Charity walks, runs and bike rides are an increasingly popular way to raise money for a cause. And while walking may seem the easiest of the three, it doesn’t mean you can get away with doing nothing before the event. "Even a 5K charity walk can be challenging and needs preparation," says Leslie Sansone, creator of the Walk at Home DVD series. And if you’re planning on doing a longer charity walk, such as the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers, which covers 60 km over two days, proper training is a must.
So how do you prepare, both ahead of time and on event day? Read on for expert tips on walking without pain.
Go progressively farther
For any walk that’s longer than you would normally go, make sure to work up to the distance progressively, to get your body accustomed to the distance. If you’re building up to 5 km, for instance, and you typically don’t walk for longer than 20 minutes, then try to walk at least a few times a week with one of those walks being a longer one, and add a few minutes each time. For instance, you could follow this pattern for the four weeks preceding the event:
Week one: two 20-minute walks, one 30-minute walk
Week two: two 20-minute walks, one 35-minute walk
Week three: two 25-minute walks, one 40-minute walk
Week four: two 30-minute walks, one 45-minute walk
For a longer event such as the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers, you’ll want a more extensive training program’but again, with a progressive increase in distance, and one longer walk at least once a week. (The Weekend to End Women’s Cancers offers a training schedule on its website.)
"What I like to say is every five days or twice every 10 days to have an up distance day," says Mark Fenton, a former competitive race walker and spokesperson for Nintendo’s Personal Trainer: Walking software. "Six a month instead of four."
For the Weekend, Fenton also suggests getting up to a 20 or 25 km walk in training, and picking one weekend, ideally four weeks ahead of the event, where you can do two long walks back to back’one on Saturday and one on Sunday, for example’to simulate the real thing. "Make yourself do a Saturday afternoon 20 km and then the next morning get out for another 10 or 15 km," he suggests. "It’s best to have minimum rest time."
Vary your walking routine
Don’t always walk at the same rate, Fenton suggests. Instead, vary your workouts for the best training results. In addition to adding a longer walk every five days or so, he recommends adding a walk of higher intensity within that time period’say, a faster walk, or one that includes more hills. Of course, since these are more intense, they wouldn’t be as long as your longer walks, he notes. Instead, says Fenton, "make sure you’re sweating."
Why go faster? Not only are you getting a better workout, but you’ll cover the same amount of ground in a shorter time. That’s not such a big deal for the shorter charity walks, but when it comes to the longer ones, it means a lot less time on your feet’and, if you’re doing a walk that lasts more than one day, a chance to let your body recuperate longer between walks.
So how do you keep up a regular walking program without getting bored or falling off the wagon? Fenton suggests three strategies.
‘ Train with a friend. Not only does walking with a friend to chat with make the workouts more fun, but you’re accountable to that person’when you feel like skipping a walk, you can’t, because you know they’re waiting for you.
‘ Vary your locations. "Here’s the deal about new places," says Fenton. "Inevitably, you go longer than you intend." Make your walks more exciting by exploring new parts of the city, new parks or even, when time permits, neighbouring towns or cities.
‘ Keep track of your workouts. "There are research studies that show that people who keep a good log of their exercise do better," says Fenton. Whether it’s a number jotted on a calendar or a more sophisticated training tool (Fenton, of course, uses the Nintendo DS system) depends on you.
Another tool in your arsenal is walking indoors, which can help if you’re training through a season of bad weather. Treadmills won’t help your body get used to pounding the pavement, but they will get your heart and muscles in better shape, and using them is a good way to vary your workout to avoid boredom.
The bottom line
In the end, make sure you’re walking because you enjoy it. "Walking for a cause is especially rewarding," says Sansone. Her final advice? "Be safe, have fun, and walk strong!"
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