Walking laps on a track or walking path can help you walk faster and burn more calories, while being easier on your knees and other joints. Tracks are perfect for a fast-paced walking workout because you can focus entirely on walking, without obstacles or impediments that can slow you down. The rubberized surface of most walking tracks is softer and easier on your joints than concrete or asphalt, making them perfect for people with knee pain.
We’re covering the pros and cons of walking laps on a track, plus how to make your track experience more fun and productive.
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How walking laps can be easy on joints
Finding the right track or walking path to walk laps can be a huge benefit to both your steps and your joints. Rubberized walking tracks are much softer than concrete or asphalt – the typical material of sidewalks and road surfaces. A track that has a bit of a bounce to it means less stress on your joints, particularly your knees. If you suffer from knee pain but you like to do more fast-paced, intense fitness walking, a good soft track is perfect!
Both running tracks (like those that often surround football or soccer fields) and dedicated walking paths are usually flat, well maintained and free of obstacles. While dirt and grass are even softer, you have to worry about tripping over a rock or root or slipping if the surface is wet. Rubberized surfaces have much better grip, which means you can focus on walking. Go at the right time and there will be few people walking, which means you can pick up the pace and not have to avoid people.
Benefits of walking laps
While walking laps is different from standard, free walking, it does have some unique benefits that can help you get more steps.
Easy, soft, level surface for walking
Walking tracks or paths are usually designed with a soft, grippy surface on level ground. That’s perfect for walking fast and maximizing your step count. If you don’t have a track nearby, you can still find a short route around the block or neighborhood using the best surface available. By focusing on the single best portion of your walking route, you’re more likely to have ideal conditions for fast walking during your entire outing.
You can push yourself a bit harder
Assuming that your walking track is near your house (or you can drive there and back), you can actually push yourself to walk a bit longer than normal because you can easily cut your walk short at any time. If you’re walking far from home, you don’t want to tire yourself so much that you find it difficult to walk back. You can always try for 1 more lap around the track or circle through your local park and stop halfway if you’re too tired. Going until you’re tired rather than estimating how tired you’ll be when you get home means that you can get way more steps in, more safely.
Take your mind off walking
It’s easy to get lost in walking, but pedestrians, traffic lights, and obstacles all mean that you can’t safely “check out” on a walk. A walking track or a (safe) walking path through a park should be free from most dangers of walking. You can lose yourself in an audiobook or music, make a phone call, or brainstorm an interesting topic. Walking a traditional route can also be a great way to relieve stress and relax as well, particularly if you have some great scenery to look at.
Why walking laps may not be for you
Walking the same route isn’t for everyone
Some people simply need more variety in their walking route. If you’re not a fan of listening to audio while you walk and you don’t have a walking buddy to talk to, walking laps can be a bit boring. If you’re the kind of walker who likes to vary your route on the fly or go wherever your heart takes you, you’ll probably chafe at having only one place to walk.
No good tracks or paths nearby
While there’s probably a walking path or track somewhere near where you live, you may need to drive to get there. Some people don’t like to drive and then walk, and knowing you need to drive can sometimes sap your motivation. While you can walk laps around your block or through the nearby area, that’s almost the the same as going for a regular walk. It’s still often a good idea to get outside your comfort zone and find different places to walk, as it can keep walking fresh and interesting.
You’re usually stuck on flat terrain
While flat, level terrain is great for speed walking and also for people who don’t want to get too intense, you do miss out on incline walking and other varied terrain. A sports field (like those you might find at a local high school) may have bleachers that allow you to walk stairs, but you won’t be able to naturally work hills or outdoor stairs into your walking route. If you like walking on dirt or grass from time to time, you’ll probably have to walk off the track to find these as well.
Make walking laps fun and rewarding
Change directions – don’t always walk the same way
If you’re walking laps on an oval track, try to change up your direction so that sometimes you walk clockwise and sometimes you walk counter-clockwise. While it’s more common in runners than walkers, constantly turning in the same direction can potentially cause IT band pain or other soreness on the side of your knees. Walking in both directions means that you ensure that you’re working out the muscles on both sides equally.
Listen while you walk
Walking on a track is the perfect time to catch up on a walking podcast or audiobook. Since you generally won’t have to worry about tripping over anything or walking into anyone, you can let yourself get engrossed in the material while getting your steps. Walking to music can also help, especially if you’re doing fast or intense fitness walking.
Try interval training
Switching up your walking speed with interval training is even easier on a walking track, since you won’t have to worry about things like traffic lights or crowded areas that can impede your fast-intervals. Interval training is also a good way to keep things interesting when you’re walking the same route. You can also push yourself harder, knowing that you can always stop and take a break or end your walk at any time.
Find a friend
Having someone to talk to and pass the time makes walking feel easier and takes your mind off of getting your steps. Finding a walking buddy can make walking laps much more enjoyable. You won’t have to worry about hogging the sidewalk, or walking into someone when you’re watching and listening to your friend talk.
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