Before starting any kind of an exercise program you should have a complete physical in order to ensure you have no health reasons preventing you from exercising. This is especially true if you have a family history related to heart problems. In addition to the physical, it is wise to have a stress test. The stress test can determine two things: it gives you reasonable assurances of a healthy heart, and it can give you a reasonable number to use for your maximum heart rate. Having that information in hand allows you to determine percentages of effort, which will play a role in scheduling the types of daily exercises (intensity level) you want or need.

There is another way to determine your maximum heart rate. Simply take 220 minus age for men, and 226 minus age for women. This is not the best way, but it will give you a rough idea and will work fine for a walking program.

If you are going to do your exercising by using the maximum heart rate, then you will need a heart rate monitor. Having a heart rate monitor is the best and easiest way to determine where you are at any given time you are doing your exercising. You can take your own pulse, but this is very difficult to do, and unless you have a lot of experience you will have to stop and take it. The instant you stop, your heart rate drops very quickly. Trust me, a monitor is the best way to go. The cost for a monitor is about $120.00-$140.00. You can get a really fancy one that will take a rocket scientist to figure out, but unless you are really into that kind of thing I wouldnšt suggest it.

Now you have determined your maximum heart rate, and you have a monitor. Where do we go from here? Let's give you some percentages of maximum heart rate (MHR) that will tell you where you should be for a specific workout and on what days:

  • 50-60 % 30-45 minutes daily. This is a comfortable pace that will build long-term health and well-being. These are easy health walks. These would also be considered as recovery days.


  • 60-70 % of maximum heart rate (MHR) 45-60 minutes daily. This is a brisk pace. You can still carry on a conversation. In this percentage range you will burn the calories a little faster and allow your body to draw on fat stores for energy (fuel). This is a nice weight control walk.


  • 65-80 % of maximum heart rate (MHR) for 5-10 miles. In this range you are working on endurance. Build to this range over a period of time with the plan of including a walk walk at the 65-80% range at least once a week. Should you have a goal of walking a race of 3-6 miles or so, then your walk should be about 1 mile longer than the race.


  • 70-80 % of maximum heart rate (MHR). Using a time frame of 20-60 minutes, and doing this every other day. This is quick walking and you will notice your breathing, but you should still be able to carry on a conversation though your sentences might be slightly broken. At this percentage of MHR you are improving your aerobic fitness. You should have easy recovery days between these type of days.


  • 80-90% of maximum heart rate (MHR). No more than 40-50 minutes in this range. You are now into some very quick paced walking where breathing is going to become labored, conversation will, in all likelihood, be very limited. You may even have to do the walking in a race walking form, or slow jog.

There is also another way to determine where you are in your intensity level of exercise. This method is very simple and yet effective. It is called łperceived effort.˛ This does not require a heart rate monitor, nor does it require taking your pulse. You simply go by feel:

If you walk a very comfortable pace, and you feel like you could go on forever with your walk and conversation, you are aerobic and in the #1 & #2 of what I have mentioned, but closer to the 1.

If you are walking comfortably and still feel like your talking is not labored, but you do feel you are walking pretty good, you are in the #2 and possibly edging towards what is called the Lactate Threshold range, as #3 is the beginning of it.

When your walking starts to feel somewhat labored, and conversation is becoming the same, you are now at # 4 and heading towards #5. You are into the Lactate Threshold range, headed towards the anaerobic at level #5.

So, what do we mean by Aerobic, Lactate Threshold and Anaerobic? These are just buzz words for saying:

Aerobic-----------------With oxygen.

Lactate Threshold-----Also known as Anaerobic Threshold. The term Anaerobic literally means without oxygen, but how it is applied in meaning here, it simply means you are at a point in exercising where your system is able to still buffer oxygen debt and lactic acid is not building too quickly. We can kind of suggest it is like the carburetor of your car when it is not getting a good mixture of gas and air and the car starts choking upŠGot it? Ok.

Anaerobic--------------Without oxygen. Walkers or runners can only work in this area for a limited time. The primary reason is due to excessive acidity building in muscle tissue leading to diminishing performance after a short while.

If you have read this far I must believe you have an interest in doing something healthy, fat burning and calorie burning. Speaking of calories, depending on conditioning, intensity of exercise and a couple of other factors, we burn calories at slightly different rates. However, for purposes of giving a pretty fair idea of calorie burn it is safe to use 100 calories per mile. So, if you have a small piece of chocolate cake, about 345 + calories, you only have to walk about 3 and 1/4 miles to burn those calories off. See how easy that was.

Actually what I am referring to if you have read this far is to tell you how important it is to make your schedule 30 days in advance, in writing. Donšt offer yourself any excuses or reason for not doing your workouts routinely. Over a short period of time it will become a habit, and who knows, you may even decide to start adding some jogging into your program.


Remember, in setting up a schedule you should seriously consider doing it for 30 days in advance and STICK TO IT. By writing your schedule down in advance, you can then properly set aside that time, and you are more likely to stick with it. It is suggested that you keep a daily log of what you have done and how you felt. You might even want to note weather conditions such as heat/humidity as these play a factor in how you feel. Above all, be certain that you stay well hydrated and always be aware of your surroundings. Many carry pepper spray for the four-legged animal as well as the two- legged animal.

Based on the information provide in #1 thru #5, you can mix and match your weekly schedule. Just be sure you allow for adequate recovery by having easy days between hard days. Also, while I am suggesting certain days you will have to determine what schedule will fit you best as mine is just a suggestion.

MONDAY: No walking of significant distance or intensity. You can take this as a total recovery days. Go shopping or fishing.

TUESDAY: Walk for about 10 minutes warm up at a very casual pace. If you feel the need, some light stretching. Then walk at a fast pace for about 30 seconds. Go back to an easy walk for about 2 minutes, or until you feel recovered. Repeat the same process 10-12 times. You should then spend about 10 min at a very casual pace. This is your cool down.

WEDNESDAY: Since Tuesday was a hard day, this should be an easy 3-4 mile aerobic day: a day when you can easily carry on a conversation by using the perceived effort or by 65-70% of your MHR.

THURSDAY: Walk for about 10 minutes at an easy pace to warm up. If you feel the need, some light stretching. Then walk fast for about 7-8 minutes. This should be at a perceived effort of Lactate Threshold. You are still able to carry on a conversation, but it is starting to become labored and broken. Your effort by heart rate would be in the range of 85-90% of MHR. At the end of 7-8 minutes slow down to an easy pace for about 2 minutes. Repeat the same process 3-4 times. Then cool down for 10 minutes.

FRIDAY: Since Thursday was a hard day, this should be an easy 3 mile walk, a day when you can carry on a conversation or by 65-70% of MHR.

SATURDAY: This is another day of Lactate Threshold work, but done in a steady state rather than walking and recovering and repeating. Start with a warm up of about 10 minutes at an easy pace. If you feel the need, some light stretching. Walk 15-25 minutes at a perceived effort where your conversation is starting to become labored and broken. This would be at about 85% or so of your MHR. Then cool down for about 10 minutes.

As your conditioning level improves, you can extend this steady state walking to a longer period of time, but don't be in a hurry to do so.

SUNDAY: This is a good day to use for a distance workout, and should be done at a conversational pace. To start out I suggest the mileage be about 5 miles, and over time work up to 7-8 miles. This is at an easy conversational pace, but not window shopping. You are building endurance by increasing the distance over time.

Jerry Hiatt
Certified: USAT&F Level I & II, RRCA Certified Coach

Return to Top of Page