Fitness and Training

How to Get Started With Walking Workouts

You’re ready to start walking on a regular basis. So, is it as simple as getting out there and putting one foot in front of the other? While that is the heart of it, there are nuances about starting a walking program that will help ensure you do so safely and in a way that maximizes the benefits you get out of it.

“One of the great things about walking as a form of exercise is that almost everybody already walks. It’s just a matter of increasing the amount, and in most cases, the speed of your walking,” says walking coach Dave McGovern, 15-time US Champion racewalker and author of The Complete Guide to Competitive Walking, about making the common practice a workout.

Whether you’re physically active already or just starting out with exercise, here’s what you need to know about starting a walking program, including setting that right pace, safety must-knows, and putting together a training plan that’s right for you.
Pick Your Walking Pace
Every step you take counts toward your physical activity, says Amanda Paluch, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who researches physical activity, epidemiology, and kinesiology. However, increasing your walking pace and duration is how you can use walking to really boost your fitness.

She recommends aiming for moderate intensity, sometimes also called low-intensity steady-state (LISS) exercise: “This would be an effort where your heart rate and breathing is slightly elevated. A good gauge is you can talk, but cannot sing.”
One of the best things about walking workouts is that you don’t need any fancy clothing or gear. That said, shoes are one of the most important elements. “Although you won’t need special shoes for easier walks versus for more brisk walking, you should look for a low-heeled running shoe,” McGovern says.

A lower heeled shoe helps with your forward momentum. “Think racing flats rather than thicker-soled trainers,” he says. If you have knee or back issues, however, you may need more cushion than a low-heeled shoe will provide.If you have questions about what shoes are best for you, Carrie Boyle, a walking coach with the virtual walking program 99 Walks and an NASM-certified personal trainer, recommends going to your local running store, where an associate can assess your gait and help fit you with the appropriate shoe.

As for what clothes to wear: There’s no need to buy a new walking outfit — unless of course you want to because it feels inspiring or motivating, Boyle says. Otherwise, shop your closet, pulling items that fit the criteria of being comfortable, breathable, and able to be layered, depending on the weather. She likes cotton fabrics for their breathability.

Tips for Staying Safe While Walking
Staying safe while on your walks is important. Here are five safety checks to make before every walk, according to McGovern:

Leave your earbuds at home. “I realize a lot of walkers like to listen to music while training,” McGovern says, adding that he discourages this when walking outdoors. “Being aware of your surroundings is critical to staying safe when training outdoors.” It’s distracting and more difficult to hear approaching cars, animals, or people, he says. If you rely on music for your motivation, consider using one earbud instead of two.

Walk in the correct direction. You’re not a car, you’re a person, so walk facing traffic, says McGovern.
Carry ID. McGovern likes the Road iD, a metal tag that you can customize to include info like your name, city, state, in-case-of-emergency contacts, allergies, and medical history, and attach to a band or a fitness tracker. Or slip your driver’s license in a running belt, secure pocket, or in your cellphone case.

Make your habits known. If someone’s home, mention the walking route you’re taking, and in general share with friends and family the routes you tend to walk. And, McGovern adds: “Avoid unpopulated areas, deserted streets, overgrown trails, and unlit streets.
Make yourself visible. If you walk before dawn or during or after dusk, wear reflective clothing or shoes, says McGovern. You can also purchase light-up vests and armbands for high visibility. At any time of day, it’s a good idea to wear bright colors so you’re more visible to drivers, bikers, and others on your routes.

Source: everydayhealth