Training to Walk
Walking is a popular, efficient and accessibly way of covering the ground under your own steam, you also need to walk in most runs you do; up hills, over longer distances, to recover from faster running, when you start your run, when you finish, slowing to cross the road, slowing to eat etc.
So I’m a great believer in practicing walking!
Keeping up the rhythm of the walk will ensure blood doesn’t pool in your legs and will help encourage the body to work to remove the byproducts of the energy you burn to run. It will change things up in terms of the muscles you are using, giving key running muscles a break purely by asking them to do something slightly differently.
By focussing on keeping moving forwards at a good pace and planning your walking becomes a good thing, as opposed to the more negative “I couldn’t keep running”. Use the time to re group physically and mentally, take on board food and water, stretch out a little and take a look around you.
There are a few tips on maintaining a good walk; keep looking ahead with head held high and shoulders back and down, keep up a good rhythm in your footfall and leg the arms hang long and swing freely. Your back will relax a little, as will your shoulders and legs, and your calves will get a nice gentle stretch - what’s not to love?
When to walk?
In races, particularly on off road or more technical terrain, walk up hills and plan walk breaks when you are running longer distances. Great marathon times have been achieved with run/walk strategies and the very best ultra runners walk in their races.
Walk when you approach a drink or food station to allow you do not inhale anything, and to allow it to settle in your stomach.
Walk at the end of a hard session or longer run to cool down and help recovery.
How to practice walking?
Uphill walking interval sessions can be a great way of improving technique and practicing a power walk, eyes looking forwards (not down), arms driving and engaging the glutes to propel you forwards.
Turn a walk to work/to the shops/to the pub into a walking tempo session, find your fastest sustainable walk and see if you can improve your speed/time over a few weeks.
If you want to take it further try walking stairs instead of taking lifts whenever you can and introduce a little strength work into your walk!
For those who really get the walking bug try Nordic Walking, which turns it into a fun whole body exercise with walking poles. Or join your local Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) group for organised walks in your area; some of their challenge events can be run too if you want a super cheap and friendly off road event!