As fall approaches in the Puget Sound, we natives know that chances are good we’ll see the sun continue to shine right on through the fall. We’ve had a gorgeous summer and the outlook for unseasonably warm temperatures going forward looks oh-so-promising. The Office of the Washington State Climatologist is predicting above normal temperatures through October and all the way into November. For folks like me who love to walk, this is great news.
Walking is a wonderful (and free!) way to learn about and engage with our own neighborhoods – as well as a great way to see the local landscape when traveling for pleasure or work. And depending on the pace and the terrain, it can be ramped up to be more of a workout than a simple stroll. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate activity to maintain health. Brisk walking definitely counts – and the minutes can be broken up a number of ways. Think in terms of a 30-minute walk 5 days a week. Take longer walks if feasible from a fitness level and time standpoint. Or take several 10 minute walks per day if that’s a better fit.
While some days it’s easy to walk out the front door and just go, some of us can use a little motivation to get out there. You may not have a very walk-able neighborhood. Or maybe you’re looking for a little more adventure, to get your heart pumping – or a little of both. There are many fun tools you can use to plan and track an outdoor adventure, as well as some really wonderful places to explore. We’ve gathered a few simple and easy ideas that will help get you started.
Stepping out… Where should I go? Can I have a map? I need a route!
One place you can start is the good ‘ol SDOT. The Seattle Department of Transportation offers free walking maps that can be accessed online. Download the appropriate pdf of the part of town you’re interested in (North, Central or South Seattle) to your computer for study – or to your smartphone for on-the-go reference. If you’re a purist – and like a map you can hold in your hands, they’ll mail you one (or all three!) for free. Simply fill out the form online and you’ll see it in your mailbox in a week or so. The maps are not interactive, but they suggest many different routes and each are broken up into sections that indicate approximate walking times. There are enough distances shown that you should be able to estimate time and distance even if you don’t use the exact routes that are offered.
If you’re looking for something a little more interactive, you may be familiar with Under Armour’s ‘Map My (Ride, Run, Walk)’ apps that are available for your smartphone. The running and cycling apps may be more well-known, but the ‘Map My Walk’ version is equally cool. When used in conjunction with your computer, you can create your own routes by plotting points on the map from start to finish. The website provides distance and elevation information for the route you build – and when you’re happy with your creation you can save it and download the route to your smartphone. The ‘Map My…’ apps connect with many of the popular fitness tracking devices (e.g. Fitbit, Nike+, UnderArmour, Garmin Connect, etc.), which may be appealing if you’re tracking your fitness or in a heated step competition with your friends wearing similar devices!
If creating your own route feels a little intimidating at first, you can select from routes other users have created and saved. Because of the popularity of this app and the time it’s been available, there are literally hundreds of route options all over the greater Seattle area.
Another cool website (with associated app) that’s quick, easy and free is AllTrails. In addition to providing routes/maps, they include a description, rating (easy/moderate/difficult), as well as directions to the starting point. They outline the attributes (dog friendly, wheelchair friendly, etc.) and amenities that are available there or nearby. Creating, saving and printing your own maps is possible, but requires an annual membership fee.
Stepping it up!
If you’re looking for something that will really get the heart pumping and escalate the calorie burn, Seattle has hundreds of public stairways which can be incorporated into your route. Many are beautiful, historic and situated in some breathtaking areas. If you’ve ever explored Queen Anne or Magnolia, you’ve probably run into several of them. We couldn’t find a free source for printable or downloadable maps of these routes, but suggest you check out the Seattle Stairway Walks blog to get ideas about the neighborhoods – and then revert back to the apps/maps mentioned above and search those neighborhoods for premade walks – or make your own! And if you get really excited, the Seattle Stairway Walks folks have a highly rated book for purchase that provides maps and other information about 25 different stairway routes in the greater Seattle area.
Stepping it down…
Maybe you are looking to be entertained a little – or you have guests in town and you all want to get moving, but at a more leisurely pace. We found a walking tour that occurs daily through October that is worth a look. Seattle Free Walking Tours is a ‘pay what you feel’ service that offers two different walking experiences daily. Their ‘Market Experience’ is a 1-hour walk through the market where you’ll hear some local history and engage with some of the vendors. The ‘Seattle Experience’ includes exploration of the Waterfront and Pioneer Square over 2 hours. This company was interesting because they are so highly rated (5 stars, 668 reviews on TripAdvisor) – and the proprietors seem like a whole lot of fun. ‘Pay what you feel’ is a way to describe a service where you pay what you feel it’s worth at the end.
Bottom line: just get out there and step.
As mentioned early on, this is only a chip off the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the plethora of tools available to guide you on the many places to go, things to see and ways to track your progress. Our hope is that this handful of ideas will spark other ideas that are a great fit for your level of fitness as well as your comfort with technology. The most important thing is that you get out there into the fresh air and honor your body with the movement as you fill your senses with new and interesting sights, smells and sounds. Keep it interesting and keep it moving!
Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults: https://health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/adults.aspx
Seattle Department of Transportation Recreational Walking Maps: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/walk_map.htm
Map My Walk: http://www.mapmywalk.com/us/seattle-wa/
Seattle Stairway Walks: http://www.seattlestairwaywalks.com
Seattle Walking Tours: http://seattlefreewalkingtours.org/index.php