Scientific Walking Training - Constant Stride Rate
I feel I'm ready to give definitive answers on effective walking training. I've tried many methods and have finally arrived at a training plan that will work. This is only one aspect of the plan and I'll explain more in later posts. A virtual hiker can use science to improve their progress with no added effort. I've discovered maintaining a constant stride rate may be best way to do this.
What is the scientific method?
As related to walking, the scientific method consists of holding one aspect of walking constant while varying other aspects of walking. The variables in walking are speed, walking time, distance, stride rate, stride length, etc. To design a training program, I decided to keep one variable constant and measure the effect on other variables.
Most efficient walking tempo
By regulation, the US Army marches at 120 steps per minute with a regulation defined stride length of 30 inches. This is 3.4 mph. Throughout history, armies have marched at stride rates from 115 to 120 steps per minute. This is the tempo for most marching music. The book I read that was most convincing was "The Art of Marching." which recommended a stride rate of 116 steps per minute. The tempo slows a bit going uphill and increases a bit going downhill.
Anecdotal evidence for a constant tempo
Armies of the past marched in step and ran in step. When I was in the Air Force, I was told this was for team building. There may be some truth in that, but after testing, I've learned the reason is different. I feel a tempo somewhere around 115 to 120 steps per minute is the most efficient for everyone. By most efficient, I mean the fewest units of fatigue per mile.
When a walker gets tired, they often slow down and eventually they will drop out of formation. When a walker slows too much they are inducing more fatigue per mile than they would if they rested and then went back to the optimum pace. Sometimes walkers disguise their fatigue, even to themselves, by gradually slowing their stride rate when they get tired. When a walker can't maintain their stride rate on reasonable inclines, they should consider stopping so they don't walk into injuries or excessive fatigue.
Remember the goal for reality hikers
The reality hiker needs to walk miles in the most efficient way so they can walk the most miles per day without injury or fatigue that lasts until the next day. I believe a constant stride rate will accomplish this.
I've committed to maintaining a stride rate of 115 steps for minute for many miles. This will allow me to experiment with other variables to discover their effect. I'll maintain the stride rate by listening to books with a click track which I can superimpose on the mp3 using Audacity,