Speed Walking: Take Your Walk to the Next Level

Walking is nature's original fitness plan and almost everyone's first form of exercise. But there's walking—and then there's walking—the kind that power-burns calories, super-tones muscles, and makes you sweaty.

Before you start speed walking, consider buying a build up walking shoe. This can help protect your heels from striking the ground too hard. And whether you walk indoors or out, start your workout with five to ten minutes of easy paced walking to warm up your muscles. Then, choose one of the options below to dial your walking workout up a few notches:

1. Turn up the speed. Speed walking is more than just walking fast. Specific techniques make this sport a highly efficient way to burn more calories in less time while tightening abdominal muscles and shedding fat.

  • Choose smooth surfaces such as track fields or well-paved streets.
  • Stand up straight with your butt curled under.
  • Keep your head level and look straight ahead.
  • Begin walking as quickly as possible, but make sure you always have contact with the ground. Don't pick up your back foot until your front foot has made full contact with the ground.
  • Swing your arms with elbows at a 90-degree angle.
  • Land on your heel, ankles flexed, and finish with your toes.
  • Don't take too big a step. It's speed, not stride-length that matters.

2. Take to the hills. Adding elevation to your walk is a great way to burn more calories and tone up muscles at the back of your legs and buttocks. Find a walking route with hills and flat land then alternate five to ten minutes uphill with five to ten minutes on flat land. Do three to six repetitions of hills and flats and finish with five minutes at a slow pace.

3. Walk harder. Increase your speed, distance, and duration—but only one at a time.

  • You don't have to race walk to benefit from a faster pace. Start out at a comfortable pace then push yourself to go faster. Listening to fast-paced music might keep your feet hitting the pavement a little faster than you're used to.
  • Add ten to fifteen minutes to your usual walking time.
  • Walk further than usual.

Don't increase all three at the same time and put a week's-worth of walks between changes to avoid putting yourself at risk for injury.

4. Walk a little, run a little. Interval training tricks your body into burning more calories because it doesn't know what's coming next. Start by walking five to ten minutes then jog or run for five to ten minutes. Do three to six walking-running intervals and finish with five minutes walking at a slow pace.

5. Use your technology. Let your treadmill increase your workout for you. Program it for hills, fat burning, or interval training or use the manual setting, and bump up the elevation and speed yourself. Increase your speed or time, and commit to staying on the treadmill for the entire preprogrammed time. That's the thing about treadmills. Since you don't have to walk home, it's easy to take shortcuts.

Ben Greenfield reviewed this article.