How to Get Started
If you are just beginning a walking program, go out and walk for a short period of time, maybe 10 minutes. Check in with your body the next day, and if all systems are go, then repeat the 10-minute walking period. Gradually increase the time of your walk, perhaps in 5-minute increments over a period of days, or weeks if necessary. If you are feeling pretty good and pain free, you can walk on consecutive days, but if pain or soreness is a problem, then either select a different activity or rest completely for a day or so.
Continue to check in with your body for any soreness, aches, or pains. Soreness is natural when you are just getting started; pain is not. When the soreness is light, you can continue to increase walking time. Over time, you can build up to 30 minutes or even an hour of walking and can increase from walking every other day to nearly every day.
Don't Carry Weights
Carrying weights in your hands while walking (heavy hands) was conceptually a good idea for helping to elevate the heart rate and build muscular strength. However, the reality is that it has caused many people joint problems in the elbows, wrists, and shoulders. If you want to elevate your heart rate, walk faster, walk on a course with some hills, or walk with a weighted backpack. If you want to strengthen your upper body, see Chapter 8 to learn how to strength train. But mixing weights with walking is not the way to go.
To convert pace to miles per hour:
First, convert your pace (in seconds or minutes) to a decimal (in minutes). For example, 45 seconds = .75 minute; 30 seconds = .50 minute; 15 seconds = .25 minute; 10 seconds = .166 minute; 13 ½ minutes per mile = 13.5.
Next, divide the number 60 by the pace (as a decimal) to get the miles per hour. For example: 60 ÷ 13.5 = 4.44 miles per hour. This tells you that at a 13 ½-minute pace, you would cover 4.44 miles in an hour.
To convert miles per hour to pace:
Divide the number 60 by the miles per hour (as a decimal) to determine the pace as a decimal. For example: 60 ÷ 4.44 mph = 13.51 minute pace. This tells you that walking at a speed of 4.44 mph, it takes you 13 ½ minutes to cover each mile.
As you progress to longer and more intense walks, consider using a heart-rate monitor to gauge your intensity level and to motivate you to move at a good clip, but not to overdo it. Or set some goals for time, speed, and distance and occasionally test yourself to see your progress. Check your heart rate during exercise and your recovery heart rate. When you see those numbers improving, then it is time to overload yourself to make even further improvements.
You can also vary your pace by speeding up for short intervals of time or distance. Treat yourself to the fun experience of signing up for a walking or jogging event such as a 5k (1 kilometer = .625 of a mile) or 10k. Having such a goal will motivate you, and participating will definitely increase how much you enjoy your walking program, and the seriousness with which you view it.