Carol O’Brien, Align’s new physiotherapy and Pilates instructor, recommends power walking as a way to kick-start fitness resolutions in the new year.
Power walking is a low-impact way to improve cardiovascular endurance and total body strength. Some of the benefits of power walking are that it helps tone and strengthen your muscles and improves physical health.
“Power walking is a really good way to increase the amount of exercise you are doing without overloading your joints,” says Carol. “You need to reach a rate of 4 mph or higher to count as power walking, but once you hit this speed, you’ll burn the same amount of calories as slow jogging.”
To get a feel for how fast you should be walking, first measure out the distance of one mile with your car or pedometer and then time yourself walking that distance. You should be able to complete a mile in 15 minutes or less. If not, pick up the pace.
While the main difference between power walking and regular walking is the speed, you also need to pay attention to form, the amount of steps you make per minute, foot placement and alignment. Begin with correct posture by keeping your head steady above your shoulders, shoulders relaxed and core engaged.
Keep your body moving forward instead of swinging side to side. Use your back foot to propel you, keeping your stride slightly shorter as you press off with the rear foot to drive forward. Try not to cross your feet, but rather keep your feet in line with your hips and use your arms for added power.
As far as how long or how far you should go, Carol suggests putting the principles of your normal training into practice for power walking. “If you are just beginning, start with internal training where you do 30 seconds of power walking followed by five minutes of regular walking. A good rule of thumb in any training is to increase by 10 per cent every week, as this will give your tissues enough time to catch up to the new loads that are being asked of them.”
Step by Step: Begin with your head in a neutral position and in line with your spine, arms in a 90-degree angle by your sides. Keep your gaze looking forward as you engage your glutes and abdominals while stepping with your heel first, then distribute your weight onto your toe while using your hips to push you forward. Increase your speed until you are walking at 4 mph or higher. Continue this pace for as long as you can, up to 30 minutes.
Carol’s Tip: Your footwear for power walking should be slightly different from what you would wear when you are running due to the way your foot hits the ground. You need to have a bit more mobility through the soles of your shoes so a softer shoe that is a bit more malleable would facilitate power walking better than a traditional running shoe.