You should always do some cardiovascular work as part of your warm-up: walking on the spot, skipping, doing some step work on the stairs, or you may have cardiovascular equipment you can use at home. You should work at a brisk pace and intensity — just hard enough to feel a gradual warming throughout the body. Alternatively, you can head outside for a walk or run and keep a mild pace until you have reached a point where it feels comfortable to begin your main workout.
The following walking and running workouts are suggestions of how to incorporate a bit more cardiovascular work into everyday life. Remember you should try to spend 20 to 60 minutes on cardiovascular activity three to five times a week.
If you are just starting to exercise, you should think of starting at the beginners level walking, then progress to intermediate and advanced and then go on to the running programme. Even if you are advanced they should provide some useful tips on how to walk and run correctly, and you can decide if you would like to incorporate the programmes into your daily routine.
Walking is a great way to improve your cardiovascular, burn fat and lower your blood pressure. It will also help improve your muscle tone and strengthen your bones while being joint friendly with no impact. You can walk anywhere on any surface — hills can vary your programme and increase intensity, for example. There is no equipment required except a good pair of trainers to support and cushion your feet and comfortable clothing that suits the weather. You can begin walking immediately.
Keep your route simple to begin with and in a public area (in case you feel ill). In a less public area you should equip yourself with a mobile phone and let people know you are going out. If you plan to walk in the country take a map, phone or whistle, and for any journey take fluids to quench your thirst and stay hydrated. As you increase the time and distance, start to vary your routes to make it more interesting.
Although you have walked for the majority of your life, walking for cardiovascular exercise should be different to your everyday stroll. You should walk with more precision and effort. Progress to intermediate when you have performed a few walks at beginner’s level and feel ready.
• Walk with a purpose — stride out further than usual.
• Bring the heels down first.
• Swing the arms straight and from theas opposed to across body, thumbs should point in the direction of travel.
• Look up and to the front.
• Squeeze the gluteals to power forward.
Walking: Intermediate and Advanced
In order to progress (ie. speed up your pace) you need to adopt these techniques:
• Increase the pace by lifting the toes higher, revealing the sole of the shoe.
• Drive back with slightly bent elbows for more power.
• Push from the gluteals.
Get your walking technique right because when you progress to a running programme you will be striking the floor with much greater force. It’s important your technique is correct to avoid any injuries.
This is a 6-week programme that gets progressively harder to challenge you further as you get fitter. Intersperse the running with a recovery period where you walk fast.
After 6 weeks increase your running time and have a recovery time of between 1 and 3 minutes as needed. Progress further by reducing your recovery time until you do not need it at all. Remember to stretch calf,, hamstrings and quads for 10 to 15 seconds after the warm up and for 30 to 45 seconds after the cool down.
Walk or run in a ‘heel, ball, toe’ action. Strike the floor with the heel and transfer the weight through the back of the foot and push off for the next step from the toe.
• Keep your arms relaxed at a 90° angle rather than letting them swing by your sides. The shoulders should swing slightly forward and backward without rounding. Keep the body and hips facing forward.
• If there’s an incline, increase your speed to challenge yourself.
• Drive your legs from the gluteals, lifting the toes, and use the arms to propel you forward. Aim to push off the back leg.
• When walking uphill take smaller strides and try looking slightly down to make the ground appear flat rather than seeing the hill ahead. Lean into the hill slightly from the hips to aid your action and engage your. When walking downhill engage your abdominals slightly, bend the knees a little and lean back to help control movement.
• Keep your head up and walk tall. Inhale fully and deeply, then exhale fully; try to regulate your breathing with your stride. Quicker, smaller steps will take you further than long ones, however, longer strides will allow more stretch in the hips — aim to work with smaller steps but take some long strides towards the end of the walk to cool down.
• Don’t cross the arms in front of your chest as this can interfere with your breathing.
• Make sure you are sufficiently hydrated before your walk or run.
• Do not run on a full or empty stomach.
Invest in decent trainers for stability and joint support. Change your trainers approximately every 4 to 6 months.
Now it’s time to get started with the cardiovascular work. I have given you a selection of things to do — some are static and repetitive (for those who prefer a structured non-mind-challenging approach) and some routine (for those who like to challenge the mind and enjoy variety). Please feel free to adapt them or develop your own ideas! The total aerobic content of your workout should last 30 minutes which also includes a 5-10 minute gradual warm-up.
A beginner new to exercise should aim to complete 20 minutes and increase the time gradually. As you improve and begin to vary your exercise regime, cardiovascular exercise can be increased to suit your workout session. For example, if you are doing the circuit programme which contains cardiovascular intervals you may find that the warm-up plus the workout is enough. If you are doing the general toning workout you may add on a further 25 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular work.
On the other hand you may wish to spend a session totally focusing on cardiovascular work for up to 60 minutes and not do any cardiovascular work (apart from warming up) the day before or the day following. Go back and look at the rate of perceived exertion scale and aim to be working in the 6-8 rating (able to say a few words but not hold a conversation!) or record your effort level when first starting out and see if it decreases as you improve. Then progress by increasing the intensity of your activity and continue recording your performance (remember these may vary depending on the time of day you exercise).
Although the programme is flexible, try to put it in your diary to ensure it becomes and stays part of the new you.