Whatever walk of life you are from (pun absolutely intended), walking is a part of life! But if walking is part of your fitness routine too, you'll be aiming for more than just a route from A to B; you'll also want speed.
In this post, we'll explain how you can increase your walking speed, the benefits of doing so, and some things to keep in mind when you're working towards a faster walk.
Benefits of Walking Faster
There are plenty of benefits when it comes to increasing the speed of your walk. The faster you walk, the higher the intensity of your workout will be. This will get your heart pumping, increasing your cardiovascular fitness as well as lowering your cholesterol and improving your stamina.
Walking faster also helps to burn calories and can be part of a weight loss plan. Lastly, brisk walks don't just give your legs a workout; to walk faster without losing form, you'll have to engage all of your muscles, leading to improvements across your entire body.
How to Walk Faster
Check Your Posture
One of the most surprising and simple ways to improve your walking speed is to adjust your posture. We pick up a lot of bad habits without realizing it, and that's what could be putting a dent in your speed. When you're walking, try to keep your body straight. At best, hunching over makes it harder to breathe; at worst, it gives you a very painful stitch!
A way to make sure you're always standing right when walking is to keep your eyes on the horizon. This means your chin will be in the right position (parallel to the ground). Try to keep your shoulders back too and avoid hunching forward as this can give you back ache.
Also, when we said a good speedy walk should engage all of your muscles, we meant it. Engaging your abdominal muscles will immediately improve your posture.
You should also keep an eye on your hips. Again, you probably don't think much about them - but keeping them stable is key if you want to walk faster. Your hips will naturally rotate front to back, in time with your legs, but shouldn't swing from side to side.
Use Your Arms
People often think the key to speed, whether walking or running, is in pumping the arms. This isn't quite right; your arm shouldn't come up past your breastbone. They also shouldn't cross your body, but extend forward (like you're about to give someone a handshake).
Your movements should be as unexaggerated as possible, with your elbows close to your body and your hands curled (but not clenched in a fist).
Stride Frequency, Not Length
Some professionals will say that to walk faster, you need to increase the length of your stride. Longer strides actually make you slower, as your front foot lands outstretched, taking away a lot of the power.
You should instead focus on taking more, smaller steps, using your natural stride length as a guide.
Let your heel strike the ground close to the front of your body. This helps your rear leg prepare for a more powerful push-off using your toes. You could count your steps to make sure you're at a good frequency, but if that's too distracting, try imagining you're showing off the sole of your shoe to someone behind you every time you take a step.
3 Reminders about Improving Your Walking Pace
Take It Slow
As we said at the beginning, having more speed while you're walking is good for a lot of reasons. But trying to boost your walking speed shouldn't be about pushing yourself beyond what your body can handle. That's why it's important to measure your own baseline before you do anything else. Time how long it takes you to walk a mile at top speed, using your phone's GPS or a speedometer to make sure of the distance. Take your pulse before and after your walk - your baseline heart rate will give you foundations to build on.
Start walking in blocks of time as short as 10 minutes; then build up, if there are no new aches or pains. Don’t do more than four speed workouts a week to prevent burnout.
Mix It Up
Walking workouts don't have to be done at a constant speed. We've talked before on this blog about the benefits of interval training, and you can easily work that into your walking too. If you're already at the point where you can manage, say, 30 minutes of moderately paced walking, you can try inserting 5-minute periods of faster-paced walking. This will help to improve your endurance and keep your workout from becoming stale.
Invest In Equipment
Though you can get a lot out of fitness walking without buying anything extra, making the investment can help. For example, you should look for a pair of shoes that are flexible and lightweight, with the right amount of cushioning for your own walking distance.
You could also look into a speedometer. These will give you more accurate measurements of exactly how far you've walked, your heart rate, and other essential stats. Some of the higher-end options can be a bit more expensive, but there are plenty of cheaper brands that are surprisingly robust too.
Learning to walk faster isn't just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Your whole body impacts your walking speed - but with time, these new postures will become natural, and your speed will increase as a result.
If you want to test your speed walking skills, take a look at our Events section. We've got details for walking events across the country, to suit all abilities - check it out here!