There will be times when you will need to restrict your exercise routine to something less intense, like taking a long brisk walk.

Hopefully everyone has a safe and enjoyable spring and summer without any problems. Yet sometimes life has a way of telling you to take a break from doing your full-up exercise routine. That could be from something like a muscle strain, illness, or bone break. No one wants to have anything setting them back because of any of those.

Spring and summer bring other problems such as hay fever, sunburn, and mosquito bites. They’re uncomfortable, but they shouldn’t be so severe as to restrict you from being able to exercise. Well, perhaps if you spent too much time on the beach the throb from third degree sunburns on your legs could be somewhat debilitating.

There are other dangers this time of year that produce much more dire and despicable effects. Something I’ve very recently had to deal with: poison ivy. For no one that has experienced this, the body’s allergic reaction to urushiol (the active irritant in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac) is an intense rash. This rash gradually worsens over the course of a week and only then begins to dry out in phases.

Depending upon its severity the resulting blisters can cluster and begin to weep. As most people know, it comes with a maddening amount of intense, sporadic itching – enough to wake you up in the middle of the night.

Poison Ivy - Why i'm walking now.
Allergic reactions to poison ivy are exacerbated by warmth and sweat. It’s terrible if you’re trying to run, but a good walk won’t bother it at all.

More pertinent to this discussion, poison ivy is exacerbated by any kind of warmth (to include increases in body temperature) as well as the salt content in sweat. It makes any kind of exercise unbearable if not impossible.

The effects of poison ivy can be quite frustrating if you try to exercise regularly – especially if it’s on every limb on your body.

What can you do to remain active without over exerting yourself?

Some may remember from an earlier post: “if you can’t run, take a good long walk.” Walking uses the same muscles as running and burns energy at a lesser rate. Essentially, you’re doing lower impact work but keeping the same muscles tone without overheating your body or excessive sweating. It’s the perfect alternative to running, and the same tips that apply to running generally apply to taking a long brisk walk.

The only down side to walking is that because you burn energy at a lesser rate, you will burn much fewer calories in the same amount of time. As a general rule of thumb, a brisk walk will be about half (or less) the rate of speed and calorie burn as your typical jog. A good one-hour walk at a brisk three and a half mile/hour pace will eat roughly 300 calories, whereas a jog in the same time frame can burn roughly 700. So if you’re trying to achieve the same calorie burn, plan on walking at least twice as long as you normally do running.

Conversely, step count will be much higher when walking, because your stride will be shorter. As a result, more steps are required for walking the same distance that you would normally run. This is actually good news if you use an activity tracker.

Walking has other advantages over running. As mentioned previously, because you’re not concentrating on running, it allows you to enjoy your surroundings more. Running forces you to focus on your breathing, rhythm, and not stepping on (or in) something that could break your ankle – not the natural beauty of the environment you’re running in.

Because you won’t tire as easily and are able to examine the terrain a lot better, walking is an excellent way to experiment with varying or extending your usual run route. For example, try walking through your usual run route. Instead of coming to your usual turn-about point or passing up a crossroad, extend your route a bit more and explore that extra path. That way you can see if the next hill you’ve always avoided is really as challenging as you thought during a run and can include it the next time out.

I had the opportunity to do this just the other day and found where my next extra mile is going to come from. A road I never intended on ever trying now seems like a nice way to increase my speed as well as my overall distance.

Oh, and before I forget: if you are also walking because of poison ivy – wear shorts. Pants rub and that’s not a good thing. Plus, having any kind of breeze on your legs is wonderful, even if they look radioactive from all the calamine lotion.

Last Week: Five ways to get back to running.

Next Week: Which foods are better for increased fitness.