© Old Mutual Virtual Coach Dave Spence and Old Mutual


Whether you’re out for your very first run or your returning to the rod after several years away, or if you intend eventually to be a walker/runner, you should be begin by putting on a watch, going outside and walking purposefully for a few minutes. For some of you, this might be five minutes, for other, fifteen. Don’t push, don’t hurt and don’t get breathless. Have fun! Walking and running should always be fun, even when you increase your physical challenges late in your programme.

For the next three weeks, continue going out for a walk. Try to go every other day, with a minimum of three times a week. Each time you walk, add a minute to your walk, and try to go just a bit faster.

If you miss a workout, don’t feel guilty. Just try to start again as soon as possible. If you miss a lot of days, you may need to start again very gradually, but don’t fret. The important thing is doing it!

Intermediates move ahead; beginners need more time.

By the second or third week, some intermediate beginners may start to feel a bit restless with this gradual phase. If you want to become a more serious fitness walker, move ahead to the four walking programme. Beginner walkers will want to remain at this phase for as long as it takes to feel comfortable. A good guideline is to increase your distance or time in the activity by ten percent a week.

Those who want to run will notice that at times their walks break into slow runs, or jogs. This is a good time to experiment with very easy running. As you walk, pick out a telephone pole 50 to 60m away and very gently break into a slow run and jog to it. Walk again to catch your breath and start repeating this process in all your walks, adding more and longer running phase to it. You’re now ready for your first real running programme.

Beginners may take weeks, or even several months before they can reach this stage, depending on their original physical condition. This is usually the crossroads where a true beginner determines whether she will stay a walker or wants to move on to become a runner.

How do you run? The answer seems obvious - you put one foot in front of the other. Right? Yet it is one of the most frequently asked questions because running is not quite that easy. There are a few rules to follow.

First, you have to move from walking to running. How do you get started? Try this method. Go outside and start walking. Walk a bit faster. Then pick up the pace some more and sort of shuffle along; you’ll see you’re moving as quickly as you were in the fast walk, but it’s actually easier. Shuffle just a bit faster, landing on your heels and rolling forward. Now you’re jogging, but it should feel just as easy as fast walking.

Run with your shoulders back and your arms and hands relaxed. Bend your elbows at your waist with the palms of your hands facing each other – as if you were getting ready to put your hand in your pants pockets. Keep your hands loosely cupped.

Keep your head erect and your eyes focused about ten to fifteen meters in front of you. Don’t look straight down at your feet. Your chin should be parallel to the ground.

Don’t feel depressed if your progress seems slow at this early stage. This is all new to your body, even if you were very active sometime in the past. It is far more important to build a strong healthy bas, even if it takes longer, than to try to progress too quickly and be discouraged or even injured.

Walking is one of the most natural things we do. It’s such a basic part of life that for a long time no one thought about it as a fitness activity. That’s not the case anymore. As more and more people see the importance of exercise but are short on time, training or even the ability to participate in more vigorous sports, they’ve decided to look elsewhere for a workout. Fitness walking – walking with a purposeful stride, arms pumping, and heart rate elevated – walking is booming again. It provides everyone with a wonderful exercise alternative. You can burn fat, develop muscle tone, reduce bone mass loss, and improve your grace and carriage.

Walking is going on everywhere: on the streets where you live, in community fun run/walks and races, through walking club activities, and at shopping centres. You can walk anywhere, at almost any time. Most important, virtually everyone can walk – no matter what your current level of fitness or activity is.

If significant weight loss is a major goal for your exercise programme, walking may be an excellent way to start. Each time your foot strikes the ground while walking, it’s with the force of one and a half times your actual body weight; that increases to three and a half to eight times when running. Running provides too much pounding for someone who is overweight.

Just as there are progressive levels in running, there are different stages in walking.

Walk holding your body in a natural upright posture with your back straight, shoulders down, and neck relaxed. Look straight ahead focusing three or four meters in front of you, not down on your feet.

Your heel should hit the ground first, then follow through your stride, pushing off with your toes. Hold your arms with your elbows bent at 900 angle and pump them back and forth in an opposite rhythm to your feet – when you stride forward with your left foot, your right arm comes forward and vice versa.

Keep your stride at a natural length. If you want to walk faster, don’t lengthen your stride. Take smaller, quicker steps. Also don’t lean forward as you walk. Good posture not only enhances your carriage, but also helps prevent injury.

A programme to Make you a Thirty-Minute Walker:

Once you’re able to comfortably walk for fifteen-minutes, it’s time to look at the next stage: working toward being a thirty-minute walker. This means you will be able to do a thirty-minute fitness walk three or four times a week. It’s the stage at which many of your overall fitness goals will begin to be realized.

Start each walking session with a gentle warm-up for three of four minutes to loosen your muscles. After you finish your workout, cool-down with a few more minutes of slow walking and the some gentle stretches.

This programme allows you gradually to build up to a thirty-minute walk over eight weeks. Not everyone will be able to do the program in that time. Follow the schedule at a comfortable pace but one that challenges you to move forward.

The programme is based on the hard-easy training method. You make progress in training by pushing yourself to do more, but your body needs time to recover from the extra effort. The day after a hard workout when you walked faster of did extra kms, schedule a day off, do an easier workout – less pace of km – or switch to an alternative type of exercise like cycling, swimming, or strength training.

Make it your goal to walk three or four times a week but don’t walk more than six days a week – give yourself a day off. Start each workout gradually, warming up your muscles by slow-paced walking. When you’ve finished, complete a gradual slow down of your page with stretching exercises to cool down and relax your body.

No one is judging you or holding you to a timetable. When you reach the point at which you can do a thirty-minute fitness walk as part of your regular routine, you’ll have something that you can count on for the rest of your life. If it takes a little more time to get there, don’t worry about it, you’re in this for the long haul.

Week 1           Walk 10 mins, Rest 3 mins, walk 5 mins, Rest 1 min then repeat
Week 2           Walk 10 mins, Rest 1 min, walk 5 mins, Rest 1 min again, then repeat
Week 3           Walk 10 mins, Rest 1 min, walk 10 mins, Rest 1 min, then repeat
Week 4 & 5     Walk 20 min each session
Week 6 & 7     Walk 25 min each session
Week 8           Walk 25 min each session.

If you’re comfortable after the first couple of weeks, you may want to speed up this timetable and complete the programme in five or six weeks.

You should always be able to carry on a conversation while you’re walking. If you can’t you’re going too fast and should slow down.

After you’ve become a thirty-minute walker, you may simply want to continue to reap the benefits that accrue from that level of regular exercise. But if you feel you want to go on to new goals and levels of accomplishment, there are attractive options open to you. Two of the most interesting are going faster and going farther. Increasing your speed and kms gives you a more potent aerobic workout with its conditioning and fat-burning benefits. It can also keep your programme fresh so your workouts don’t become boring or routine.

Try to become a forty-five-minute or a one-hour walker by adding a longer walk to your regular programme. Select one day on your workout schedule for a longer walk and add gradually ten-minute increments to your workout until you reach a comfortable and invigorating longer distance. Always schedule a day off after your long walk for rest and recovery.

A four week 1 hour Walking Programme:

Bear in mind that these are only guidelines. It may take you longer to reach the next level comfortably. Don’t go ahead until you are ready.

Week 1           Walk three days for 30 mins each session, Walk 40 mins for the fourth session of the week
Week 2           Walk three days for 30 mins each session, Walk 50 mins for the fourth session of the week
Week 3           Repeat schedule for week 1
Week 4           Walk three days for 30 mins each session, Walk 60 mins for the fourth session of the week

30 minute Running Programme:

After you have done the beginners walking; and running programme for a few weeks, and are comfortable with your workouts, you may be ready to take the next step. The following schedule is designed o turn you into a continuous 30-minute runner in 10 weeks. Try to run three or four days a week. On the days you don’t run, either rest or do some other training – cycling, swimmi8ng or weight training – to give your body time to recuperate from running.

Not everyone can complete this programme in ten weeks. If you need more time, take it. You’re on your own schedule, and nobody is judging you!

Begin each running session with easy walking shrugging your shoulders, rolling your head and starting very slowly. Work into your stride gradually. Finish of each run walking slowly, followed by light stretching.

Week 1           Walk 4 mins, Run 2 mins, Repeat five more times per workout for a total of 30 minutes of walking and running.
Week 2           Walk 3 mins, Run 3 mins, Repeat five more times
Week 3           Walk 2½ mins, Run 5 mins, Repeat four more times
Week 4           Walk 3 mins, Run 7 mins, Repeat three more times
Week 5           Walk 2 mins, Run 8 mins, Repeat three more times
Week 6           Walk 2 mins, Run 9 mins, Repeat twice then run for 8 minutes
Week 7           Walk 1 mins, Run 9 mins, Repeat three more times
Week 8           Walk 2 mins, Run 13 mins, Repeat twice
Week 9           Walk 1 mins, Run 14 mins, Repeat twice
Week 10         Run 30 minutes

You should always be able to carry on a conversation while you’re running. If you can’t you’re going too fast.

One Hour Running Programme

Running is incredibly addictive – not only because it feels good, but when you accomplish a distance, you are often instinctively challenged to try to go farther. Many thrive never attempted this kind of physical test before. Once you know you can do it, you become curious about how much more you can do and thrilled by the excitement of trying.

Becoming a thirty-minute runner may be your ultimate goal, or you may wish to revise you goal and crank it up a notch or two.

One of the best new goals for the thirty-minute runner is to try and run for a longer time. Not only is it easily measurable but it also gives a tremendous sense of satisfaction. Once you’ve finished a longer run, it’s a real kick to drive over the same roads and see how much distance you covered on foot. You’ll feel a sense of ownership over the territory you’ve run.

Treadmill runners don’t experience this same kind of claim to territory. However, you can get a similar sensation by seeing the treadmill odometer register more kms, or by watching the clock and seeing your staying power during a workout grow.

The key component of this programme is the one long run per week. It builds up endurance and lays the foundation for further progress.

Week 1-3        Right now you are running 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week. Your weekly commitment of time if 90 minutes. Continue this for three weeks.
Week 4           Run 30 mins, 29 minutes, 35 minutes. Weekly Total 94 minutes
Week 5           Run 30 mins, 32 minutes, 38 minutes. Weekly Total 100 minutes
Week 6           Run 30 mins, 33 minutes, 41 minutes. Weekly Total 104 minutes
Week 7           Run 30 mins, 34 minutes, 45 minutes. Weekly Total 109 minutes
Week 8           Run 30 mins, 36 minutes, 49 minutes. Weekly Total 115 minutes
Week 9           Run 30 mins, 38 minutes, 54 minutes. Weekly Total 122 minutes
Week 10         Run 30 mins, 40 minutes, 60 minutes. Weekly Total 130 minutes

When you are trying to increase your distance, some days feel good and other feel lousy. Listen to your body. Be willing to back off. There is no hurry. These schedules are designed for the best possible circumstances, and sometimes you just need more time to adapt. Never move on to the next higher distance until you feel totally comfortable with the one you did today. Some do the same level for three weeks before they have the strength to add a bit more.