How to Train Progressively to Walk Longer
Walking is one of the easiest and best ways of exercising. It helps you get fit and doesn’t bring the discomfort that you may experience if you were to work out in a gym or an aerobics class. You can modulate your effort level, depending on how energetic or tired you feel. Once you have begun walking, it is important to train progressively to walk longer.
Why walk longer distances?
The most obvious reason is that you can lose weight faster and even maintain the weight loss for a long time. Here are three main reasons why you should walk longer.
1. It helps burn more calories
On an average, you would burn approximately 70 calories/ per km of walking. Hence if you were to walk say 3km, you would get a calorie deficit of 210 calories, which would help you lose weight faster. In order to lose ½kg of fat, you need to burn 4,500 calories. This would mean that you would lose ½kg in about 21 days. Now let us assume you were to add 1km to this routine and walk 4km. You would then end up losing ½kg in 16 days.
2. You increase lean body mass
Walking is a moderate intensity exercise because it ensures your heart rate remains in the range of 50-70 per cent of your maximum heart rate. Research shows that at this intensity, the body burns more fat and less carbohydrate. Accordingly, as your fat percentage goes down, the body becomes leaner. This is not all; your legs develop more muscle mass and get stronger as you maintain your exercise for long periods.
3. You become healthier
Walking has been prescribed for cardiovascular health and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines specify at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each day. Hence if you walk everyday, your heart would be stronger with better regulation of blood pressure, your blood sugar would be under control, and your resting heart rate would drop. A lower resting heart rate means your heart is not working as hard as it was earlier to move oxygen and nutrients around your body.
Also read: Can Walking Help In Weight Loss?
How to train progressively to walk longer?
So, how do you go about training progressively for walking longer distances within a given period of time?
1. Increase distance walked gradually
This is a fundamental principle of exercise physiology; namely progressive overload. It just means that you increase the “load” placed on the body in small increments, so that your body has time to adapt to it. If you have started with 30 minutes of walking every day, increase the duration by five minutes. Hold this for about 3-4 weeks and resist the temptation to increase it further before that. Once you are comfortable with 35 minutes, go for a further increase of five minutes. By this method, you should be able to walk one hour every day in about 5-6 months.
2. Maintain good posture
Keep your body upright and use the cue to “walk tall”. Look about 20m in front of you. Tuck in your elbows close to your body and maintain a right angle. Keep an easy swing of the arms with the hand coming up to shoulder level and reaching your hip on the downswing. Ensure you don’t over stride by keeping your foot landing close to beneath your hips. Push off firmly with the ball of the foot when completing your stride.
3. Perform speed intervals to walk longer
Increase the intensity of your walk to a level where you are unable to speak a complete sentence for two minutes, and then recover with an easy walk for two minutes. Do this about 4-5 times during your walk. Increase the sets progressively to 10 sets over a period of 3-4 months. You will progressively get faster in short distances and will get less tired when you walk easy for longer durations.
4. Build a strong core
When fatigue sets it, a weak core will make your posture droop and go out of whack. Strengthen your core with exercises such as front plank, side plank, leg raises, superman, Russian twist, and sit-ups. Your legs will naturally get a workout from walking, and so you don’t have to focus especially on strengthening them.
5. Choose correct footwear
Your walking shoes should be comfortable. Ensure the heel has sufficient cushioning, the toe box is broad, and the ankle collar is cushioned. Most well-known brands have a range to choose from. Always buy your shoes at the end of the day when your feet are slightly swollen, so you don’t make a mistake with size.
6. Stretch after every walk
Stretching will not only help build flexibility in the muscles and joints, but will also help you recover easily the next day. Perform 2-3 stretches for the calves, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, shoulders, back, and neck. Hold each stretch for about 15-20 seconds.
7. Hydrate well
While you train progressively to walk longer, remember that walking will result in loss of fluids through sweat. The rate of loss is unique to every person. Ensure you drink water at periodic intervals. Increase the frequency of intake if the weather is hot and/ or humid. Sweat contains sodium, and it is essential that at the end of long walks you hydrate with an electrolyte to make good the sodium that has been lost from the body.
8. Take in quality nutrition
Walking will help you lose weight, but it could all go awry if you don’t eat right. Make sure you minimize junk or fast foods and sugary drinks or bakes from your diet and stick to a diet comprising grain, vegetables, fruits, protein, dairy, and healthy oils. You can eat your favorite cheat meals 3-4 times a week as long as it is in moderation.
Also read: Types of Walks and How Fast Should You Walk
9. Schedule a long hike
Join a group that does regular hiking to nearby outdoor locations. Check what kind of terrain and duration they cover. Choose a hike that works for you and partner with someone in your fitness category. These outdoor hikes are refreshing and can bump up your walking endurance substantially. Do not forget to carry water and snacks on these hikes.
Walking long distances will benefit you both physically and mentally. Optimize your daily walks by taking stock of your recovery from the previous day, the quality of your sleep, and overall stress level. Mix the duration of your walks by stepping back when you feel under the weather and going a bit more aggressive on days when you feel strong. Monitor your daily walks by keeping a diary to check for progress, this will help you to train progressively to walk longer. Inspire others to take up walking by sharing your experience with them.
For more information, you can also listen to our Walk to Weight Loss podcast.