The art of the long walk: how to train for a 5K walk
The benefits of taking daily walks are well known. According to The Mayo Clinic1, regular brisk walking can help you to:
- maintain a healthy weight,
- prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes;
- strengthen your bones and muscles;
- improve your mood; and
- improve your balance and coordination.
That may be all the motivation you need to lace up your shoes and hit the sidewalk, but if not, consider this: some of the world’s greatest and most creative minds were avid walkers, and particularly enjoyed long, rambling walks. Beethoven, Goethe, Steve Jobs, Charles Dickens, and Charles Darwin were all known to take regular strolls, possibly because the fresh air, exercise, and meditative effect of walking helped clear their minds and made them more creative and productive.2
If you like the idea of adding this simple, low-cost exercise into your routine (all you really need is a good, supportive pair of running shoes), why not take it a step further and train for a 5K walk? Notice we said walk, not race. It’s about building up your stamina and going the distance, not getting there the fastest. While there are lots of 5K charity walks you might want to sign up for to help motivate you to reach your goal of being able to walk 5K, you can simply train for your own satisfaction and the health benefits.
Your first step should be to check with your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you to begin a new exercise program, particularly if you have any underlying health conditions. Once you have the all clear, get yourself a good pair of walking or running shoes and get ready to go!
Map out a few routes in your neighbourhood and figure out how long they are so you know the distance you’re covering when you go on your training walks. You could also walk on a track at your nearby high school and count your loops. Essentially all you have to do is increase your distance each week until you can comfortably walk 5K.
VeryWellFit3 recommends starting with daily 15-minute walks, 5 days a week at an easy pace for the first week. The rest of the schedule is as follows:
- Week 2: increase to 20-minutes a day, five days a week.
- Week 3: increase to 25-minutes, five days a week.
- Week 4: increase to four 30-minute walks and one walk that’s 40 minutes.
- Week 5: four 30-minute walks and one 45-minute walk.
- Week 6: four 30-minute walks and one 60 minute walk.
At the 6-week point you should be able to walk 5K. If you’re not quite there yet, just keep slowly building up your time and stamina until you’re able to enjoy a Dickens-style long walk, and all the benefits that come along with it!
Always remember that it’s important to warm up and stay hydrated when you’re doing any kind of exercise. And listen to your body: if at any time you don’t feel well, or you’re hurting, stop and rest. It’s a good idea to carry a phone with you or walk with a buddy so you can get help if you need it.
For more information on training to walk 5K, visit Very Well Fit, and for tips on stretches and other exercises that can help you achieve your walking goals, read our article on how to improve your walking speed.
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