How to Start a Walking Program

bigstock_Fit_Senior_Woman_Hiking_3377672Starting a Walking Exercise Program is the simplest and best health improvement program you can do! The benefits are multitudinous, meaning there are a lot of benefits!!!!

Before  you begin: 

1. Good shoes. Please don’t buy shoes off the shelf at a discount store. Invest in your feet and get fitted by a professional shoe fitter who can confirm proper sizing and purpose, and factor in arch support. Just don’t let this stop you from getting started. 

2. Stretch. Before you leave your house, spend 5 minutes on the floor stretching.  Here is a simple slide show with 10 stretches. All are good, but pay attention to the floor stretches and spend only 5 minutes getting your leg muscles ready. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stretching/SM00043

3. Hydrate. Take a water bottle with you. 

4. Check your resting pulse rate. Using a finger, not your thumb count your pulse rate for 10 seconds and multiply by six. Write it down in your journal. 

5. Calculate fat burn rate. Take the number 220 and subtract your age. Then multiply by 60% and 75%. This will give you your fat burning zone.  For example, I am 59 at the date of this article.

220 – 59 = 161 x .6 = 96

220 – 59 = 161 x .75 = 121

My fat burn zone is between 96 beats and 121 beats per minute.

I usually power walk at 120 since I have been at this for a while. When just getting started, take it to 60% and work up from there in increments as you feel able. You should be able to increase either time or rate by 10% per week as you acclimated. 

Journal your numbers. This is the only way to actually see the incremental improvements. The idea is to get your resting heart rate to lower, which means your heart is getting stronger and pumping more blood with each beat, working less and more efficiently. It’s a good goal to have.

6. Chances of success at a walking program come with partnership. Find another to walk with you. Someone who had similar goals and with whom you can hold each other accountable. This makes it so much easier, beneficial and rewarding. 

7. The Rewards. It’s not just for the benefit of your heart, your endurance, your weight loss and your muscle growth, but it is also for your mental benefits. The additional oxygen invading your brain will produce more serratonin and dopamine, and provide you with a feeling of well-being and mental clarity. 

Q: How do I take my pulse? Use a finger, not your thumb, at your temple or on the wrist. Just count the pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 60. You can take your pulse while walking too. It may seem a little hard to do at the beginning, but keep at it and it will become second nature. Or you can buy a monitor for $40 – %60. See this How to article.

Q: What happens if I go over 75% of my burn rate?

A: Then you will begin to burn glycogen which comes from the starches stored in muscle. This is fine to do in short interval bursts. For example: I will go up to 140 beats a minute for 20 seconds and then recover for 60 seconds and repeat. Only engage in glycogen burn once you are fit enough to do so. Your body will know. Your body is smart. Pay attention and when in doubt, don’t.

Q: I get charlie horses in my calves after only a few minutes of power walking. Why is this?

A: Charlie horses are the muscles saying they are not getting enough blood, enough oxygen. It means that there is a circulation problem. Take a rest and begin again. The only way to improve circulation in this regard is to exercise and force the arteries to expand. They will over time. Taking fish oil will help also. 

Any questions? Contact Garey  

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