“Upping your walking speed enables you to accomplish more work in the same amount of time. And the more work you can accomplish over a given period, the fitter you are,” says Eric Cohen, walking coach and co-founder of 99 Walks. “Walking briskly will also increase the positive work stress on your body—the kind of stress that forces our bodies to adapt and grow and get stronger. The basic formula for improving our fitness is positive physical stress, recover, and adapt.”
Just like learning how to run faster, you may need some lessons on how to increase your walking speed, too. Starting with listening to your body and going at a speed that feels good to you, then working your way up from there. Professional walker Joyce Shulman, CEO and co-founder of 99 Walks, says it’s hard to suggest a specific milage per hour as your target will be based on factors like your fitness level, the nature of the terrain, and the duration of your walk. But she has some advice on figuring out where to begin.
“Go out and time yourself walking a mile. In all likelihood, you’ll be walking somewhere between three and four miles per hour, which tends to be a good, sustainable speed,” she says. “Once you find your baseline, you can begin to increase your pace bit by bit over time.”
Once you know your current pace, challenge yourself to picking it up—even if that’s just 1 mph at a time. You’ll know you’re challenging your body enough by paying closer attention to your breathing. “You’re looking for a pace that has you breathing hard and at which it would be challenging—but not impossible—to have a conversation with a friend, or sing aloud to your favorite song,” Cohen says. “At the higher end, you should be able to string together three or four words as you speak, but not whole sentences. This indicates a challenging pace.”
Now that you know how quickly you need to walk, there are some tips that will help you get to that pace. (You know, aside from putting on your favorite high-energy playlist.)
How to increase your walking speed
1. Set a timer
One of the best ways to keep up your pace is to set a timer on your phone for intervals. “Walk at your normal pace to warm up, then walk at an aggressive pace, take a short slower recovery break, and repeat,” says Shulman. “As you progress, the recovery breaks should get shorter and in time, you’ll be doing the whole walk at that brisk pace.”
2. Put your arms into it
Now’s the time to break out the power walk arms. The ones you’ve seen in every ’80s exercise video ever. “Bending your elbows and pumping your arms will engage your upper body and help you walk faster,” says Shulman. It’s the easiest way to make your workouts more challenging.
3. Focus on your form
Aside from utilizing your arms to propel your body forward, also make sure you have proper walking form. “Stand tall with your shoulders stacked over your hips, chin parallel to the ground, abs engaged, and gaze forward,” Shulman says. “It’s important to maintain your form as you increase your speed.”
Don’t forget to stretch after your walking workout:
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