How Walking Can Help You Achieve Your Fitness Goals

By Erin Palinski-Wade

When you start an exercise program, you may be tempted to set lofty goals. If you start walking and really enjoy it, you may want to aim for a 10K (kilometer) or even a half marathon. You may want to build strength, speed, and endurance.

And all of these things will come. You will get stronger, build muscle, increase your speed and endurance, and even be able to tackle an event like a half marathon!

But just like with anything, achieving these goals takes time. You can’t expect to go from sitting on the couch one day to winning a 10K the next — no one can! But it doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to achieve completing a 10K. You certainly can if that’s your desire, but it’s all about taking small steps — literally!

Take a look at your long‐term fitness goals. Then ask yourself how you will achieve them. How long do you realistically think it will take you to reach your goals?

Say you feel as though you can achieve your fitness goals in three months, which is a reasonable time frame. Well, what is going to keep you motivated during that three‐month period of time? It won’t be thinking of your long‐term goal every day. That would be more discouraging than anything!

To keep you motivated, you need to develop small, achievable goals as you work toward the long‐term goal. For example, say you want to walk faster. A plan to increase speed may look like the following:

  1. Start by walking for 15 minutes each day at a comfortable speed for one week.

  2. After one week, track the distance you cover while walking for 15 minutes using a pedometer. Write down how many steps you cover while walking during this time frame (for example, 1,200 steps).

  3. Aim to increase your speed to cover 100 additional steps in the 15minute time frame over the course of the next week.

    For example, from 1,200 steps you’d build up to 1,300 steps in 15 minutes.

  4. Continue to increase your speed by taking an additional 100 steps per walk each week until you can reach a goal of walking 2,000 steps in 15 minutes.

    For instance, in Week 1 you walk 1,200 steps in 15 minutes, in Week 2 you walk 1,300 steps in 15 minutes, in Week 3 you walk 1,400 steps in 15 minutes, and so on until you achieve your goal.

You can use this same structure to achieve almost any fitness goal. For instance, maybe you want to increase the calorie burn of each walk by adding an incline. You can start walking on a flat surface, such as a ­treadmill, and raise the incline by 1 percent every week until you can walk at a 10­percent incline consistently.

Or you can work on building your endurance by increasing the length of time you walk by extending your walk by 5 minutes each week. As you can see, these tiny goals add up to build results over time.