Route Genius)
  • Mobile coaching

Paying means you get an ad free experience, but I haven’t found the free service’s adverts too intrusive.

I use the audio feedback every kilometre as a reminder to drink to prevent dehydration.

After you’ve completed the walk


Relax like Mr Tibbs above, have a cup of tea etc and then establish how many calories you’ve burn’t by walking.  When you have the figure, add this to your allowed calories.  You wouldn’t expect to run your car without adding fuel and you’re just the same.  You have to pay (in calories) for that exercise.   The nice bit about the paying in this case is that you get a bunch of calories that you can add back into your diet.  Don’t worry – the diet will still work – you’ve used the energy already and now you’re putting it back.

e..g If you have a calorie limit of 1800, and have walked 4 kilometres, you’d add roughly 240 calories which then gives you a new limit of 2040 calories.  Don’t forget to take off any snacks you’ve consumed while walking.

If you don’t have time to walk

If you don’t have time to get out and walk on an established route somewhere nice, there are other ways you can introduce walking as exercise.  On the way to work, try parking the car further away from work than normal and walk in.  When you arrive, take the stairs instead of the lift.  Go for a walk for half an hour at lunchtime.  Park at the Park and Ride and walk in (as long as its safe to do so).  You’ll be surprised how the calories tot up.

If this isn’t enough, and its too dark to go walking after work, you could join a local gym.  Perfectly good ones only cost around £20 per month, are invaluable when its raining, and have walking machines which give immediate calorie count feedback.

I’ll be going in to more detail on gyms in the next article, speaking of which …

Next Time

This article has introduced the use of walking as a form of exercise.  Next time there’ll be advice on cycling for fitness, detail of a mobile app to help you count the calories while cycling, a beginner’s guide for the use of gyms to keep fit, and how the ‘bank’ part of the bank diet works.

Hope to see you then, and keep up the diet!

All the best. Ian.


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