/

Understanding your Walking Schedules

Making the most of your walking training - how to ensure maximum benefits from your exercise

Congratulations!
You have committed to getting fitter and taken a positive step, this is a great move. Set some realistic goals to help keep you motivated and find someone to exercise with. Both these actions will boost your motivation and make the exercise feel easier.

Walking is a great way of exercising – most of us could walk before we could even talk and we do it every single day of our lives already. All of our schedules are designed to be accessible. They are designed to meet your needs, aims and ability as given in your profile. Here are some key things to remember:

Stay hydrated
When exercising you lose water through sweat and even breathing. So drink plenty of water. This is particularly important on hot and humid days. You can drink before, during and after your walk. But also get enough fluids on days you are not doing scheduled exercise (you urine should be pale in colour).

A 2% fall in body weight due to dehydration can lead to a 7% decrease in performance while exercising and also a reduction in your ability to concentrate. Dehydration affects everything from your digestion to your skin so aim to drink two litres of water each day.

Eat healthily
We have articles on nutrition to help you do this. Avoid junk food and foods with high fat and cholesterol. The more healthily you eat the better able you will be to exercise. You will feel and look healthier.

Don't exercise if you feel ill or your doctor has advised against it
If you have chest pains, feel overly tired, dizzy, or experience any pains stop walking and see a doctor. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Walking effectively
We use different terms for different levels of walking in our schedules:

Easy walking
This is exactly what it says. Go out and enjoy the fresh air (or MTV if you are on the treadmill at the gym!). Have a chat with your walking partner. You should be able to talk quite easily. This is the pace of a ‘walk in a park’.
 
Steady walking
This is a step up from easy walking. You should still be able to speak to your walking partner a few sentences at a time but you will be breathing harder. This is the pace of walking to somewhere you want to be but where you are not in a major hurry.
 
Brisk walking
Now you are going faster again. You will be having to breathe harder. You can still speak a sentence or two at a time but now it is more breathless when you do. This is the pace of walking to meet someone when you are running late and really want to get there.

Power walking, or fast walking
Here you are moving at a swift pace. You are to the point where it would almost be as easy to break into a bit of a run. You are breathing hard and anyone seeing you will know that you are not just out for a stroll – you really mean business!

 

Paces
You will notice that we do not set paces (in minutes per mile or miles per hour etc) or distances in our schedules. This is because the important thing to note is your 'rate of perceived effort'. If you wish to measure you routes then you can buy products to allow you to do this.
 
Long walks

As the distance of the long walks builds up it is going to be hard for you to be so precise as to the length of a walk. For this reason you should see the lengths of longer walks more as recommendation rather than set in stone. It may be that you are somewhere that has a good route of a length slightly different to that suggested in the schedules. It is also hard to guess exactly how long a given route will take, especially if you are varying your routes. You should look to follow the basic trend of the length of these walks rather than looking to hit the exact time each week.

Important - long walks
On your long walks be sure you carry enough water for the walk. You may also want to carry some food, particularly something that gives a ready, easily absorbed energy boost such as Jelly Babies.

As your walks get longer it becomes more and more essential to ensure that your route is planned, suitable to your level of ability and suitable for what you are trying to achieve. This is most importantly for safety reasons. But it will also affect your enjoyment and ability to walk for the time you want to if you find yourself on more extreme terrain than expected!

Check the local advice and get information about the nature of the route and terrain you will be covering. Make sure you have all the recommended clothing and equipment. What seems excessive at the beginning of a hill walk may become essential in the event of an accident or sudden change in the weather. (Turning an ankle can have far more serious consequences on a remote route than in an urban walk).

As with developing your fitness and the lengths of your walks don’t be too ambitious too soon. Look to develop your skills and experience on the more extreme terrain at a sensible rate of progression rather than finding you have bitten off more than you can chew. Again this will help keep you safe but also ensure your enjoyment.

Always get good advice and try to walk with someone who has more experience if you are trying a more challenging route for the first time.

How to spread you effort over a session
If a walk is all at one level of effort try to maintain a constant pace. This pace should be in keeping with the effort you are meant to be putting in. Factors such as hills or a more slippery surface may affect your pace and in these situations spread your effort evenly rather than trying to go up hills as fast as you can go down them!

In sessions where you work at more than one pace, spread your effort evenly throughout the session so it gets harder as you go through. If the faster sections are all of the same length you should be going at the same pace on each of them – you will get more tired as the session goes on but you should manage to maintain good form and proper technique throughout.

Exercise diary
Keeping a log of what exercise you have done helps keep you focussed and allows you to look back on what you have achieved. Often, as improvement is gradual, you don’t spot it until you look back at previous weeks and months then see how much you’ve moved on!

Where your schedule takes you
Our aim is to take whatever level of fitness you already have and build on it. No-one turns into Paula Radcliffe over night – even she took years and years of progressive training before winning marathons! We start with wherever you are and progress your training over weeks and months at a sustainable and sensible rate. This prevents the problems you get if you charge into exercise too quickly and then have to stop as you lose motivation, get frustrated or suffer injury.
If you find the training too hard or too easy at any point you can just change your profile – you will be sent different training for the following week.

We always think, and advise you to think, a month at a time. What exercise you do on any one day on its own will not make a big difference to your fitness. It is the cumulative effect of what you do (or don’t do)!
By exercising you burn calories, strengthen your heart and lungs and strengthen your muscles. Exercise can help to lower your blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, build your energy levels for day-to-day life, reduce your stress and decrease your anxiety levels. In other words by following the schedule you will look better and feel better.

What to do if you are finding your schedule too hard
Don’t worry if you find the odd day hard when the session is a tougher one. If you are struggling as life is busy for a week or two just back off - do what you can. Your schedule is your servant not your master. But if you find your training is consistently too hard it is time to act. The schedule you are being sent is either above the level of fitness you have at the moment, or is progressing at a rate faster than you can manage at the moment. Don’t worry about this or battle to stay with it. Just go to your profile and modify it to your current level of ability, number of days you feel you can realistically cope with and your objective. This will mean you will be set sessions that should suit you better starting from the following week. (If you are tired take a few days easy to get your energy back until then) If you still have problems then contact us. 

What to do if your schedule becomes too easy
First of all you should wait. It may be that as the training progresses over the following week or so you will find it adjusts back to the right level for you.

If you find it too easy over a couple of weeks this means your fitness has progressed beyond where your sessions are pitched! Just go to your profile and modify it to your current level of ability, number of days you are able to exercise and your objective. You can then be sent a routine each week that should suit you better. If you still have problems then contact us.


The more technical bits:
To get the maximum benefit from your training and give variety we set you training which sees you walking at different paces within sessions:

What does this mean - 10min steady walking, then 4 x (5min power walk, 5min steady walking), finish with 10min steady walking?
This is a session that starts with 10min of steady walking. Then you do four sets of a 5min block of power walk with 5min of steady walking between each block of power walking. (In other words 5min power walk, then 5min steady walking, repeated so you do it four times). Finally you finish up with 10min of steady walking.

 

Before you start you walking programme speak to your doctor to check they are happy for you to embark on this exercise programme.

Do not exercise when you feel ill. If you have any concerns about your health contact your doctor immediately and stop training right away.