Paul's 15 minute walk progressions
by Paul Mealling on 05 January, 2020 in Essentials
What you’re about to discover here is really great when you need to build strength endurance in your hips, legs and feet. You might be getting back on your feet after injury, or maybe you need to build some foundation condition prior to heavier training.
In summary, this is the method:
You walk for exactly 15 minutes, 3 times per week for 1 month. Each time you go out your goal is to walk slightly further than last time. Additionally, pro-active warm-up and cool down exercises form part of the session, so you can expect the session to take 30 minutes total.
It might sound simple but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Now for the details.
This really is one of my favourite things to do when (re)building functional leg condition. I would even say that this should be done from time to time for everyone. It works very well with your other exercises and has a nice progressive feel to it. If you do it right, by the last few sessions your legs will be burning and you’d rather be jogging. But you mustn’t break into a jog. That would make it easier, and the progressive difficulty is where the benefit lies. You can use a treadmill but if you have access to a flat area to walk, like the seafront, I suggest you do it as follows. Always start in the same place. Set a repeating count-down timer to go every 7 and half minutes and start walking at an easy pace. When the timer goes, make a mental note of exactly where you got to as you turn around for the walk back. The challenge on the way back is to get back to the start in exactly 7 and a half minutes.
Having the half-way split ensures you can’t start fast and slow down – you have to maintain your pace throughout the session. As the sessions become faster this will force you to keep the pace and gain more benefit. If you’re using a treadmill, that will do the pacing work for you of course, but pacing is a good thing to learn as it helps improve your body awareness and it’s quite fun to see how you do. Usually, people are quite off in the first few sessions and improve over time.
Each time you do the session your goal is to walk slightly faster than the previous time, but not too much faster for the sake of the subsequent sessions. Each time you do the session you make a note of your turn-around point and aim to get back to the start line in the second 7.5 minutes.
One benefit you get from these sessions is structure. When coming back from injury, or doing conditioning training, it’s very important to see how each session fits in context with the sessions before and after. This helps you to see and feel progress and be more motivated to do the session. Each session is part of a bigger whole – a good lesson to learn for all your exercise.
It’s very important to treat each session as a training session, and not just a walk. The right mindset means you’ll get more from it.
Here are important points to consider:
- I suggest a good pair of running shoes of an appropriate type for your foot. They will be cushioned and help guide and support the foot. A shoe that helps you move, rather than hinders you, is essential. I personally gain further benefits to my movement from the use of custom.
- Clothing. Wear clothing which allows you to move fluidly and free of restrictions. For example, runners could wear their running clothes. Avoid clothing which gets in the way of your arm swing or leg swing.
- Warm-up. This must consist of carefully graduated exercises which get the body switched on and moving in a controlled and progressive way. This is a great time to do exercises that are specific to you and help you improve your movement patterns and muscle activations. This will be so specific to individuals that I can’t give suggestions here without seeing you. Everyone needs something that is specific to them, with technique pointers that are specific to them. If you get this in place your walk progressions will be all the more beneficial.
- Posture and arm-swing. As you walk keep you body tall and gently use the pelvic floor and core, but not in such a way that interferes with breathing or your arm swing. Feel a fluidity in your arm swing. In your peripheral vision notice if both arms are swinging the same as one another.
- Breathing. Unlike abdominal or yoga breathing, in this exercise you need to use to full chest as well as the diaphragm. Even when breathing deeply in the later sessions, keep your breathing fluid and relaxed.
- Fluid walking is a good opportunity to practice keeping your hands and face relaxed.
- The same principle as the warm-up, but cool-down exercises tend to be more static and relaxed in nature. Exercises specific to you will greatly increase the overall benefit of the session.
At the end of the month stop these sessions and progress to something else. Keep a note of the furthest turn-around point you got to and perhaps the next time you repeat this you will reach a further point in your last session.
Combat decline in walking speed with age by ‘reminding’ the body how to walk fast / structured sessions help support progress and motivation / measureable progress over time / builds strength endurance in the feet, legs and pelvis / allows the body to move freely and fluidly for 15 minutes – something which is lacking for many people / focusses the mind on movement and breathing / allows you to integrate your specific corrective exercises into the warm-up and cool-down