Create a challenging, effective walking program

Published 8:30 am Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Evaluate how well your walking program is working for you, and then take steps to make it more challenging and effective. Walking regularly has many benefits, including more energy, better sleep, or feeling more relaxed and focused. There are also other benefits that you can’t see. You may have lowered your risk of cardiovascular disease or improved your blood sugar regulation. Your blood pressure and cholesterol levels may be better as well. Research has shown that people who walk regularly are generally healthier than their inactive peers.

Studies have also found that people who walk a little faster or a little longer experience more health and fitness benefits than those who walk less. The health and fitness benefits of walking occurs when walking asks your body to do more than it is accustomed to doing. This training effect is your body’s way of adapting to the demands being placed on it. As your fitness improves, exercise demands must increase if you wish to continue to experience a training effect. A higher exercise intensity expends more calories in a shorter time, stimulates the metabolic effects that reduce heart disease risk and has a more positive effect on bone density.

It is a good idea to take a look at your walking program from time to time. Is your walking program working well for you? Is it as enjoyable as possible, yet still delivering the health and fitness benefits you want from an exercise program?

Safety First

Be sure to check with healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your health. If you decide to pick up the pace of your exercise program, do so gradually to avoid injury. If you experience signs of injury (such as shin or joint pain) reduce exercise volume and see your provider if injury does not improve.

Evaluate exercise intensity

How is your walking pace? Most walkers like a pace that is brisk enough so that, once the walk is over, they feel like they have had some exercise, but are not so exhausted that they can’t get through the rest of the day. The easiest way to monitor your exercise intensity is to pay attention to how hard the exercise feels, including how hard your muscles are working and how hard you are breathing. Walking at a pace that feels somewhat hard, but not so tiring that you cannot continue, means you should be experiencing a training effect.

Monitoring your breathing can tell you about your exercise intensity. If you have enough breath control to sing, you are probably not working hard enough. If you can barely carry on a conversation, you may be working too hard, at least for a continuous pace. Some walkers enjoy using heart rate monitors. A monitor allows you to adjust your pace and get your heart rate into the range you desire.

Expand your walking program

You can keep your favorite routes and walking partners, and still add a day or two of more challenging walking each week if you would like to pick up the pace. Add more hills to your route or simply walk faster. You could also join a hiking or walking group or start one for motivation. Try interval training on or two days a week. Warm up for five minutes at a moderate pace. Then walk as fast as you can or run for 30 seconds. Recover with easier pace for two minutes. Repeat for 20 minutes, ending with a moderate pace for recovery.

Fitness Goals

Add new exercise as your fitness and or health goals change. Add some strength training, abdominal exercises and most important to have stretching in your workout.

Reminders

The 5 mile Hog Jog is July 3rd, race starts at 8AM, $20 registration fee, after June 26, cost is $25. There will be Race Day registration at East Side Lake from 6:45-7:30AM. If you have any questions contact Mark or Kristi at 433-1804.