Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Walking Plan for Beginners: 2441 to 2459.3 Miles: 11/26/14

Learn a beginning walking program that starts slowly, reduces the chances for injury, and gives steady progress to fitness.

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Virtual Hike
Animated Street View
Today's Weather

This leg enters the eastern third of Montana. It passes through Roundup, Montana.

The Big Sky Motel is in Roundup and only a block and a half north of the motel is an IGA Supermarket! 

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It's worth taking some time to plan the next 140 miles. On the surface, it looks impossible. When I zoomed into the map, I found Melstone only 35 miles from Roundup and Forsyth is 68 miles from Melstone. Both towns have motels and food. Miles City is 45 miles from from Forsyth. Miles City is a popular stop for long distance motorcycle riders.

Walking Plan for Beginners


I made some mistakes when I started my walking plan. Although I walked the miles for the virtual hike, I slowed my progress by starting too quickly. Now, you can learn from my mistakes.

Beginners often ask how they should get started. First, they should set a long term goal. Second, they should make a plan to slowly achieve their goal. Finally, they should follow the plan with an intermediate goal a year in the future. In my opinion, anyone who hasn't done a formalized training program is still a beginner compared to what they could be. Yes, I know that's controversial and it's meant to be. This includes me, so don't feel bad.

Cardiovascular Fitness Goal

Aerobics Program
People who walk for fitness instead of the love for walking seldom continue. Yet is is worth looking at once. Then forget it as fitness will happen.

Dr. Cooper, the founder of the Aerobics program, discovered a person needs to earn 30 aerobics points a week for basic fitness and 60 a week for excellent fitness. A walker earns one point a mile at speeds between three and four mph. There is little benefit to working on speed as few can maintain four mph for any distance. 

You can find point values for various exercises here.

Time for fitness goals
Dr. Cooper only measured exercise time and placed no value on slow steps during the day. Although these are useful for other reasons, they are not useful for cardiovascular fitness.

In order to achieve a basic level of cardiovascular fitness, the walker will have to work up to walking 86 minutes a day for six days a week. Forget about the speed and focus on 86 minutes a day or 8.6 hours a week. If it is impossible to work this many hours into your schedule, you should consider a different exercise for fitness. The fastest way to earn aerobics points is jumping rope. Running is the second fastest.

In order to achieve an excellent level of fitness, the walker will have to walk 172 minutes a day six days a week. This is not reasonable for most people to conceive at the start, so let's focus on the first goal of 86 minutes a day. But first, let's learn from my mistakes so you don't have to repeat them.

My Mistakes
I thought I was in good walking shape last February because I backpacked and hiked frequently and I road walked frequently. I had many years of experience with bicycling, running and walking at various times of my life. I knew I could avoid injury if I avoided pain, and I did accomplish that. My progress sucked.

For bicycling, running and walking, I've found the factor that most indicated impending fatigue or injury was the number of miles during the trailing seven days. It doesn't seem to matter how the miles are distributed during the seven days -- within reason.

This is a graph of my trailing seven day miles for the first 40 weeks. It includes miles below walking pace, so the walking pace miles are about 21 miles less a week.

The first dip at 50 days was an indication of an impending knee problem. The second dip around 100 days was what I'll call non-specific foot tiredness. 

The third dip at 200 days was when I painted my house. The dip around 260 days was tiredness brought on by a combination of painting the house and walking. 

The dotted trend line is important. It is horizontal -- meaning I made zero progress over 40 weeks from my fitness level at the beginning. It was not without purpose as I seem to have developed an immunity to injuries for now.

In 40 weeks I progressed from being able to do 5 miles a day six days a week to being able to do five miles a day six days a week. The big jump at the end was when I started time based training.

What I could have done
It would have been better to follow the green trend line with slow progress.

I could have started with 1 mile a week - not one mile a day, but one mile a week and increased the distance by a mile a week for each of the 40 weeks. At the end of this time, I would have been doing 6.7 miles a day six days a week instead of 5 miles a day.

Let's put this in terms of time using 84 minutes a day as a your goal in 42 weeks.

The first week walk only 2 minutes a day. Each week add 2 minutes a day.

Week 1: 2 minutes a day six days a week
Week 2: 4 minutes a day six days a week
Week 3: 6 minutes a day six days a week

Week 42: 84 minutes a day six days a week.

If there is a difficult week, either do not increase the minutes for the next week or reduce the minutes for the next week.

Progress is so slow!
Most people will object to this slow progress, especially if they are fit. The walker needs to take an objective look at their starting point. It is better to start at a lower level than their fitness level would indicate. 

Develop a "working mindset"
When a person has a "working mindset" they know they are progressing steadily towards a distant goal. They purposely progress slowly because they know it will ultimately lead to greater success. 

The opposite of a working mindset is a success mindset where a walker focuses on short term goals. They may have a marathon as a goal and try to train in mere months. This will likely lead to injury or at least misery.

In the long run, meaning at the end of about two years, the person with the working mindset will progress far more than the person with a success mindset. My training program for the second year is different and stimulates rapid progress when the walker is ready.

A word about 10,000 step programs
Most people find it difficult to get 10,000 steps in a day and become discouraged. The AVERAGE person with a Fitbit pedometer gets about 6,000 steps a day. They are failing both in terms of cardiovascular health and preventing sedentary physiology problems.

A walker can get the below walking pace steps by getting out of their chair about every 20 minutes and walking around the house once or doing some chores for about seven minutes. There is no need to spend the entire day thinking about chasing extra steps. If a person is has a job where they are forced to stay at a position, such as a call center, standing up for a few minutes about every 20 minutes should resolve sedentary physiology problems even if they don't walk during those minutes.


Stating the obvious, beginners are beginners. What's not so obvious is most people are beginners. A plan that progresses painfully slowly will lead to greater long term success.

PS: If you want to learn more about my first year, click on "Road Walking: Conversations with my Coach" at the top of the page. It is still a good training program, but it is a stepping stone to my current opinions.

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