Sunday, May 04, 2008

Walking Your Way to Ultimate Health!

Walking Your Way to Ultimate Health by Lisa Smith-Batchen

The mistake most of us make when starting an exercise program is this: too much, too fast. And then we burn out and stop exercising. Small steps lead to big steps. Literally.
One of the best modes of exercise available to everyone is walking. Walking can be done anywhere, anytime. You don’t need a gym or any equipment except a good pair of shoes. It provides just as much of a workout as running and takes away the risk of injury that can occur with running.
I have been walking as a supplement to my running for years. I can now walk 5.5 mph, and I love it.
Autumn is a great time to start your walking program. The brilliant colors give you plenty to look at and the crisp air prevents you from overheating and is easier to inhale than the muggy, humid air of summer.
Before beginning your walking program make sure you have proper walking shoes. I cannot emphasize this enough. Having the correct shoes will prevent the aches and pains associated with improper shoes. Have a knowledgeable salesperson work with you on what pair best fits your feet. The shoes need to have moderate cushioning and room in the toe box.
Now, when I say walk, I mean WALK. I don’t want you to walk as if you were slowly browsing about in the mall—I want you to put some muscle into it. The larger the muscle mass you involve with each stride, the greater the health benefits, including weight loss.
Start extending a backward force against the ground the instant your heel touches down. Think of pulling the ground under your body with your leg. This action involves the back of the thigh (hamstring) and the buttocks (gluteals). Together, these muscles are up to five times bigger than your calf muscles. End each stride with a push-off as you normally would.
Your hips are also a big part of walking. Reach forward with the hip of the leg that is coming forward for the new stride. By doing this you will work your abdominals, lower back muscles and the gluteals.
Throughout your walk focus on something that is 20-30 feet in front of you—a lamppost, tree, mailbox. Keep your eyes level, walk smooth and don’t bounce. Be sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and always stretch after each walking session.
Why walk?
Walking is the best way to start your running program. If you are interested in introducing running into your exercise regimen, then walking (not strolling) is the perfect way to do so. In addition, it doesn’t matter where you live, what season it is (snowshoes or Yaxtrax® make it easy to get around in winter), or whether you are at home or travelling—you can walk anywhere! Many people, including myself, walk during each running training session and even during a race.
The benefits to your body include better fat metabolism, improved glucose tolerance, a lower resting heart rate, and reduced stress. Walking up and down hills works every muscle in the body and will give you a very good aerobic workout.
How do I get started?
Start any exercise program gradually and only three to four days a week. Start with a 15-20 minute walk and add 10 minutes to each session each week. Forty-five minutes to one hour is the ideal workout length for weight loss and health benefits.
As you increase your workout time, also increase your speed. If you feel slightly out of breath throughout the workout then you know that you are in a heart rate working zone. If you can hold a conversation for the entire walking session then you need to pick up the pace! You should only be able to talk in phrases, not complete sentences.
Example of a beginner’s walking week
Monday: 20 minutes of walking. For the first ten minutes walk at a good pace. For the remaining ten minutes walk one minute as fast as you can, then one minute slowly. Repeat until the ten minutes is up.
Tuesday: off.
Wednesday: repeat Monday’s workout.
Thursday: off.
Friday: 25 minutes at a good steady pace.
Saturday: 20 minute walk. Go slowly for 5 minutes then walk two minutes as fast as you can, followed by three minutes at a good pace. Keep this pattern up for the remainder of the walk.
Sunday: off.
No excuses—get out there and enjoy the foliage of fall and brisk, breathy conversation with a walking buddy.
Happy feet!


Anonymous said...

This is a great post. I was an avid runner for over 25 years, but due to some injuries, and a surgery, I no longer run. Power walking has been WONDERFUL for me. I almost love it, no wait, I do love it, more than running now. I live in a very hilly area so my walks are challenging and I do push myself. I feel that I am in great shape - my resting heart rate is 50, BP is 90/60, and even though I'm 49 I feel better than I did when I was in my 20's.

But I understand the thrust of your post is to runners who want to incorporate some walking too as part of their training.

Thanks for letting me give my 2 cents worth!

Anonymous said...

I am glad to see you promote other exercise and not just hard core long running. I know you are such a good walker. I have seen how fast you can walk past people who are running.
I feel off the wagon and did no exercise or training all winter, gained 22 pounds and feel just awful about myself. This little walking plan you have just might be the one I use to kick my own butt back to it.
Thank you for the inspiration as always.


Joe said...

This is a great post. I like seeing posts from you on varied training methods.
I know that you are also an avid proponent of jump-roping. Would love to see a future post on adding jump-rope into your training, it's benefits and maybe even a sample plan, just like you did for the walking.

Jacqueline Florine said...

I love power walking! It can be a real workout, too. Frankly, it is my favorite part of training. Everyone seems to think you have to run to be fit. Thanks to you, I can look those runners in the eye and say,
"See ya on the hills!"
Hee! Hee!

Anonymous said...

All I can do now is walk, my knees will not take the running.
With walking I can see so much more than I did when I was running.
Maybe the slower pace. My body feels better and truth be known I feel better all over.
Good post, thank you for sharing.


Anonymous said...

From Anthony's Blog:

"If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, keep moving."

Bob - said...

I am a big fan of mixing in walking during my long runs, keeps me fresh the whole way!