Never underestimate the power of a good walk—and not just as a midrun break. Going for a “pure” walk (no running at all) allows your body to make small adaptations that strengthen your feet, knees, and hips. Long, brisk walks can help boost your endurance. And walking as a means of cross-training gives your joints and running muscles a well-deserved break, which can help reduce or eliminate the aches and pains caused by running. Here’s how (and when) to add walks to your routine to become a fitter runner. (How fit are you? Find out with these 10 Fitness Self-Tests.)
Pay Attention to Form
Most walkers find an upright posture to be the most natural and comfortable. Take short steps to avoid overstriding, which can cause aches and pains in your legs, feet, and hips. Keep your feet low to the ground and step lightly. (Search: Avoid running pains)
Walk on a Running Day
When you’re substituting a walk for a run, take the number of minutes you would have run and double it. So for example, if you were going to do 30 minutes of running, walk for 60 minutes. You don’t have to complete the workout all at once—you can break it into two parts, going for a walk in the morning, say, then again in the evening. (Related Video: Best running apparel for women)
When you’re ready to make the transition, follow our Tips to Move From Walking to Running in order to avoid major injuries.
Or Walk to Cross-Train
Walking on your nonrunning days is an efficient way of burning fat and increasing blood flow to aid recovery. It’s also a great way to break up your routine, stave off injury, and enjoy time with friends or family who may not run (yet!). On cross-training days, walk 30 to 60 minutes continuously or do five- to 10-minute segments throughout the day, as time allows. Keep the pace quick but conversational.
Plus: Follow our month-by-month Guide to a Fitter, Faster, You in 2013.
Change Up Terrain
As with running, the more varied your walking route, the better workout you’ll get. If weather permits, walk a few hills (or walk the same hill a few times) or do several repeats of stairs at stadiums, campuses, or parks. When it’s too cold or slippery out, stair-wells are great venues for exercise. Do several flights a day—several times a day when possible—to build leg strength.