Walk Training: How Can Walking Help you Reach Your Running Goals?
Almost a month has passed since 2024 began and millions of people took the opportunity to set new goals. An aspect that many planned to improve on is their fitness. Some want to better their physical well-being while others aim to train for races like the San Francisco Marathon. Whatever the reason, starting a fitness journey can be daunting; not knowing how or where to begin can discourage many from actually starting. Fortunately, there is a tried-and-true starting line to any and all fitness journeys—walk training.
Edited by Pavlína Marek
You read that right. Simple walking will not only help you start your training journey; it should also play a role in your training plan.
People often take this simple activity that we do every day for granted. It’s simply a means to get us from point A to point B. While technically, yes, that is all walking does, it accomplishes so much more in the process. While some are quick to dismiss walking as not being intense enough for any meaningful benefit, studies have shown that it can have similar health benefits to some types of running.
What Makes Walking so Good?
To start us off, humans are the best there is at the activity. We’ve quite literally evolved to be good at it. It is the most distinct characteristic we have aside from our brains. This means we are efficient at it to an absurd degree. We can walk for hours and hours without needing to stop like we would for any other physical activity. This is why walking is considered a low-risk exercise– you’re using your body exactly as intended. This gives walking a level of accessibility that few other exercises can match. And without the need for any equipment besides a pair of shoes, it’s also the easiest to perform.
It’s also worth mentioning that walk training has even more benefits; for example, the positive effects walking has on your mental health. It won’t impact just your physical fitness journey. It will also improve how you feel about yourself and get some good brain chemistry flowing. It’s much easier to continue down your training path when you feel good about it!
There you have it; walking is the perfect starter-pack exercise for your training. That’s the simple truth. However, if you want to get into the nitty-gritty of walk training, keep reading.
The Basics of Walking for Runners (and Everyone Else)
How Much Walk Training Should You Do?
As with everything, the answer will differ based on your age, sport, and fitness goals. However, there are some good general numbers you can follow.
We’ve all heard the number by now. It’s 10,000 steps a day. It’s a good first goal to set, and one you’ll probably share and connect over with others. It also tends to be a harder number to reach than you might initially think. I know most days I’m lucky to reach half that number just by going about my day. Between everything else you need to get done, it can be hard to find time to get those extra steps in. However, general everyday steps you take as you walk to the bathroom from your cubicle at work don’t exactly count as exercise. (They’re still a great way to stretch, which you should do often, especially if you have a sedentary job!)
If 10,000 steps sounds either too many to start with or too little to improve on, you can always adjust your goals! Remember that doing something is always better than doing nothing. Start with a goal of 5,000 or 6,000 steps per day, then increase your step count over time as it becomes easier. Upping your steps by 500 or 1,000 every week or two will see you well on your way to success.
The same goes if you already walk 10,000 steps or more a day; set a goal of 12,000, 15,000, or even 20,000 steps per day if that’s what you want. If you reach a point where you just can’t get that many steps in a day, you can think about branching out into other exercises that interest you.
The most obvious way to increase your step count—and make these steps count—is to go on walks. (Our own Coach Karen uses active, fast walks in her training plans for her clients!) Just as a runner would, you can set a route for your walks. If you’re measuring your distance instead of steps, then it’s as simple as using a GPS to find the right route for you.
If you want to stick with steps on your walks, the best paths will differ. I recommend sticking to a route that loops back on itself. Tracks, nature paths, and even the sidewalks around your block can become your walking ground. Just keep repeating the loop until you reach your desired number of steps. Once you know your gait better and can determine the distance you cover over so many steps, you can change your route to something more freeform and appreciate other areas in nature or your neighborhood. As always, a treadmill at home or the gym can fulfill the same role, allowing you to stop exactly when you hit your steps, and seeing the mileage it comes out to as a bonus.
Some other ways include walking during your lunch breaks, planning walks with friends as an activity, or getting up and pacing the room while ads play or a game loads. Some even get small walking treadmills and standing desks to get their walking in while they work. The possibilities are there, and using them will make hitting your goal that much easier.
The Run-Walk Method
The Run-Walk Method, or the Galloway Method, is a running strategy developed by American Olympian Jeff Galloway. It makes use of walk breaks to let runners rest and recover while running while helping prevent injuries. From beginner runners to experienced Ironman competitors, this method is used by many.
Walk Breaks for Beginner Runners
Are you a beginner runner? The walking is a great strategy to get yourself moving! How can you develop a run break that’s the best for you? Let Coach Nate Helming from The Run Experience walk you through it.
Walk Breaks for Marathon Racers
Are you signed up for a marathon? Would you like to use the Run-Walk method? It can be daunting to plan to walk during an event where you’ll be surrounded by other runners. Here’s Coach Nate with a simple how-to.
Can You Walk Your Races?
Yes! Walking is a great strategy during races as it helps you to recover while still moving. The longer the distance, the more walking runners generally do. When you get to such distances like the San Francisco Ultramarathon, walking becomes a necessity. (There are even jokes about how ultramarathons are basically just eating contests with some walking and even less running in between!)
At the End of the Day
Walking is an often overlooked activity that can fill gaps in fitness plans and give people a strong start on their training journeys. It has the potential to be as beneficial for you as certain types of running while being much easier on your body; the mental health benefits can’t be overlooked either. Plus, the psychological hurdle of starting a walking routine is much easier to get over than committing to a more intense regimen. It’s something we were born to do, and to do well. So go out and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Listen to a podcast, book, or music. However you do it, enjoy it. Walk on.