To most, walking for exercise might seem simple. But like any other endurance activity, how difficult your workout is and how much fitness you gain depends on the speed you can maintain for long distances. By walking faster you’ll also burn more calories and increase your heart rate, improving cardiovascular fitness.
Here are five steps to up your speed:
FIND YOUR BASE LEVEL
Before you begin working on your technique to boost your walking speed, you’ll need to know exactly how fast you can walk. Most basic GPS watches and apps like MapMyRun provide you with pace-per-mile metrics. Walking speedometers or timing lap or mile pace at a track are other methods you can use to obtain your baseline numbers for your current fitness level.
GET THE RIGHT GEAR
Moderate-intensity workouts can place more stress on your muscles and ligaments. That’s why it’s important to have proper workout gear and the right recovery habits such as stretching and foam rolling to stay injury free. You’ll want to wear breathable clothing that wicks away moisture and a good pair of walking shoes that are lightweight and flexible.
START WITH A WARMUP
Since the workout will be at a faster pace, completing a warmup before you start your main workout helps loosen your muscles and gets your blood flowing. You should also consider your pre- and post-workout nutrition to maximize muscle growth and speed recovery.
IMPROVE YOUR TECHNIQUE
Foot strike, stride length and the positioning of your head, arms and torso all play an important role in increasing your walking speed. Below are a few tips you can try to up the pace:
Aim to strike with the heel first before rolling through the foot and pushing off on the toes. To generate more speed, concentrate on the push off when the foot is behind the body. The stronger the push, the faster you’ll go.
Concentrate on shorter, more frequent steps as you up the pace. To do this correctly, make sure you aren’t stepping too far in front of the body during your foot strike. Your stride should be longer behind the body than it is in front of the body, allowing you to push off on the ball of your foot.
Keep your chin level and stand tall, concentrating on not letting the head come forward as you walk. Your head should always remain parallel to the ground. Avoid tilting your head up or down and keep your eyes focused 20 feet in front of you.
One of the biggest mistakes walkers make is not using their arms enough — a good arm swing helps generate power. Maintain a 90-degree bend at the elbows while you swing your arms backward and forward, keeping them close to your body. Avoid letting the elbows flail at the sides and side-to-side keep rotational movement at a minimum. The forward motion of the arm swing shouldn’t rise past your chest, while the backward swing shouldn’t extend far enough to cause the torso to bend forward.
Through the torso, make sure you stand as tall as possible with a long spine. Your hips should rotate slightly forward while you engage your abdominal muscles as a base for generating speed. Avoid any exaggerated side-to-side motion of the hips as you walk.
BUILD YOUR DURATION SLOWLY
It’s important to increase duration gradually to prevent injury and keep the focus on good form. You can start with this workout format a couple times a week and slowly increase the distance and pace:
Warmup: Walk at your usual, comfortable pace for 10–15 minutes.
Main set: Either at a track or with a GPS watch, walk at the fastest speed you can maintain for 1/4 mile. Alternate by walking the next 1/4 mile at your regular walking pace. Do this for 2 miles.
Cooldown: Walk at your normal walking pace for another 10–15 minutes.