In Walking for fitness: Part I and II, the ground work was established to develop and progress a basic walking program. This article will expand upon equipment and techniques that can be utilized to enhance a walking regimen.
Probably the most important piece of equipment to consider for a walking program is footwear. Proper footwear will provide the needed support to protect and prevent injury to the walker’s feet and lower extremities. The proper sizing and type of footwear is beyond the scope of this article, but prospective walkers should seek out knowledgeable footwear consultants to establish proper fit. In addition, some authorities suggest that new footwear should be phased in after 300 to 600 miles have been logged on the current pair. Alternating one’s walks with the new and seasoned footwear will allow for a gradual break-in period. Finally, another important consideration in foot protection is comfortable socks. Socks made out of a synthetic or wool composite blends can help to keep the feet dry and blister free. Standard cotton socks should usually be avoided.
Heart Rate Monitor
For those individuals with a heart condition or those looking to optimize the conditioning process; a wireless heart rate monitor can provide instant feedback on the stress that one’s cardiovascular system is experiencing. These devices usually consist of a receiver that resembles a wrist watch and a transmitter that can be worn around the chest. Some monitors are also designed with a built in sensor in the receiver that eliminates the need for a chest strap. During the walk the monitor provides real-time heart rate data that can be used to adjust walking paces to maintain an optimal target heart rate zone.
Another devise that can be utilized to monitor walking distance is a pedometer. A pedometer counts steps which can be converted into approximate distances covered. The pedometer is usually worn on the hip around belt height. The pedometer must also be calibrated to one’s stride length to obtain an accurate distance covered. Some sophisticated GPS models can calculate mileage, walking speed, caloric expenditure and location.
Completing 10,000 steps per day has been quoted as a walking goal to strive for to support health and well being. Utilizing an average stride length of 2.5 feet; this amounts to a distance of just under five-miles per day for 10,000 steps. For the novice walker, completing 10,000 steps per day could be a bit too aggressive. However, with the help of a pedometer, the walker can gradually increase the number of steps performed on a weekly basis by 500 steps per day. Over the course of time, the novice walker will eventually achieve the goal of 10,000 steps per day.
Listening to music during a walk can provide a distraction to the boredom factor. Technology has developed a variety of music devices such as IPods or MP3 players that can be used to enhance the walking experience. Some websites can also provide software that can calculate the beats per minute for songs. This information can be utilized to set a walking pace based on the tempo of the music.
The list of walking equipment can be endless. Other supplies to consider include a water bottle; fanny pack for snacks and supplies; cell phone; appropriate clothing for weather conditions and a flashlight or reflective clothing for night walking.
For most people, walking is a task that is usually a familiar and common act of locomotion. It is relatively easy to perform and does not require a high level of skill. However, for those individuals who are logging high mileage or are nursing an injury; evaluation of one’s walking gait might be a good investment. Mechanically the human body generates forces that propels the body during the walk. If these forces are not created efficiently or dissipated in an appropriate manner; the chance of injury occurring can increase and walking performance will be compromised. Having one’s walking technique evaluated by a professional who is trained to identify mechanical deficiencies can help to avoid musculoskeletal or orthopedic problems down the road. Sports medicine facilities that have gait labs and trained staff can analyzes walking mechanics and provide helpful suggestions on correcting faulty technique.
Hopefully at this time, the motivation to improve one’s health through a walking program is evident. Walking on a regular basis is simple and easy to perform. By setting goals and taking that first step, the ensuing journey will allow one to log many miles throughout one’s lifetime.