Are Your Power Walks POWERful? 8 Tips to Improve

bonnie pfiesterI was running the other day and ran past a middle-aged woman (side note: I love how “middle-aged people” continue to get older as I get older. ha!). Anyway, so I say good morning (because that’s how I roll) and she mouthed something. This was my cue to stop, take off one of my earphones and say”what?” since I can’t read lips. She repeated herself saying, “I used to that. I used to run 3 miles a day and look skinny like you”.

I went on to say “you can do it again” and tried to encourage her. She said she was too old, etc and went on to make excuses. I then told her how my mom and dad got fit in their late fifties and that it’s never too late to get in shape. She was totally not hearing me, but I smiled anyway and off I went.

As I ran around my “morning loop” I passed her 4 times. This KILLED me. She was clearly was walking for exercise, but she was walking so slow she almost was going backwards. OK, not really, but you get my drift. She wasn’t even TRYING! I guess she thought she was doing something “healthy”, and don’t get me wrong, what she was doing was better than sitting on the couch – but she could have made SO much more out of her efforts.

Even people that walk past me that I can totally tell are walking for exercise are still WAY under where they need to be to really burn some calories. Power walks should be PURPOSEFUL walks. So, how do you know if you are on pace?

8 Ways to Put More Power in Your Power Walks

1.) Swing arms. Arms should swing at a 90 degree angle while walking and your body should twist at the waist while holding your abs tight. This gives you the power you need to move faster (look at the photo of the runner. I guarantee she would be able to book it like that if her arms were dangling down by her side. However, if you aren’t walking fast enough, you’ll feel like a complete tard because your arms will be out-performing your legs. Another words, don’t expect to swing your arms like a maniac and let your legs walk like you are in a coma. They work best if they are working together and it will feel much more natural. The best part about swinging your arms is, it not only increases calories burned, but it tones your abs and waist. If you do it right, you will actually be sore. If not, you are likely not getting enough rotation.

2.) Maintain good posture. Be sure to stand up tall while running or walking, holding your stomach nice and flat, rolling your shoulders back, and being careful not to stick your neck out (which people often do when they are moving forward, whether driving or walking). This will help train your body how to maintain better posture all the time. If you aren’t “training” your body on good posture while walking, you are training your body how to maintain bad posture.

3.) Walk as fast as you can. Try walking as fast as possible without breaking into a run, taking long strides with bended knee as if lunging forward. Your arms will really have to swing hard to help you keep this pace. It will also feel completely awkward, but it will look much more normal than it feels. Do this until you can’t maintain it any more. I would consider that your top pace for walking.

4.) Prevent slowing down by tracking your walks. For instance, you can count your steps from one mailbox, or light post, to another to help give you a top-end goal to help hold you accountable or you can track your walk time. You can also do sprint intervals to improve your pace where you sprint from one drive way to the next at every 3-5 houses or so. An awesome device that is great for tracking your pace is the iPhone App called the RunKeeper. It will tell you your average pace and track your progress.

5.) Look at people around you. Notice other walkers and realize they all think they are working out hard and many of them look no different than if you saw them walking in the mall while shopping. Make it your mission NOT to be “that guy”. 

6.) Have someone video tape you. This is a RUDE awakening. When I was doing a TV segment on walking, I was SHOCKED by how slow I looked. I was walking at 4.2mph and it looked like I was strolling. Sometimes pride fuels us to improve and we need to see how we look to others in order to be motivated to perform better. This sure helped me.

7.) Challenge your workouts with interval training. I love my GymBoss Interval Trainer. It’s a timer you can set to go off at different intervals to help make your walks more challenging and less boring. For instance, if you are wanting to become a runner you can set the timer for 2-minute walks and 1-minute sprints. As you improve, you can change that to a 2-minute jog and 1-minute recovery walk. Eventually, you can do a 2-minute run and 1-minute sprint. It’s a great way to boost your workouts and let the GymBoss become your “trainer”.

Polar RC38.) Buy a heart rate monitor. This tip is the #1 best thing you can do to hold yourself accountable. Your heart rate is the best indicator of how many calories you are burning. I like to be around 75% of my maximum heart rate with 65% being my lowest and 85% being my highest. (Maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. Then you multiple that number by the heart rate you are wanting to maintain, like .75). I suggest getting a POLAR Heart Rate Monitor like the Polar RC3, as a POLAR not only tracks your heart rate, calories burned, and all kinds of cool stuff, but it allows you to set up 5 sports profiles so you can so you can easily change between exercise sessions. It also has a zone lock that alerts you if you are falling out of your training zone. You can even set up interval training based on heart rate, speed/pace or distance, or chose from their training programs created by their fitness experts. Think of it as your very own affordable personal trainer. Plus it tracks your training history so you can see how you improve!

Here’s a great video showing all the ways you can use your Polar.

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FitFluential LLC compensated me for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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About Bonnie Pfiester

Fitness Columnist and Lifestyle Coach, Resident Trainer for Designer Whey, Fitness Advisor for FitStudio, powered by Sears, FitFluential Ambassador and Owner of Max Fitness Club, home of BCx Boot Camp in Vero Beach, Florida.

Posted on July 18, 2013, in Exercise & Training, Goals, Motivational and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Great post and so true! I said for years that I “couldn’t” run. Not true. We set our own limitations. Well, I used to!! Not anymore!!

  2. Point on…it’s never too late! I used to run, quit and am getting back into it…not letting being 43 stop me!

  3. Awesome feedback! So glad you guys are not one of “those” people!! ha!! you ROCK! 🙂

  4. Alex Cartwright

    Fabulous! I am not normally a walker, but I decided to go for a power walk today (put it off cause if the heat….getting ready to go) and so the posture and movement tips are super awesome for me at this moment! I think to post from twitter I’ll have to go to my computer to sign up…

    Xoxoxo
    Alex

  5. I lost my first 30 pounds (down a total of 60) by just power-walking and clean eating. My friends joked about how silly I looked by pumping my arms so I should them research that shows that while they were walking with their arms dangling, I was burning 5-10% more calories by moving my arms and waist. Who’s the silly one now? Walking built my strength and endurance and now I’ve run my first 5K and am training for my first 10K. I still have 50 pounds to lose and I take pride in my power walk form. I love to run, but on my “rest” days I am sure to go back to my roots and walk like a boss! 🙂 Thanks for the great post!

  6. Great post! I have started to throw some power walking into my routine a few months ago, as well as walking hillier (is that a word?) terrain/routes a few times a week. I have noticed a pretty nice change in conditioning and weight loss since starting this. I would recommend this to anyone! Thanks for sharing this.

  7. This is great. Walking is a great low-impact way of exercising. I have friends with arthritis that cant take the jarring on their knees from running anymore. Now, they power walk, and let me tell you, when we go out together, I have to do a slow job to catch up. Its all about purpose and form, spot on!

  8. I love your enthusiasm, your blog and your life style!! I am a newbiee to the pFIT fan club but I can feel the obsession commit on! x -kat

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