How to Prepare for a Walkathon

Senator Pia Cayetano is, hands down, the fittest lawmaker in the country. She literally walks, cycles, and swims the talk of fitness. No surprise then that as chairperson of the Companero Rene Cayetano Foundation, she has chosen to launch the Pinay in Action program in celebration of Women’s Month.

The health and fitness program seeks to emphasize the need to prevent lifestyle diseases, which primarily affect women. In line with this, the foundation will conduct several running, biking, and general fitness clinics for women, which will culminate in a run/walk event on March 19.

Walkathons are a common way to raise funds for charity. They are also frequently held events for corporations and other organizations. So Senator Cayetano asked me to research on how a sedentary person should prepare for a walkathon.

I found practical advice in an article written by Robin Warshaw for the National Women’s Health Resource Center’s e-newsletter “Healthy Women Take 10”.

Warshaw interviewed podiatrist Noreen Oswell of the Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles as well as Werner Hoeger, professor of kinesiology and director of the Human Performance Laboratory in Boise State University.

Why prepare?
Walking two or five kilometers (common distances for a walkathon) should be no big deal because the average person in decent shape can do it in 30 and 60 minutes respectively. But as a podiatrist and volunteer physician at walkathons and marathons, Oswell knows first-hand that inactive (and sometimes overweight) women can be prone to foot-related injuries like heel pain, arch pain and tendonitis from being unprepared for the physical demands of these walking events. Her most important training tip is, “Start walking slowly before walking quickly. Then build up the miles.”

Another benefit of preparing for the event is it can help people lose some weight (if they keep their caloric intake unchanged) and, hopefully, it motivates them to continue walking as part of a regular exercise regimen long after the event is finished.

Training program
Ideally, one should prepare for a walkathon at least four to six weeks in advance, according to Hoeger. He recommends two training schedules.

2km walkathon (four-week schedule with fourth week ending on walkathon day)
• Week 1: walk in 10-minute sessions, 3x a day, on 4 days
• Week 2: walk in 15-minute sessions, 2x a day, on 4 days
• Week 3: walk in 20-minute sessions, 2x a day, on 4 days
• Week 4 (when Saturday is walkathon day): walk one 30-minute session on Monday and Wednesday, walk one 20-minute session on Tuesday and Thursday, skip Friday.

5km walkathon (six-week schedule, with sixth week ending on walkathon day)
• Weeks 1 through 3: same as for 2km event.
• Week 4: walk one 30-minute session, on 5 days.
• Week 5: walk two 20-minute sessions per day on Monday and Wednesday, one 30-minute session on Tuesday and Thursday, skip Friday, and walk one 50-minute session on Saturday.
• Week 6: (when Saturday is walkathon day): Monday and Wednesday, walk one 30-minute session in the morning and one 20-minute session in the afternoon, Tuesday and Thursday, one 20-minute session, skip Friday.

Walk this way
Walking may be a natural movement but good posture will help prevent injuries and improve performance. Here are key points of proper walking posture from Prevention Magazine, which is a leading advocate of walking programs.
• Look six feet in front of you.
• Keep your head level; ears should be over shoulders. Drop your shoulders.
• Relax your arms and swing them forward as if each were a pendulum.
• Bend your elbows to an 85- to 90-degree angle.
• Don’t let your hands come across your body.
• Keep your abs firm but not so tight that you can’t breathe.
• Tuck your pelvis slightly by bringing your belly button back toward your spine.
• Lift up and out of your hips to allow more swivel.
• Point knees and toes forward, keeping your feet parallel.
• Roll from heel to toe; avoid falling to the inside or outside of the foot.
• Push off with your back foot.

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