Starting a new exercise programme can be daunting. We get that! And it’s why we’re so excited about the Women’s Health Big Book of Walking Workouts, which proves once and for all that you don’t have to overhaul your entire life to meet your weight loss and fitness goals – you simply have to put one foot in front of the other.
The WH Walking Challenge is a six-week programme that gives you weekly walking targets, plus workouts to keep you strong and fit. Let’s get moving!
How To Get Started
All you need is a good pair of walking shoes for major fitness gains! But following a few basic tips can make your walking challenge experience a whole lot more comfortable and enjoyable.
- Eat a small snack before you set out. To eat or not to eat before exercise is a matter of personal preference, but a big breakfast will likely weigh you down and you don’t want to get a stitch! Have a small snack, like a banana, a small yoghurt or half a slice of toast with peanut butter, and save brekkie for when you get home.
- Drink a glass of water. Your body will be dehydrated after a night’s sleep so drink one glass of water to keep you hydrated during your walk, but not desperate for the loo!
- Start slowly. Because walking is a low-impact activity, there’s no need to do a long warm-up. Simply start at a slow pace for five to ten minutes and pick it up once your body has warmed up.
- Wear reflective gear. If you’re new to walking on the road for exercise, make sure you wear bright and preferably reflective clothing. It’s still gloomy in the early mornings.
Find Your Fitness
When you start the walking challenge, it’s good to know your fitness level so you can see how you improve over time. Dr James Rippe, a professor of biomedical sciences, developed the following formula to help walkers assess their fitness by age. Walk 1.6km (a mile) as quickly as you can, then compare your time: If you exceed the ideal time for your age group by three to six minutes or more, you’re not in the best shape aerobically. But don’t worry; just keep walking. Exercising consistently can lower your time.
- Under 30 years: If you can walk 1.6km in 13 minutes or less, you’re in great shape!
- 30-39 years: 14 minutes means you’re in good cardio health!
- 40-59 years: 14-15 minutes means you’re in peak condition.
- 60-69 years: 15 minutes is an excellent pace!
- 70+ years: If you can walk it in 18 minutes or so, you’re very fit.
The WH Walking Challenge
Follow the six-week plan below, designed by international trainer Leigh Crews, to get fitter and tone up your legs, tummy and bum. If you don’t have access to hills or stairs within your 5km radius, do a brisk pace walk for those sessions instead. Print this plan or screen grab it and save it on your phone for easy access.
Jiggle-Blasting Strength Moves
Do these in addition to your walk on days 3, 5 and 7 of the walking challenge. Use your walk as your warm-up, then do these moves when you get home. A set is 8-12 reps unless otherwise indicated.
How to: Lie on your back with feet flat against the floor and knees bent. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips off of the floor until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Pause at the top, then lower back down to the starting position.
Reverse Lunge With Twist
How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with sliders under your feet, and hands behind your head. Slide back with your right leg and lower until your left knee is bent 90 degrees. Keeping your hands behind your head, twist your body to the left. Return to centre, then push through your left foot to return to start. That’s one rep.
Lying Hamstring Curl
How to: Start lying on back with knees bent, feet on top of a towel or paper. Engage core, then press into heels and squeeze glutes to raise hips toward the ceiling. Hold the position as you extend legs to straight. Reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep.
Weighted Fire Hydrant
How to: Get on all fours on top of your mat. Tuck a two to six-kilo dumbbell in the crease of your right knee. Keeping that leg bent at 90 degrees, lift it out to the side, stopping at hip height. Return to start. That’s one rep.
Heat It Up Hill Walk
This workout incorporates inclines and specific intervals to help target your glute muscles while you walk. If you don’t have access to a hill or stairs, simply swap these sessions in the walking challenge for brisk-pace walks instead. You’ll still score major benefits!
How It Works
Walk for 30 minutes, hitting a hill, bridge or stairs if you can. Time how long it takes to go up a hill or staircase, then recover by walking on level ground for about half that time. For instance, if you took 40 seconds to get up a hill, recover for 20 seconds. Timing doesn’t have to be exact, but this is a good gauge. If you don’t have access to a hill, power walk as fast as you can for the incline parts, then slow your pace for the recovery.
Follow this pattern for your 30-minute walk:
PART 1: 5 minutes; Easy pace, like you’re window shopping
PART 2: 5 minutes; Flat walk at a semi-brisk pace, like you’re walking with purpose.
PART 3 (Repeat 5 times): 1:30 minutes incline or fast power walk; 1 minute flat or semi-brisk recovery walk. *Note: If your incline takes less than 1:30 minutes to the top, keep going up and down for this amount of time then walk on the flat for the recovery minute.
PART 4: 5 minutes; Easy pace, like you’re window shopping
Butt Shaper Walk
Do this 35-35 minute routine on the stipulated days in the walking challenge programme, focusing on squeezing your bum. Try to keep that contraction in your glutes as you walk.
How It Works
- Start walking at an easy, window-shopping pace. Gradually increase to a brisk, late-for-an-appointment pace over the next 10 minutes.
- Now stop walking and do drill 1 for 20 seconds. (Each week, add another 20 seconds until you’re doing the drill for a full five minutes by week 6.)
- Walk briskly for 5 minutes, then do drill 2 for 20 seconds. Follow this pattern until you’ve done all drills, each time followed by 5 minutes of brisk walking.
- After the last drill and subsequent 5-min brisk walk, stroll at an easy pace for four minutes.
Drill 1: Speed Skater
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Sweep your left leg out to the side and jump. In one smooth motion, land on your left leg in a partial squat and swing your right leg diagonally behind you (shown). Then leap to the right, sweeping your left leg behind you. Continue jumping side to side until time is up.
Drill 2: Long Lunge with Reach
Take a long step forwards with your left leg (about 60 to 90cm) and bend your knees as you simultaneously lean forward from your hips and reach as though setting something on the ground next to your front foot. Press into your left foot, pull your hands back and stand up with feet together. Switch sides and repeat drill until time is up.
Drill 3: Single-Leg Step-Down
Stand with your left foot on a step or curb, right leg hanging off. Bend your hips and left knee to lower your right foot, gently tapping your right heel on the ground. Press into your left heel and straighten your leg, then repeat until halfway through the set. Switch legs and continue until time is up.
Drill 4: Heel Walk
Raise your toes off the ground and walk so you’re balancing on your heels only. Take short, quick steps and swing your arms naturally. Your pace will probably be slower than normal. Continue until the time is up.