If done right, you can burn as many calories walking as you can jogging. What’s better, power walking is easier on your joints and much less likely to cause an injury than most other aerobic activities.
From getting the right gear to speeding up your steps, here’s what you need to know:
INVEST IN WALKING SHOES
While the difference between walking and running shoes might seem subtle, there are key differences that can impact your comfort during exercise. A walking stride requires you to roll your weight evenly from the heel to the ball of the foot and then through to the toes. This rocking chair-like motion is quite different from a normal running stride — and since your body won’t be absorbing the same impact, the cushioning requirements differ as well.
Walking shoes will also generally be more flexible through the ball of the foot, have better arch support and have a zero-drop heel-to-toe ratio — meaning the heel is flat and not raised slightly higher than the toe as they are in most running shoes.
SPEED UP YOUR PACE
It’s not running, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working up a sweat. If you can walk at a pace around 4 miles per hour, you’ll burn a similar number of calories as a slow jogger — around 200 calories per 30 minutes of exercise.
This might sound good, but walking at this fast pace is going to be much harder to accomplish. Resist the urge to increase your stride and instead focus on a quicker turnover. Walk at a pace you’re comfortable with and slowly try to increase your pace each week until you’ve reached your goal. Here are a few other tips to push the pace:
- Pumping your arms helps you increase your foot speed stay in rhythm.
- Don’t try to add the walker’s hip motion. Instead concentrate on moving forward, allowing your hips to move front-to-back naturally.
- Push forward with the back foot.
- Your stride should be longest behind your body and not in front of it.
WORK YOUR TECHNIQUE
To burn more calories and improve your speed, you’ll need to put an emphasis on your power walking technique. In addition to the tips above for speeding up your pace, below are head-to-toe ways to perfect your walking stride:
- Head: Keep your chin up and head centered between your shoulder blades.
- Shoulders: Avoid letting them round forward; instead keep them back and down.
- Chest: Keep your chest high and use good posture.
- Arms: Bend to about 90 degrees. Swing close to your body at the shoulder. At the top of the movement, your hands should be near your nose.
- Core: Keep your low back straight and pull your belly button toward your spine.
- Hips: Relax your hips and concentrate on moving them forward instead of to the side.
- Legs and feet: Use short strides, landing on the heel and rolling smoothly to push off on the toe.
INCREASE YOUR DISTANCE GRADUALLY
Just like running and other aerobic activities, you can still overdo it. Your hips, back and legs will all be a little more sore than you might think the first few times out, so it’s a good idea to limit your mileage and gradually increase your distance over time.
A good rule of thumb is to only increase your weekly mileage total or time by 10% per week. So, if you start out walking 10 miles per week, you should not walk more than 11 miles the following week. This gives your body the time it needs to adjust to the activity and prevent an unnecessary injury.
Getting rid of the stroll in the park pace will be one of your biggest challenges. To help speed things up, include several intervals in your walk where you work on upping the pace. If you start out with a 20–30-minute walk, once every five minutes, increase your speed as much as you can tolerate for 30 seconds.
Aim for an interval speed that pushes you just shy of the point where you want to begin jogging. Once this gets easier to tolerate, increase the time of the interval by 10–20 seconds until you can tolerate this pace for a few minutes at a time. Just remember intervals should be done no more than every other day to give your body a break from the more taxing effort.