A better, more efficient way to hit a new step goal is to use faster-paced walks and intense walking workouts to build up your endurance and get you more steps. While you can hit that 10,000 step goal by just walking longer, not everyone has the time or the stamina to add an extra hour a day of walking. If you’ve hit your recommended 30 minutes of walking a day and are having trouble increasing your step count, you may need to first build up your leg strength and brisk walking ability.
We’ll cover how to build up strength and endurance through faster walking and intense leg-strengthening walking workouts, plus how to walk longer the right way if you do have the time.
Make Your Brisk Walks Even Brisker!
By simply waking faster, you’ll get a more intense workout and you’ll get more steps in per minute. While it sounds easy, it’s actually hard for most people to keep up a very fast walking pace for long periods of time. Brisk walking is already a great exercise but the more brisk of a walk you can do, the more steps you’ll get in a given time.
If you’re already walking medium to long distances, it will be difficult to walk very fast for that entire distance. Instead, work in short bursts of faster walking and gradually increase the duration of your fast walking intervals.
Increase your walking speed safely:
- Like any form of cardio, always warm up by walking at a leisurely speed before increasing to a fitness walking pace
- Try power walking, or other fast walking styles that lend themselves to fast walking
- Choose a route with a level surface, few obstacles and skip the crowds so you can pick up the pace
- Make sure to cool down at the end of every walk for a few minutes
Use interval training to pick up your average pace
Interval training consists of short bursts of intense exercise (like fast walking) and rest periods of moderate exercise (like regular or leisurely walking). You’ll get an intense, calorie-burning workout without needing to jog or walk fast the entire time. You’ll be able to walk harder and faster during the fast intervals knowing that you only need to keep them up for a short period of time.
- Try a set interval walking workout walking workouts, like this 15-minute walking workout or this 30-minute walking workout.
- Or, try two minutes of normal walking, one-minute of fast walking. If that seems too easy, bump up your brisk walking time by 15-second increments. If you’re not ready for a minute yet, knock off 20 seconds and try again. Adjust until you find a comfortable combination.
- Follow your initial interval ratio for one week
- Increase your brisk walking intervals by 15 to 30 seconds each week. Keep the increase gradual!
Pace yourself and bump it up every week
Not into intervals? Track your walking pace and challenge yourself to increase the pace every week. Pacer’s GPS walk tracking is a great way to measure your pace, but you can use other methods if you need to. It helps if you’re walking the same path on a regular basis, because you’ll be able to better time yourself and understand how you’re doing. You don’t have to track your progress every second, but it does help to check in on the GPS track (or other method) periodically throughout your walk so you have an idea of how you’re doing.
Make sure to increase your goal walking speed gradually over time. Trying to go too fast, too soon can lead to injuries and soreness, and just plain isn’t fun! Go for sustainable, long term progress by increasing the pace very slowly and you’ll maintain those gains for the long term.
Take More Intense Walks
It may be counterintuitive, but sometimes the best way to get more steps is to actually take less steps but do a more intense walking workout. Strengthening your legs, working your core and building supporting muscles can help build the stamina to allow you to walk longer and get more steps. Normal walks will feel like a breeze and you’ll be able to maintain a faster pace.
Walking on an inclined surface, like hilly terrain or a treadmill on an incline setting, gives a more intense workout to your legs, glutes and other muscles. Incline walking can burn up to 50% more calories than walking on a level surface due it’s more intense nature. That’s good if you’re trying to lose weight, but also good if you want to build up your endurance.
You’ll probably get fewer steps walking hills than you would on level terrain simply because it’s harder to keep up the same speed given the difficulty of the workout. Don’t worry though – you’ll make up those steps in the future with the gains you make in strength and endurance.
Walking up and down stairs may be the most intense walking workout you can do. You’ll burn nearly double the number of calories you would on a level surface, and get a great workout in your legs and glutes. Stair walking is intense, however, and can be tough to keep up for long periods of time. You’ll also get fewer steps simply because it takes longer to climb stairs. On the other hand, stair walking is a great way to get in a quick walking workout at the office as well.
The strength gains you’ll get by incorporating stairs can help you tone your leg muscles for longer, stronger walks in the future.
Strength & flexibility training
Sometimes the best way to improve your walks is not by walking at all. Working in some basic strength training moves can help strengthen your legs, avoid injuries, and allow you to walk longer without getting tired. You can try one of Pacer’s bodyweight workouts, or use our guide on strength training to get started.
Flexibility is just as important to prevent injuries and have better range of motion on your walks. Incorporating an activity like yoga can help build strength and flexibility while burning calories at the same time.
If you’re doing yoga or bodyweight squats, you’re not getting steps. That’s ok though! Your step count is just a proxy for how active and how fit you’re getting. If you’re doing other workouts, that’s still great for your health. While you may temporarily get fewer steps as you work in a yoga or strength routine, you’ll find that in the long run you’ll have fewer injuries, more stamina, and more steps.
Take Longer Walks
You can also get more intense by taking longer walks. It’s obvious that the further you walk, the more steps you’ll get. You’ll also find that by taking longer walks rather than short ones, you’ll have time to fully warm up and walk in a brisk, easy pace which can mean even more steps. You’ll want to increase the distance slowly, just like you add intervals of brisk walking to increase your speed.
- Start with a route that you’ve walked before and you can complete easily without any problems.
- Add a short distance to your route, and see how you feel.
- Make sure that you’re only adding a short distance! The last quarter of your walk can be the most tiring, so try to keep a steady pace and stick to your plan.
- If you live in the city, this could be as easy as adding an extra block at a time to your walk
- If you live in a more rural area, one block may be very far! You may need to walk a bit and then turn around, or find an area like a park or mall where you can walk for a few minutes, then turn back.
- The longer you walk, the more you’re likely to sweat and get hot. Make sure to wear light clothes (in the summer) and drink plenty of water. Summer heat can be dangerous, so stay safe and stay active!
- Find something to do to keep your interest while walking! You can try listening to podcasts or audiobooks, or finding a walking buddy to talk to.
- Try Pacer’s routes function to find useful longer-distance walking routes near where you live.
- Pay attention to your body. If you’re feeling sore or tired on a particular day, stick closer to home and walk slower. It’s often better to take 2 laps of a shorter route so you’re close to home in case you need to end your walk early.
Again, if you are consistently walking on a regular schedule, you’re off to an excellent start. Staying consistent with your efforts is the biggest factor in helping you improve your walking endurance and staying injury-free.
- Commit to taking the first step outside the door on days that you plan to walk. You can always cut your walk short if you have to, but once you start you’ll probably finish off the walk you planned.
- Keep your weekly intervals uniform without big increases or decreases in time or miles. Make increases gradual!
- Log your planned workouts and check them off when you’re done. It will help you see your progress.
- Rest days are important. Be sure to schedule them, but don’t take them randomly.
- If you do miss a workout, don’t beat yourself up. Write down why you missed it, consider any changes you may need to make to avoid missing workouts again, and then keep moving forward.
Set a Goal
It’s easier to maintain your momentum and stay consistent if you have a goal. Find a local 5k Run/walk nearby and focus on it. Or, chart your own 5k walking path (or less, or more), and work up to walking 5k! It’s totally fine if you aren’t ready to go the whole distance. You can try adding in fast/slow walk intervals, or just complete part of the goal distance and work up to the rest. A great idea is to add 1 mile at a time or a little more than 2,000 steps. Having an intermediate goal in front of you helps you stay accountable, gives you something to strive for, and makes the consistency factor much easier to maintain.
You may be tempted to dramatically increase your speed or distance because the gradual additions feel too slow. Resist the urge to go to fast, too soon! You may be able to double your walking speed or distance for one day, but over a week or month you may find yourself sore, injured or burned out. Walking is an activity you can do for your entire life, and it will still be there in a month or two once you’ve built up your endurance! Eventually, you’ll be able to build up to your walking goal.
Most importantly, don’t allow yourself to feel intimidated. Just because you can’t walk for 5km straight doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to in time. Be patient with yourself and remember that every small step moves you towards your goal!
If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer now for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.