If you want to walk faster, the way to do so is actually to walk faster. While this might sound obvious, it is also true: in order to increase your walking speed, you need to get your body used to walking at a faster pace. As with most physical activities, you can train your muscles through repeated and progressively harder exercise. The best method for increasing your walking speed is to use intervals, which basically means that you push your body by walking as fast as you can for a period of time, recover, and repeat the process several times.
Before you start a walking interval program, go for a walk and time yourself. The distance will depend on how far you like to walk, and whether you are training for a distance goal. For example, if you are training to walk 3 miles faster than you’ve walked that distance before, the best way to track your progress will be to time yourself at that distance before you start training. That way, you will have a benchmark against which to compare yourself as you train.
Start your walking workout by warming up for about 5-10 minutes, walking at an easy pace. Then begin your interval training with a fartlek, a Swedish word that means “speed play.” Choose a random point ahead of you – for example, a driveway or streetlight – and walk as fast as you can until you reach that point. When you get there, don’t stop walking, but instead slow down to a normal pace. When you walk faster, your heart rate will increase, and you may feel slightly out of breath. Those are good things, because they mean that your cardiovascular system – your heart and lungs – are working harder and starting to become more efficient. As you continue to recover, walk at a slower pace until you catch your breath and feel your heart rate returning to normal. Next do another fartlek by choosing a point off in the distance and walking there as fast as you can, then recover again. Continue doing this until there are about 5-10 minutes left in your walk, then walk at a normal pace until your walk is done. Make a note of the time it takes you to complete the walk. It may also be helpful to record your progress in an exercise journal, if you keep one.
It is best not to use intervals in every walking workout, but to instead do them about once a week. After you have done fartleks for a few weeks, it will be time to move on to more formal intervals, and these will require you to pay a little more attention to a watch or other method of keeping time as you go through your walking workout. As with the fartleks, walk at a normal pace to warm up for about 5-10 minutes before beginning the intervals. Next, instead of choosing a point and walking to it, walk faster for a certain period of time; one minute is a good place to start. Walk as fast as you can, and when the minute is over, resume a normal pace as your breathing and heart rate return to normal. Recover for 2 minutes. Repeat the interval by walking as fast as you can for 1 minute again, then recover for another 2 minutes. Continue with the intervals until there are about 5-10 minutes left in your walk, and then walk at a normal pace as you cool down. Again, make a note of the time it takes you to complete the entire walk.
Over time, you will want to increase the frequency of the intervals, which means that you will walk faster for longer periods of time and recover for shorter periods of time. As you progress, you will be walking faster for longer than you are recovering. You will probably also notice that the amount of time it takes you to complete your walk is growing shorter. That is the goal, and it means two things: first, that your average pace is improving (i.e. the number of minutes it takes you to walk a mile is decreasing); and second, your body is building up a tolerance for walking faster for longer periods of time. You will probably also notice that your workouts seem harder, and that you are burning more fat and building your lung capacity while you exercise.
Intervals are a great part of a walking workout no matter what your goals. They can be particularly useful, though, when training for a race, whether a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or marathon distance. You can also combine an interval workout with hill training by doing your intervals on hilly terrain, and you will improve your fitness even more. No matter what your goals are, incorporating intervals into your walking workouts on a regular basis will help you to increase your walking speed and improve your fitness level.