Speed Skills 101
If you turbocharge your pace right off the bat, you’ll just burn out. Instead, follow these steps to gradually step it up.
STEP 1: FIND YOUR RHYTHM
First, figure out your natural pace—not your window-shopping gait but your “I have to be somewhere” pace. Count your steps for 20 seconds and multiply by three. If you’re hustling at least 120 steps per minute (40 steps in 20 seconds), that’s about 3 mph, the minimum pace for what’s considered fitness walking. (For a smartphone app that can help you with the calculations, see the chart on page 49.) If that’s too fast, then your first goal should be to ramp up to that speed.
STEP 2: KICK IT UP A NOTCH
If 120 steps per minute is comfortable, your next goal should be 135 steps per minute (3.5 mph), which is considered weight-loss pace. For that, you need to take 45 steps in 20 seconds. At that rate, you burn roughly 350 calories per hour, 100 more than you would at 3 mph. How to do it? Take quicker, shorter strides rather than longer ones. If you lengthen your stride, reaching farther with your front foot, it’s harder to roll your foot and push off with your toes—and that’s key to maintaining a fast pace, because it’s a more natural way to move.
STEP 3: ADD INTERVALS
Once you have a feel for the faster pace, walk in bursts of two to three minutes at as close to 135 steps per minute as you can manage. Then slow down to 120 steps a minute for two minutes. Repeat those intervals until you reach the desired distance for your walk (see “Mileage Matters,” on the following page). Over time, work on lengthening your intervals until you can do your whole walk at 135 steps per minute. (For a playlist to help you once you reach that point, see page 49.)