by Patti Finke

Are you walking for a purpose or training for a particular event? You can maximize your training by adding some specific workouts into your program.


The easiest way to gain endurance is by walking long slow distances. Pick one day per week as your extra long walk to gain endurance. How slow is slow and how long does it need to be? How long depends on how much time you want to spend walking and/or what event you’re training for. If you’re planning to do a relay such as Rose City Relay or Portland to Coast, you need to be able to walk the distance you’re going to be doing on race day. That means the long walk needs to be ten - twelve miles. If you’re planning to do the marathon, you need to be in the time range you plan to be out on marathon day (usually 20 miles at a pace slower than race day speed). For the relays, the more walks of this distance you can do, the better your race day performance. For first time marathoners I suggest one - three walks of 20 miles; too many will lead to head burnout. The pace needs to be one - three minutes per mile slower than the race day pace. These long walks are a good time to relax and go for the distance, to get that fat burning going, to enjoy the scenery and to be mellow. If you slow down by as little as 5%, you can walk twice as far and enjoy it more.

You can increase endurance by adding 10% per week to your current mileage. This extra long walk is the first workout you should add to. Usually it feels best to add in one mile increments. In an endurance or base building phase of training, two other days of slightly longer walks can be done as well. An important part of gaining endurance is to have adequate rest/recovery days as part of the training. These are shorter slow walks to get all the waste products out , to get nutrients in and to repair & rebuild any damage. Ratios of daily distance in an endurance program might look like this:

Day		% of weekly total
Saturday	30%	Extra Long Day
Sunday		0%	Rest Day
Monday		10%	Recovery Day
Tuesday		20%	Long Day
Wednesday	10%	Recovery Day
Thursday	20%	Long Day
Friday		0%	Rest Day


Do you want to be able to walk further or faster with less pain and soreness? Some muscle or strength building leads to those gains. You can go to the gym and have a trainer show you some leg, arm and upper body weight training; you can look in last year’s RaceCenter at the Balance and Reach exercises; come to Team Oregon's Stretch and Strengthen classes to learn those exercises or incorporate some strength building walk training. Walking on trails, hills or stairs are great specific strength building workouts. We’re lucky in our local areas to have lots of hills and stairs to choose from. If you live in the flat country, try stairs (the up, not the down) or a stair stepper. Look for trails in your areas with hills.

One of the secrets to trail training, especially in the spring when the trails tend to be muddy, is finding some trail shoes to wear. Many running shoe manufacturers make trail shoes which are great for walking the trails. Sometimes a light weight hiker can be used; it needs to be flexible in the forefoot where your foot bends, not stiff as hiking boots tend to be.

Use one or two of your endurance walks during the week as a strength builder. Remember that walking on the trail is a bit slower and will often be a minute per mile slower than on the road. Do stairs or the stepper in a slow comfortable rhythm that allows you to breath and be aerobic while you’re going up, no sprinting! The goal is to build muscle strength. If you live on hills and are walking them everyday, find a flat walk for your recovery days.


Fast walking is a motor skill that needs to be learned and practiced regularly. Take some classes to learn techniques if fast walking is important to you. If you have the skills, keep them current by adding one day per week of speedwork. The speed workout that you can always do is fartlek or speed play. Use your watch, telephone or light poles and play with segments of fast walking interspersed with segments of slower or comfortable speed. The fast intervals should be followed by equal or longer length recovery ones and should be done only after a good warm-up stroll and followed with a good cool down.

Interval training on the track the last eight - twelve weeks before an event is another way to add speed. After a good warm-up which should include some dynamic kinds of stretching such as marching or skipping, 200 - 400 m (half or whole track lap) can be done all out. Each interval needs to be followed by a recovery interval of equal length or to a heart rate drop to under 100 -110. The most effective speed work for relays and marathons the last eight - twelve weeks is a tempo walk of 1/3 to 1/2 or race distance at race pace. Again, a good warm-up and cool down is important. Substitute speed work in one of the endurance days, never use the rest or recovery days for speed work and be certain to follow a speed work day with a recovery day. Using the extra long day as a speed work workout is not recommended and can lead to injury.


If you are planning to do a relay where you need to be able to do two - three walks within a short time period, you need to train for this. Once or twice before the relay, do the long walks in two - three segments within the required time period. If you’re doing Rose City or Portland to Coast and need to be able to walk two five - six mile legs within 16 - 24 hours; break your long walk in half, do five - six miles in the am and five - six miles in the pm. Don’t forget to fuel in between.


Yes, if your Portland to Coast or Rose City legs are on the hills, you need some practice on hills. In fact, if you can walk your actual leg if you can so you will have no surprises. You need to know exactly the course your leg follows and checking it out ahead of time is important. Yes, if you’re walking the Anchorage marathon or another event that has some trails on the course you need to get some training in on trails. The good news is that while your training on the hills and trails, you’re getting stronger.


Variety is the spice of life and the key to staying motivated to walk. Investigate new routes, do your regular one backwards, Try a different event, do a volkswalk, check out the scenery in the woods or local parks. Add the different workouts to your training and stay healthy and motivated. Have fun!

A complete and varied training schedule might look like this:

Saturday 		Endurance Walk
Sunday 			Rest Day
Monday			Recovery Walk
Tuesday			Stairs or Hills
Wednesday		Recovery Walk
Thursday		Speed Work
Friday			Rest Day

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