This is the Part 2 of the Wellness Walking article series.
So, we’ve learned about the common principles of wellness training and got the required minimum theoretical knowledge. Now, we can begin learning about the methodics of walking, and first of all, about its classification.
Simple walking (slow, at less speed than 4 km/h) is passive when four-headed thigh muscles are only slightly contracted, and straight legs are brought forward to the length of one foot. This kind of walking can often be seen in parks, where elderly people take strolls. Simple walking with low intensity (heart rate is usually 80 beats per minute or slower) doesn’t have any noticeable training or wellness effect. However, we won’t forget the well-known principle: “To stand is better than to lie, and to walk is better than to stand. If you can’t walk, crawl, but move anyways!”
But nevertheless, no matter how many miles does the average person walk – health effect of this “shuffling” walking is minimal; blood circulation is almost not stimulated, and myocardial blood flow does not increase.
Speeded-up wellness walking
Wellness (speeded-up) walking is an active kind of walking at 6.5 – 7.0 km/h speed. Besides speed, its difference from the simple walking is the fact that the shin and the pelvis muscles are involved in the work, and the feet are actively pushing off the ground because of the bending in the ankle joint. In general, the technique of wellness walking is like the sporty one. It’s something between simple and sporty walking.
Because of additional muscle groups’ involvement, energy expenditure and blood flow stimulation are growing – and that’s what is needed from aerobic training. And when you reach certain walking speed (or intensity), you get all the required wellness effects – lowering of the cardiovascular disease risk factors, loss of excess body mass, decreasing of high arterial pressure, increase in the organism’s aerobic abilities and physical workability.
The effect, which is reached via walking intensity heightening to the training mode zone in the range between 65% and 80% of the heart rate, can be seen when you walk at the speed of 6.0 – 6.5 km/h.
Sport walking is much faster than the wellness walking – some sports masters reach 15 km/h – and has a strictly regulated technique. A walker who breaks it is disqualified. You must not go to the “flying” phase, must retain a constant contact between the foot and the ground, keep your shoulders still and fully straighten the pushing leg when it goes through the vertical position. All of it is too complicated and unnecessary for us because we (in the nearest future anyways) aren’t going to take part in any competitions, and this book is only for educational purposes.
The only remark that can be made about the perfecting of the wellness walking individual technique – try to avoid the “stopper”. It’s when the heel edge is coming on the ground. When this happens (like in running, but less), a hitting wave appears along the vertical axis of the lower limbs. It reaches the joints and the spine, and the speed sharply decreases.
The foot must land on the ground with the center of the heel, softly rolling towards the toes. And one more significant wish – if you’ve developed a tendency to turn your feet to different sides during the walking (clubfootness), try to get rid of it or just make it less. The feet must move parallelly; otherwise, it can lead to chronic joint trauma (if your clubfootness is strong), and nullify all your efforts in this wonderful wellness technique.
This is about the method of walking. Now, let’s talk about the ways of training. Generally speaking, the purpose is one – learn to walk 6 – 6.5 km per hour without much effort. It’s all that is required for the capital body wellness. I think everybody can cope with this task on their own, depending on their experience, physical abilities, and common sense. But to make this process faster and more pleasant, it would be useful to learn about some techniques and schemes of wellness walking.
Beginning the training
Let’s divide the process of learning into three stages. The first stage is a simple 20-minute walking everyday or three-four times a week. It’s walking at your ordinary speed. How many steps should you walk a day? – 10 000 steps a day (approximately). Gradually, in some weeks, or maybe months, the duration of walking increases to 30-40 minutes at the same speed. The walking time increases only naturally as you become more trained, without any force.
An ordinary person, who didn’t go for a walk many years, soon begins to enjoy walking instead of stress and hurry after a long working day. And he or she gets positive emotions instead of negative ones! You’ll start enjoying your training very soon, and this is the first and most important effect of wellness walking. Since constant 30-minute walking is already a training process, a kind of fitness; you’re at the beginning of this way.
When you learn to walk constantly for 35-40 min with relative ease, you can go to the second stage – walking for health itself. How long your first step will be – it’s impossible to predict, and we don’t set any time limits here. Everything depends on your health, age, and physical readiness. For younger and healthier people, it may last some weeks, for elderly and weakened ones – from some months to a year, and, maybe, even more.
How many miles should you walk a day and cover during this stage at all? – It doesn’t matter too. The main thing is to walk constantly. It’s preferable to choose one track for your training, so you will be able to measure it with a speedometer. So, the first stage program is being finished. Its goal is to learn to walk constantly at your optimal speed for 35-40 minutes on a plain (only plain) track without any hills.
Increasing speed of walking and the length of the distance
The next stage of the training (wellness walking as exercise) consists of constant and gradual growing of the speed without increasing the distance. The walking speed will increase by itself, unnoticeably, as you’ll become more and more trained.
If the distance covered in kilometres didn’t matter in the previous stage, now it’s better to set a fixed start and finish points and measure the distance more precisely. The best variant will be if it’s a closed, round track from the threshold of your home and back to it.
Now you can make estimations two or three times a month – watch the exact time of walking this distance, use a watch with a second arrow, and for some time when the walking speed is increasing, it will be a good stimulus for the training. But it shouldn’t be done in all the training because it may cause additional stress. The walking speed usually increases in some months and then gets stabilized at a constant level. It will be your optimal pace, that “your own pace” which we mentioned in the third chapter.
The forced excess of this pace is undesirable because it can cause negative emotions. Don’t forget that you should enjoy the training, and it won’t be when you exceed your optimal speed. By the way, the “nose breathing” test, also described above, can help you here; if breathing via nose is not enough for you, and you have to make additional inhalations via the mouth, it means that you’ve exceeded your optimal speed, and you should slow your walking pace down a bit.
GO TO THE THIRD PART OF WELLNESS WALKING ARTICLE SERIES >>> Benefits of Walking for Weight Loss Part 3. Learning to Walk