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Training for a Walkathon

by Werner W.K. Hoeger, EdD

Starting and sticking to an exercise program is not an easy task. About half of the people who start an exercise program give it up within the first six months, including those who take up walking for exercise. One way to raise your chances of keeping with a walking program, however, is to choose a noteworthy goal, such as completing a 5-kilometer (a “5K” or 3.1-mile) walkathon, particularly one that raises awareness and funds for a cause that’s important to you. (To find a walkathon you want to participate in, see “Walking With a Purpose.”)

Goals serve as strong motivators. Enlisting others to join you in your training and your quest to complete a walkathon will further increase your chances of taking the necessary steps to meet that goal. And having a plan is important, too.

With that in mind, we have provided a sample, 12-week training plan that can help you get in shape for a 5K walkathon. But before addressing the training program for your walkathon, it is important that you understand the concept of intensity of training, or how hard you should push yourself during aerobic exercise (exercise that requires oxygen to generate energy) to improve your fitness level.

Building aerobic fitness
To build fitness safely, the intensity of training during your training walks should be between 40% and 70% of your heart rate reserve. This is a measure of how fast your heart should beat while training. To determine your heart rate reserve, subtract your resting heart rate from your actual measured maximal heart rate (determined during an exercise stress test) or from an estimated maximal heart rate. If you do not know your true maximal heart rate, you can estimate it by subtracting your age from 220.

Resting heart rate is obtained by counting your pulse either on the inside of the wrist over the radial artery (thumb side) or over the carotid artery at the front of the neck. Place two fingers (not including the thumb, which has its own pulse) over the artery and count your pulse for 30 seconds, then multiply by 2, or count your pulse for a full minute. (Check out “Measuring Your Pulse” for more information.) The standard way to measure your resting heart rate is in the morning before you have gotten out of bed. Measure your resting heart rate this way for a week, then take an average of all your results for an accurate assessment of your resting heart rate.

To figure out approximately how many heartbeats per minute you will have at 40%, 50%, 60%, and 70% of your heart rate reserve, multiply your heart rate reserve by these percentages, then add your resting heart rate to each of these values. For example, if your maximal heart rate is 170 and your resting heart rate is 76, the training intensities in beats per minute are as follows:

40% training intensity =
[(170 - 76)  0.40] + 76 =
114 beats per minute

50% training intensity =
[(170 - 76)  0.50] + 76 =
123 beats per minute

60% training intensity =
[(170 - 76)  0.60] + 76 =
132 beats per minute

70% training intensity =
[(170 - 76)  0.70] + 76 =
142 beats per minute

To ensure you are training at the appropriate intensity, check your pulse during exercise, slowing (but not stopping) the activity to do so and counting for 15 seconds. Then multiply the result by 4 to obtain the rate in beats per minute. (Your heart rate will stay at the same level for about 15 seconds, at which point it will decline rapidly.) You can increase the accuracy of your exercise heart rate assessment through the use of a heart rate monitor, available at most sporting goods stores or through the Internet.



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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.



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