Runners are known for having dedicated training plans to help them build fitness and achieve a particular goal, like completing a half-marathon or improving their 5K time. While walking is often an underrated form of exercise, the truth is it’s one of the easiest things you can do to improve your overall health. What’s more, most people who walk can benefit from a dedicated training plan just as much as any other athlete — regardless of their goals.
Whether you’re looking to walk further, burn more calories or finish a (virtual) walking event with a time goal, progressing your training over time is essential. Here’s how a training plan can set you up for success:
HOW TRAINING PLANS BENEFIT PEOPLE WHO WALK REGULARLY
Instead of going through your training blindly, developing a plan can help you get the most out of your workouts.
IT HELPS YOU AVOID INJURY
Even though walking is a great low-impact activity, it’s still possible to get injured. This is especially true if you’re thinking about signing up for a walking event and need to increase your mileage drastically. Having a plan can help you build up slowly over time, preventing common walking injuries.
IT PROVIDES STRUCTURE AND VARIETY
It’s easy to slip into the routine of doing the same workouts on the same routes. Writing down your workouts on a calendar helps you include variety in your walking workouts such as shorter, high-speed interval days, easy days, longer walks, strength training and active recovery days.
IT’S EASIER TO ACCOMPLISH YOUR GOALS
A training plan allows you to visualize your progress and work toward a bigger goal. For example, if you have a walking event in 12 weeks, you can check in each week to make sure you’re on track and adjust when necessary. If you don’t have a specific goal, the act of simply creating a workout plan and finishing it is a goal that can help you burn more calories and get in better shape.
IT HELPS YOU STICK WITH A ROUTINE
Motivation can come and go with any form of exercise. Having a training plan can help motivate you to check off your daily workouts. Seeing your hard work pay off each week is fulfilling and helps keep you engaged to reach your goals. Training plans can also help prevent burnout since you’re switching things up and varying your routes to stay physically and mentally fresh.
4 RULES FOR SUCCESSFUL TRAINING PLANS
STICK TO THE 10% RULE
To prevent overtraining and ensure your body stays healthy, follow the 10% rule. This means you’ll need to increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week. If you’re forced to take a break due to illness or other reasons, work back up to your weekly mileage slowly, rather than beginning again where you left off.
AVOID CONSECUTIVE HARD DAYS
Always schedule an easier workout following a harder training session. This allows your muscles to recover properly and adapt before the next tough workout.
ESTABLISH REST DAYS
While you’ll want to be consistent and exercise most days of the week, one or two rest days are important to prevent burnout and keep you injury-free. Rest days can also be more active by cross-training with low-impact activities like yoga or easy cycling.
WORK ON YOUR WEAKNESSES
Including a stretching routine and strength-training sessions to target your imbalances helps you avoid injury and maintain good form over longer distances.
To become more active, try setting a simple goal to increase (and track) your daily steps. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app and choose a 28-day step plan to learn tips to boost your activity.