Getting Started with a Walking Fitness Plan
What are your goals? What do you want to achieve from your fitness walking program? There are many different types of goals to consider and they all begin by asking yourself a few questions:
- What is my primary goal?
- Do I want to lose weight?
- Do I want to improve my health?
- Do I want to improve my endurance or conditioning?
Also consider what your current fitness level is. For example, do you currently exercise 0 times per week, 1-2, 3-4, or 5 or more? Your present fitness level will impact your goals.
How much time to you have to devote to exercise? Will shorter, 15-20 minute spurts work best for your schedule, or do you have time for 30-45 minutes or 60 plus minute workouts?
You can also set goals for time, distance, speed, and intensity. For example, a time goal might be to walk for sixty minutes a day. You might strive to reach that goal by walking for fifteen minutes the first day and then adding a few minutes each day. Once you reach that goal, you can set new goals.
Another example of a goal might be to track your steps and strive to reach 10,000 steps per day. When you first put on that pedometer you may quickly realize that it’s a substantial goal. Consider tracking your steps without modifying your behavior for a week. Then, when you have a good daily average to work with, you can create a plan to achieve that 10,000 steps goal.
For example, perhaps you normally walk about 5,000 steps each day. You’ll need to add another 5,000 to reach your goal. You might add 250 steps each day by taking advantage of walking opportunities like parking a little farther away from the supermarket or taking a quick walk at lunch.
Take a few minutes to answer those questions. Start working through your priorities, opportunities, and any limitations you may have to manage. It’s also helpful to understand the different types of walking.
Types of Walking to Investigate and Consider
Until this point we’ve been talking about one particular type of walking, generally known as “fitness walking.” It’s faster than your average stroll around the block. The purpose of fitness walking is to boost your heart rate, burn calories, and improve your overall health and fitness. The general speed for fitness walking is around four miles per hour.
You can perform fitness walking outside or inside on a treadmill or indoor track. You don’t need any special equipment other than good shoes. A pedometer or fitness tracker can be helpful as well.
Race Walking – Taking Fitness Walking to the Next Level
Race walking kicks fitness walking up a notch. During this type of walking your pace increases quite a lot. You’ll walk between five and six miles per hour. Your form changes a bit as well. Your steps will be shorter and your posture will be straight to facilitate those short, rapid steps. You’ll also use your arms to propel you forward. Your arms will swing from the shoulders in a motion that matches your rapid footsteps. Each of your hips will also rotate slightly toward the arm that’s swinging.
If you’re competing in a race walking event then there are rules. The first and often most important is that one foot must always be in contact with the ground. This is to prevent you from transitioning into a jog. The other rule is that your knee must be kept straight from the moment the heel hits the ground until it passes under the hip. This is what gives race walkers their unique swagger.
It’s a great calorie burner burning about 600 calories an hour. It also gives your core and legs a great workout.
Nordic walking requires some equipment. Specifically, it requires ski poles. When you walk with the ski poles you use the poles to help propel you forward. The poles have a rubber tip at the bottom and hand straps near the handles. Your shoulders swing helping you burn more calories and improve upper body strength.
Nordic walking improves cardiovascular health and helps burn fat. It’s said to burn 40% more calories than basic day to day walking. Additionally, if you have balance or joint problems you may appreciate the aid of the poles.
Poles are only required if you are going to try a Nordic walking program. Consider heading to a sporting goods store and trying them out. It can take a little getting used to, however it can also be quite fun and a great way to get in shape.
Now that you know the different types of walking and you’re working on your walking for fitness goals, let’s take a quick look at the gear you may want or need.
Power Walking aka Speed Walking
Power walking is like race walking, but without the rules on form. You also walk at an intense pace, about five to six miles per hour. You propel yourself forward by pushing off from the back foot. You can also add weights to a power walking workout to increase the intensity and the calorie burn. Power walking is often considered the quickest path to weight loss because it burns fat and more calories per mile.
Shopping Trips and Your New Fitness Walking Gear
The good news is that you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a walking for fitness program. The only real item that you need to invest in is a good pair of shoes. Walking shoes need to support your foot. Generally when people walk they strike the ground with their heel first.
Get up and walk around your home, take a few steps. Do you notice what part of your foot hits the ground first? Many walking shoes have both cushioning and support to help guide your foot into proper alignment when it hits the ground. Consider taking a pair of your current shoes to the store when you go shopping.
The sales consultant should be able to guide you to the right type of walking shoe by looking at the wear on the bottom of your shoe. For example, if the outside edge of your shoe is more worn than the inside edge then you may over-pronate, which means your foot strikes on the outside edge. The goal is to have a neutral foot strike because it’s easier on your muscles and joints.
Other walking gear to consider includes a fitness or GPS watch. These watches can also track your heart rate so you can make sure you’re walking fast enough to burn the calories you want but not so fast that you’ll tire out before your walk is over. If you like listening to music, then you may want an MP3 player.
If you’re walking outside then consider appropriate outdoor attire. You might want a wind breaker or wind pants to help you stay warm on windy days. Loose comfortable clothing is recommended. Reflective and light-colored clothing is also important.
If you’re considering walking inside, then you’ll need purchase a treadmill or join a gym. Treadmills with an incline feature will allow you to get some hill work in and a more intense walking workout. They also make sure that you walk even when the weather is bad.
Walking Alone or With Friends?
What type of exerciser are you and what are your walking goals? Are you more likely to follow through on your walking plans if you have a friend or do you prefer to walk on your own? There are benefits to both approaches and there is no single right or wrong way. Walking with someone helps you hold yourself accountable to your walking goals. However, if your walking goals are to go longer and faster than your partners, then you may be held back.
Conversely, walking alone allows you to set the pace and the distance. You don’t have to worry about keeping up with anyone or having to slow down to accommodate a friend. However, you do have to be motivated and accountable to yourself and be able to follow through.
Is your walking fitness plan coming together? Before we move forward with the last bit of information let’s stop and take a quick review:
- Have you established your walking goals? For example, your goal may be to walk 10,000 steps or more each day.
- Have you measured or evaluated your current fitness state?
- How much time do you have each day to walk?
- What’s your first step toward your fitness goal? How will you start your program and what steps do you need to take along the way to reach your goal? For example, if you currently walk around 3,000 steps a day then you may want to increase your walking by 1,000 steps more a week. How will you get the job done? Will you start taking walks in the morning before work? Will you get a treadmill? What’s your action plan?
- What gear do you need, if any, to get started?
- What type of walking will you begin with or try?
- Finally, how will you track your progress? That’s what we’re going to take a look at next.