Speed walking, also called power walking, is a great way to exercise in a relatively non-strenuous way. However, if you are starting to go speed walking, you need to do it the right way, or else you may hurt yourself.
Luckily for you, I have listed 14 tips that can help you start speed walking successfully.
1. Find a Time to Go Speed Walking that Works for You
The best time to go speedwalking is the time that works best for you. That might be in the morning, afternoon, or evening. Just make sure you can stay safe while speed walking at that time of day. For example, if you go speed walking at night, wear reflective clothing, always have your cell phone on hand, and potentially carry a small item that you can use to protect yourself should someone attack you.
It’s okay to not go speed walking at the same time every day.
2. Wear Comfortable Exercise Clothing and Shoes
When you go speed walking, wear comfortable exercise clothing and shoes that fit well. While it might be tempting to go speed walking in normal clothing, especially if you won’t be exercising for very long, it is best to wear exercise clothing instead. If you wear exercise clothing that isn’t too tight or loose, you won’t have to adjust it very much while speed walking, which is good.
Make sure you dress for the weather as well. For example, if it’s cold outside, wear a lightweight jacket and gloves (depending on how cold it is). If it is extremely warm outside, wear an exercise tank top and shorts.
The shoes you wear while speed walking are very important. Make sure they have arch support, are comfortable, are flexible, and are lightweight. If you live in a rainy area and don’t want the weather to affect your exercise habits, potentially make sure your shoes are waterproof.
3. Listen to Fast-Paced Music While Speed Walking
Before going speed walking, create a playlist of your favorite songs that you can listen to while speed walking. I recommend only putting fast-paced songs onto the playlist, as slow songs may make you want to walk slower. However, the music you listen to while speed walking is completely up to you. If you listen to music while speed walking, it will keep you distracted and make it so you won’t focus on the workout, which is good because doing so can make workouts seem more tiring than they would be if you weren’t focusing on them.
When speed walking, keep the music volume relatively low so you can hear the sounds of traffic and people around you.
4. Ensure Your Posture is Good
While speed walking, make sure your posture is good. Good posture can make it easier to breathe and prevent back pain.
When speed walking, do the following to maintain good posture:
- Stand Tall: Keep your eyes up, head level, and make sure your shoulders aren’t slouching. Roll your shoulders a few times if they start to slouch. Even when walking uphill, don’t lean forward. Keep your chin up as well. Avoid looking down at the ground or at your phone.
- Don’t Lean Back: While you may want to lean back while speed walking, avoid doing so unless you are stretching. If you lean back while speed walking in an attempt to maintain your posture, you might fall and injure yourself.
Over time, you will be able to focus less on maintaining your posture and more on your surroundings.
5. Don’t Keep Your Arms at Your Sides
While it can be tempting to keep your arms at your sides, keep your lower arms up, especially if you want to increase your walking speed. It is recommended for speed walkers to keep their elbows bent at 90 degrees. Never let your hand go above your breastbone or shoulders as you swing your arms back and forth.
When you swing your arms, keep the movement natural. Don’t over exaggerate the movement or overextend your arms. Luckily, you likely won’t have to think about the movement of your arms, especially after you have gone speed walking regularly for a long period of time.
6. Stretch and Warm-Up Before Speed Walking
Whenever you exercise, you should warm up and stretch. Not stretching or warming up can potentially cause harm to your body, even if the exercise you participate in isn’t strenuous.
Here are some good stretches to do before speed walking:
- Calf Stretch
- Hip Flexor Stretch
- Arm Swings
- Glute Bridge
- Quad Stretch
- Ankle Circles
- Hamstring Stretches
- Hip Circles
- Ankle Stretch
To warm up, go on a slow walk. After about 5-10 minutes, increase your speed until you are speed walking at your normal pace.
7. Start Slow, Gradually Increase Pace
When you first start speed walking regularly, don’t push yourself extremely hard at first. Instead, keep a relatively slow pace. This will make it so you won’t be extremely sore after your workout, which will make it easier for you to speed-walk regularly. Over time, increase your speed.
Most people find that if you can talk to someone and hold a conversation while speed walking, your pace is good.
Make your workouts short as well. When you first start speed walking regularly, only make a short lap around your home. As you get stronger, make your workouts longer. This will also make your exercise regimen more interesting, as you won’t be taking the every day.
8. Keep Your Stride Small
While you may be tempted to lengthen your natural stride while speed walking in order to increase your speed, avoid doing so, especially when you first start speed walking regularly. Keep your stride natural. Over-extending your stride can put a lot of stress on your joints, making them wear out faster than expected. Instead, when you are ready to increase your walking speed, take smaller steps and step quickly.
If you over-extend your stride while speed walking, you could potentially hurt your legs, which will not help the speed of your speed walking in the long run.
If you find that your stride is not what it normally is, focus on maintaining your stride. make sure at least one of your feet is always on the ground and keep your steps light.
9. Step Carefully
When speed walking, step carefully and with purpose. At first, focus on stepping lightly so your steps are quick. As you step, roll your feet from heel to toe. Avoid being flat-footed. Stepping heel-to-toe will also make it easier to detect debris and obstacles on the path that may make you trip.
10. Gradually Increase Walking Speed
Instead of challenging yourself to increase your speed, gradually increase your walking speed over time. This will allow your muscles to build strength and help you avoid soreness. When your walking speed starts getting easy, or easier than it has been in the past, start walking faster by stepping quicker. Remember to avoid extending your stride too far.
If you want to know how much you are increasing your speed by, set a timer or time yourself. Take your normal route and focus on stepping faster than normal. Use your arms to increase your speed as well, as if you move your arms at the same time as your feet, your walking speed will likely increase. Doing so will also engage your upper body in the workout, making it more effective and challenging.
11. Regularly Evaluate How You Feel
Don’t push through pain or fatigue just to say you worked out today, especially when you first start speed walking. If you over-stress your body, you will feel sore, gross, and overall unmotivated to go speed walking. Regularly evaluate how your body feels while you are speed walking and after you complete your workout.
Over time, you will likely notice an increase in strength and energy levels.
Regularly evaluating how you feel will also help you determine if and when you need to take a break, especially when you first start speed walking regularly. For example, if you are out of breath or your heart seems to be beating too fast, you likely need to take a break. You may also need to slow down if you are out of breath. Take breaks when you need to. It is better to take too many breaks than not enough. Do what you can and work towards your goals. Over time, you will need to take fewer breaks and work towards achieving your goals.
If you need to, take a day or two off, especially when you first start speed walking regularly. Let your body rest and recover when needed.
Evaluating how you feel while speed walking will also help you avoid injuries and prevent them from getting worse over time. If you notice that you are having knee, ankle, foot, hip, or abnormal muscle pain while speed walking, go to the doctor and tell them about your symptoms. They may be able to tell you how to avoid further pain and strengthen the muscles that support the joints.
If you ignore knee, foot, hip, ankle, or abnormal muscle pain and continue to speed walk through it, you may injure yourself to the point of needing surgery. If you need to have surgery, you will have to stop speed walking until you are fully healed, which will halt your progression toward your goals. It is better to see the doctor and be safe than not to see the doctor and be sorry.
12. Walk on Sidewalks and in Familiar Areas
When you first start speed walking and are still focusing on making sure your walking form is optimal, walk and sidewalks and in familiar areas. That way, you won’t have to focus on your surroundings very much. After you perfect your posture and walking form, consider walking elsewhere if you are getting bored by your surroundings.
It is also best to walk on sidewalks and in familiar areas while speed walking because most sidewalks are even and aren’t covered in tripping hazards like nature trails are. Nature paths and trails often have tree roots, sticks, and other tripping hazards that you need to watch out for. If you are constantly looking at the ground, your posture will suffer. While walking near lakes and other nature areas, people often slow down so they can enjoy the view, which won’t happen if you are speed walking in your neighborhood or a familiar area.
13. Cool Down at the End of the Walk
It is important to cool down at the end of your walk. When you are approaching the end of your walk, start walking slower until you get back home. If you gradually reduce your walking speed at the end of your workout, you will feel less exhausted when you sit down and relax, as your heart won’t be beating as fast as it would if you didn’t slow down.
The cool-down process at the end of your speed-walking session should also involve stretching. Do the stretches you did at the beginning of your walk. Stretching at the end of your speed walking session will help reduce muscle soreness, which will make it easier for you to go speed walking tomorrow. You don’t have to stretch as much as you did before you started the speed walking session. Just do light stretches.
14. Drink Water!
Don’t forget to drink water before, during, and after your speed-walking workout! While you may not sweat very much while speed walking, you still need to stay hydrated. Bring a water bottle with you while speed walking. It is very easy to hold a water bottle while speed walking, especially if it has a handle of some kind.
Drink when you feel thirsty while speed walking. If you drink more water when it is flavored, add flavor packets to the water that you will drink before, during, and after your workout. If you are speed walking to lose weight, purchase low-calorie or calorie-free drink packets.
Now that you know some things that you should keep in mind when starting to speed walk, enjoy going speed walking regularly!