Starting a walking program is a great way to get in shape and get healthy this year.
Many adults are experiencing the joys of walking for fitness, including participation in local 5k, half and full marathon races. Wherever you are at in your fitness level, just starting in already doing races, these tips can help you increase the benefits you get from your walking program.
As you progress in your routine don’t forget to include some complementary resistance-training exercises for the muscles you use during your walks. By strengthening your leg and torso muscles you will reduce joint stress and muscle fatigue, giving you greater stamina. It’s best to implement your strength-walk program a few months prior to a given race, but it’s never too late to get started.
Below is a short series of strength moves that you can add right into your walk or perform on off days. You should try doing them at least 2 to 3 times per week.
1. Walking lunges (for the leg and hip muscles): start with your feet together, step forward and bend both knees until you are in a lunge position, then bring the rear foot up to meet the front foot. Repeat leading with the opposite leg. Continue alternating legs for 10 to 15 steps on each leg.
2. Scapular Dips (for the upper back and shoulder girdle muscles): Place your arms behind you with your hands resting on the edge of a bench or step. Walk you feet slightly forward, hips and knees bent. Fingers are forward and elbows are straight. Slowly let your shoulder blades slide upward towards your ears and then press them downward in the opposite direction. Keeping all other joints stable. Repeat this controlled shoulder shrug and press action 10 to 15 times.
3. Heel to toe walks (for the lower leg muscles): Stand tall, bending the knees slightly and walk on your heels (toes up) for 30 seconds. Follow this with 30 seconds of walking on your toes (heels up). Repeat 30-second toe to heel walk two more times for a total of 3 sets.
4. Scapular Squeeze Circuit (for the mid back, postural muscles): Walk with proper form and arm swing for 5 to 10 minutes then continue walking while performing 20 scapular squeezes. Tuck both arms in towards your sides and pinch the muscles between your shoulder blades as though you are squeezing a tennis ball between them. Hold the squeeze for one to two seconds then release for one to two seconds. Go back to normal walking technique then repeat the squeeze series a total of 3 times over.
Who wouldn’t like to make the most out of every walking workout? A simple way to increase your walking power and output is to increase the dynamics of your arm swing. Create a fist with your thumbs resting on your knuckles and bend your elbows to right angles. Pump your arms forward and back with your fist moving from sternum to hip in an alternating fashion. As you pump your arms think about driving your elbows down and back right along side of your torso. Keep your arms moving in a straight line; don’t let them swing side to side or cross the body. To progress further try-adding resistance in the form of hand held weights, body vests, or walking poles. All of these options will help you burn more calories while using them while also increasing your ability to perform a more powerful walk when you walk without them.
Start off using the lightest increments of weight. Restrict the time you spend using the added resistance. Start with 5 or 10 minutes and then gradually build up to your regular workout time. If you plan to increase your resistance, do so in small increments every 4 to 8 weeks. The maximum recommendation for hand held weights is 3 pounds and the maximum for weighted vest is 30 pounds. Note: Controversy exists over the use of hand held weights due to the stress to the shoulder joint.
*Keep in mind that good posture, controlled arm swing and proper overall walking form (see article on walking form) must be maintained during the use of any added resistance device. If the use of added resistance causes, neck, shoulder pain or low back pain discontinue immediately.
Another great way to add a bit of spice to your walk program is with speed play. Some times called interval or Fartlek training, it is the best way to rev up your walk and train towards faster race time. The difference between this type of training and your continuous walk training is that the intensity and speed of the exercise varies, to train both the aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic systems (without oxygen). Simply put, the aerobic system is the system your body uses to perform continuous activities like walking, swimming and bike riding.
Your respiration and pulse rate increase, but you can handle it and keep going for 20 or more minutes. The anaerobic system is used for high intensity activities like sprinting and jumping, that cause you to become winded and fatigued, forcing you to stop within a 30 to 90 seconds. By training both of these systems you will become more fit and able to walk at faster, harder paces.
The easiest way to implement this into your existing walk routine is to perform timed bouts of fast walking followed by slow, recovery walking. This can be accomplished using the walking techniques described in the previous walking pace articles (link). Start with a warm up walk lasting between 10 and 15 minutes and then pick up your pace to a 30 to 60 second speed walk, followed by 1 to 3 minutes of leisurely paced, health walking. Once you feel that you have adequately recovered you can go back to a moderate fitness paced walk. Every time you do a 30 to 60 second speed pace, follow it up with a 1 to 2 minute recovery pace. Start with two or three of these bouts equally disbursed within your walk, then add in another every few weeks as desired.
The ratio is the time difference between the fast, work pace and the slow, recovery pace. Typically you begin with a 1 to 3 ratio. That means the recovery pace is 3 times the length of the work pace. For example:
30 seconds fast – 1.5 minutes slow (1 to 3 ratio)
or, 1 minute fast – 3 minutes slow (1 to 3 ratio)
As you get in better condition for intervals you can reduce the ratio to 1 to 2
30 seconds fast – 1 minute slow (1 to 2 ratio)
Or, 1 minute fast – 2 minutes slow (1 to 2 ratio)
It can be a lot of fun trying different ratios. Soon you’ll be cruising down the road with greater speed and energy. But don’t overdue it... interval training is quite intense so limit these types of training sessions to no more than a few times per week.
Many of the abilities and improvements you will be working on in this three part program go hand and hand because of the cross over between strength, power and speed... so feel free to use a variety of these suggested programs.
Don't forget to take your liquid glucosamine and chondroitin to support your joints. This will help keep them flexible and strong and able to keep on walking! Even if you do not have any joint issues yet, glucosamine and chondroitin can also act as a preventative against the wear and tear on your joints.
Have any plans for walking or running a race this year? Leave your tips or story here for extra entry into the New Year New Healthy You Sweepstakes! http://www.wellesse.com/newyearspromo/