Get Ready to Walk
On Your Mark, Get Set ... STRETCH
Whether this is your first time exercise walking or you are a walking pro, it is crucial that you stretch before and after your exercise. Stretching will help loosen your muscles prior to or after your walk, reducing the chance of sore or injured muscles.
Suggested stretches include calf and Achilles stretch, hamstring stretch and quadriceps stretch. It doesn't hurt to stretch out your arms a bit with deep breaths, raising your arms over head while you inhale, exhaling as you lower them. Five to ten of these will suffice.
Stretching is not the only way to warm-up before your walk. You should have a five minute walking warm-up. Start by walking at a medium pace and then slowly increase the pace so that by the end of five minutes you can easily begin your normal walking routine. The five minutes should not be included in your total walking time. This warm-up period will help loosen your muscles, thus lessening the possibility of pulling or tearing them.
After you walk, slow down gradually. Spend five minutes walking slowly. Abruptly stopping your exercise can result in dizziness. Again, these five minutes should not be included in your exercise time.
Keep Your Heart Rate on Target
One way of determining how hard you should exercise is by measuring your heart rate. To get a true aerobic benefit out of walking, without the risk of over or under training, it is necessary to keep your heart rate within its target zone for a minimum of 15 to 30 minutes. This target zone is between 60 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate (the fastest your heart can beat). Below 60 percent, your walk will have little aerobic benefit and above 85 percent it would be too strenuous. If this is your first walking program, it is advisable that you keep your heart rate within 60 to 75 percent of the maximum, aiming for 60 percent. Only someone in excellent physical shape should aim for 85 percent.
How to Measure Your Pulse
There are a number of methods to determine your pulse. Place two fingers (do not use your thumb since it has its own pulse) on either your wrist or throat or temple. Count the pulse beats for ten seconds and multiply by six to get your pulse rate per minute. Using a pulse meter is another good method to do this. You should periodically check your pulse during your walk, to make sure you are still in your target zone.