top of page
< Back

Setting the Perfect Pace for Your Walking Program

Setting the Perfect Pace for Your Walking Program

When you see someone zipping around a walking trail at the park, it can be easy to look at their form and how fast they’re making tracks and feel envious. It can be tempting to want to copy that same pace.


But looking at where someone else is with their walking isn’t something that you should do. You don’t want to compare your point to someone else’s because they may have been doing this a lot longer.


They might be at a different health level. All you can do is do the best that you can for you regardless of where anyone else is at in their journey. Because walking is so easy to do, it doesn’t appear as if there’s any special planning that needs to go into it with pacing.


You can just walk until you’re tired is how most people view it. While it can be tempting to really push yourself, thinking that since it’s good for you, you might as well do a lot of it quickly, watch out for this pitfall.


Walking is something that you don’t want to overdo. You don’t want to overdo it because it really is one of the easiest ways to get your heart pumping, gain energy, lose weight and get rid of stress.


It can also help you gain some muscle tone. Overdoing a walking program means that you’re pushing your body beyond its ability to handle the physical stress.


Not slowing down when your body is giving off signals to pull back is a common factor in injuries. The best way to handle pace if you’re just now beginning a walking program is to focus on long term goals and build toward those goals slowly.


This might mean that when you begin, you’ll only head out for a ten-minute walk and then you’ll come back to your home. You’ll want to build up stamina and pacing.


So, what you can do is to walk for only ten minutes the first several days. Then after that, you can slowly add time increments in counts of five or ten. This way, you’re building up tolerance for the walking and your muscles aren’t being tasked with going all out at once.


Also, if you’re the type of person who’s had a fairly sedentary lifestyle, starting a walking program is going to offer some challenges with the way that you handle pacing.


It will be easier for someone who isn’t used to walking to be excited about it in the beginning and end up hating it because a pace that was too fast and too long was attempted.


Even if you’ve been walking for a while, if you jump in too quickly, you can overdo it and end up injuring yourself. When an injury sidelines you, it can be difficult to get your motivation back and you’ll end up dealing with frustration.


Sometimes getting sidelined with an injury causes people to quit a walking program completely and you want to avoid that happening. A good rule of thumb to pay attention to when you’re walking is how the pace makes you feel physically.


Your heart should be pumping faster, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re having to gasp for breath. Once you’ve been walking long enough so that you’re comfortable with it and it’s become a habit for you, you’ll want to check to see how it’s challenging your body.


If the pacing you’re now at seems easy to you, it might be time to kick it up a notch and increase your pace. Like any form of movement, your body will let you know when you’re pushing it too hard.


If you get warning signs, such as painful shins, listen to your body. Any time you have pain in your shins, it means that you’re walking too fast and too far. Back off of your pacing for a few days, take it slower and let your body heal and adjust.


Many people aren’t sure exactly how to set pacing when walking. The best way that you can set a healthy pace is to time yourself getting to a mile. To get to a mile, it should take a beginner about 20 minutes.


Someone who’s used to walking already, can usually hit a mile at a comfortable pace within 15 minutes. Reaching a mile with a certain pacing goal will depend on how fit that you are, the way that you walk and what kind of an area you’re walking in.


You’ll reach your mile goal faster if you’re walking on solid ground such as asphalt or a sidewalk. But walking on rough ground will slow your progress. You can judge your pacing by seeing if your heart is beating within the rate that you’ve targeted.


While you’re walking, you should be able to speak comfortably. If you can’t, then your pacing is too fast. But if you have the lung capacity to belt out your favorite fast song, then your pacing is too slow for you to really be getting much benefit from it.


You can chart your pacing by keeping a personal tracker. Write down how fast it takes you to get from one point to another at the beginning of each month. Your pacing should gradually improve from month to month.


So at the beginning of one month, if it takes you 25 minutes to get in a mile distance, by gradually increasing your pacing, you should be able to bring that down to an average of 15 minutes for a mile.


While paying attention to pacing, the way that you move your body is an important part of a walking program. You need to have good posture as you’re walking to keep from injuring yourself.


Like most movements, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. It’s imperative that you use the correct form when you’re walking. And by using the correct form, you’ll burn a greater amount of calories.


Plus, your chances of injuring yourself will be less. You should keep your posture during a walking program in the same manner that you would normally walk as you go about your day.


When you walk, keep your head up. If you walk while looking down, this can put strain on your neck muscles. Not to mention if you’re looking down while you’re walking, it can make it easier to run into something in front of you.


Your chin should be straight and your shoulders relaxed. As you walk, don’t lean forward. This can be a bad habit to get into. If you walk while leaning forward, you put a great amount of strain on your lower back muscles.


You can do a lot for your core muscles by walking with your stomach slightly tightened. Keep your arms bent, but not tensed. When your foot hits the ground, it should be with the heel landing first, then the toe.


Keeping up with your stride can help you get the most from a walking program. You might hear a lot of talk about stride and how many steps that it will take you to reach a mile.


But you shouldn’t believe everything you hear like it’s a one size fits all concept because walking for one person is not the same for another. A lot of people use this kind of advice when they’re using a pedometer to measure steps.


But what you have to take into consideration is that not everyone will have the same kind of steps. Sometimes one person’s stride will be a length of two or two and a half feet.


Another person’s might be a stride that’s longer or shorter than that. Your walking stride will depend on your gender, how you normally walk, your current physical condition and the area where you’re walking.


A rougher terrain will cause you to walk at a slower stride. A brisk stride regardless of the length of the step you take is the best way to walk. You can determine how fast your stride is by how many steps that you take per minute.


Taking 100 steps a minute is considered to be a moderate walking stride. The more steps that you take per minute determines your speed. If you’re new to walking, you’ll want to start at a slower pace.


Aim for 50 steps per minute and gradually increase the amount. If you feel pain while you’re walking, such as a stitch in your side, then you need to slow your pace.


You should keep your arms bent while you walk, but not still. Allow your arms to move back and forth in rhythm with the back and forth of your leg movements. Keep in mind that a stiff posture when walking will equal stiff muscles when you’re finished with your walk.


There are some who like to add a little extra equipment to their walking program. This extra equipment is in the form of wrist or ankle weights. You will find many fitness sites that will advocate the use of these additional weights when walking.


But you should know that this really boils down to a personal choice. Walking with the use of any type of weight materials is better suited to muscle building or resistance routines.


And if you’re new to a walking program, you’ll want to avoid using weights - at least until you think your body is ready to level up. Listen to your body. It can advise you better than anyone else.

bottom of page