We’ve already gone over the best warm up and cool down stretches for walkers, but those stretches only work as part of a full walking routine. So, we’ve put together this simple guide to help you put together your perfect routine. We have suggestions and times for everything from your warm up to your final stretches.
How Often Should You Walk?
While walking every day provides the best results, it’s okay if you can only take time out of your day three or four times a week to hit the path or treadmill. No matter how often you’re able to walk, make sure you do it regularly. Maintaining a routine allows you to build on your progress without pushing yourself too hard. Keep track of your walking schedule with a planner or smart phone so you’ll always have your reminder on hand.
Warm up for five to fifteen minutes.
Our bodies cannot spring into motion without a warm up. Doing so is dangerous, and often causes injuries that prevent you from continuing your new, healthy habits. To warm up, simply walk slowly, gradually warming your muscles in preparation for a good, pre-work out stretch. When you no longer feel stiff, and your temperature is slightly elevated, you can move on to the next step.
Stretch for at least eight minutes.
We’ve put together an entire article with the best pre-walking stretches. Each stretch comes with detailed instructions, and the set covers all relevant muscle groups. All of our recommended warm up stretches are kinetic stretches, which limit the risk of damage and further warm your muscles.
Walking is a simple, safe exercise for most people, but it’s important to set goals to get the most out of your routine. Whether you measure your walks by time or distance, it’s important to keep track of your progress and adjust future walks accordingly. You only improve by pushing yourself. Different walkers will need to start walking different distances and/or different lengths of time.
Measuring by Time
Many walkers prefer to measure their progress by time. This is particularly useful in areas without clear mile markers, or for those who don’t walk along one particular path. It’s easy to measure by time with the aid of a wristwatch, cell phone, or stopwatch. Walkers who use treadmills rather than stationary paths often measure by time as well. This method emphasizes the health benefits of walking, rather than practical advantages.
Measuring by Distance
When you want to walk for a particular distance, it’s important to consider the return trip. If you want to reach a specific destination that is two miles away, the entire walk will take four miles. Circular paths around parks often provide the best routes for distance walkers. Not only is the path a fixed distance, but most parks with walking, running, or biking paths include periodic distance markers, typically at every quarter mile.
This allows walkers to gauge their progress without stopping to figure out where they are on the track. Walkers who measure their walks by distance may also time themselves in an effort to increase their pace, but they still aim to reach a certain distance every day, even if the time it takes to reach that distance changes.
Increasing Intensity and Duration
It doesn’t matter if you are walking for your health, for fitness, or in preparation for an event. Suddenly increasing the intensity or duration of your exercise puts you at risk. While forcing your body to go from little to no activity to a strenuous workout has many consequences that can hamper your long term fitness goals, the greatest risk by far is a heart attack.
Exercise is good for you, but don’t push your body to function at the same capacity as a seasoned walker until you have become a seasoned walker yourself. Increase distance, time, and pace gradually. Listen to your body. If you feel like a particular pace is too intense, then it probably is. Start slowly and add to your workout by adding a few more minutes at a time. This will give you the best results and reduce your risks.
Cool down for ten to fifteen minutes.
A cool down is the opposite of a warm up. You started slow to get your muscles warm, and after you’ve worked out, you need to slow down so your warm muscles don’t lock up. Simply reduce your pace gradually and come to a stop after at least ten minutes. Once you’ve gone through your cool down, you are ready for your post workout stretches.
Stretch for ten to fifteen minutes.
We have an entire article dedicated to the best cool down stretches for walkers. Unlike our warm up stretches, these stretches are static. They allow your warm muscles to stretch to their maximum capacity, boosting your flexibility and reducing aches and pains that may prevent you from walking tomorrow. The set of stretches will get you ready for the next day.
At the end of your walk, take some time to relax and appreciate the literal steps you’ve made towards a healthier lifestyle. You’ll hit the trail again soon, and when you do, your routine will be ready.