Power walking has certainly become one of the new fitness trends – and with good reason. The reported health benefits are that it lowers your blood pressure, cholesterol and risk of diabetes. It is also evident that walking has a lot fewer injuries than running. Getting into power walking will take motivation and dedication, and should not be done without a structured plan. Here are some valuable tips for beginner-power walkers.
1. Power plan
Like any other exercise program, power walking needs to be accompanied by a well-structured walking plan. Many beginners start by going for regular walks, which is a good start. It is, however, suggested that you plan your walking, time your walks and distances with weekly increases in distance and speed within your set time limit. You will later be able to follow a professional walking plan. You can include a heart rate monitor and pedometer in your walks to monitor progress.
2. If the shoe fits
If you plan on walking without shoes, that is perfectly fine, but if you do decide to adorn your feet with something, it is highly suggested to wear the right shoe. Protecting your feet is of the utmost importance when walking on any terrain. For power walking, however, it would benefit you greatly to wear a good lightweight shoe, which lends proper support to your feet while also being breathable and flexible. Normal training shoes might last up to 6 months if you are lucky, whilst proper lightweight walking shoes could last up to 3 years.
3. Hail hydra
Staying hydrated when walking is extremely important and should not be neglected. Water is the number one component for regulating your body temperature and lubricating your joints. It acts as a transporting agent for nutrients to keep your energy levels up, which maintains an overall healthy lifestyle. When you neglect to hydrate your body, it cannot perform to its full potential. This habit is absurdly easy to cultivate: simply take a bottle of water with you on each walk and take small sips as you go.
4. GIG (Get in gear)
Gearing up for your walking journey will not come at a great cost, and your outfit will be determined by weather conditions. It is advisable to wear tight-fitting clothes with wicking properties. Light clothes will be the most appropriate choice but, depending on the weather, you might need a waterproof jacket in the rainy season. Keep in mind that you appear extremely small on the road, so strive to stand out and make sure that you are noticed.
5. Stretch it out
Warm-up exercises should not be neglected, as this could result in unnecessary injuries. There’s no need to undertake a whole session, but some simple stretches and bends will reduce the risk of tearing muscles in your legs. After your stretches, start your walk with a slower pace for about 5 to 10 minutes, before gradually increasing your walking speed.
6. Posture, posture, posture!
Now for the make or break part of walking: your posture. Maintaining good form when walking will increase your performance and put you in a different league altogether. Follow these quick posture steps:
• Step 1: Chin up, eyes straight forward, chest lifted and shoulders relaxed.
• Step 2: Use your arms, down to your sides at about 90 degree angles, swinging from back to front without crossing.
• Step 3: Bigger strides slow you down. Take smaller steps – the quicker your feet touch the ground, the faster you will go.
• Step 4: Toe tip lift-off, roll from heel to toe and push away with your toes. This will work in conjunction with your legs for a better workout.
• Step 5: TAB – Tighten Abs and Butt. Flatten your back and slightly tilt your pelvis without release.
• Step 6: Glide gracefully, there’s no need to stomp your way through a battlefield.
7. Me, myself and I
Keep reminding yourself who you are doing this walking journey for: for no one else, but yourself. Therefore, just forget about everything and everyone around you and what they might think. Separate yourself from what could be deemed as normal social behaviour and just walk. For those 40 minutes a day it is just you and the road.
8. And then for continuous motivation…
Be reminded of the following finding by researchers: for every 1 hour you spend walking, you add an additional 2 hours to your life. Go ahead – write it down, put it on a fridge magnet, tattoo it on your arm or replace your welcome mat with these words, and just keep walking.