It’s OK to Walk
“Most endurance athletes think of walking as something that’s done during a bad race. But walking is a powerful tool that can … help build even more aerobic function. Walking can trigger the use of many small aerobic muscle fibers that are not used during training- turning these muscles on increases fat burning and additional circulation.”
– Philip Maffetone The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing p. 104
While I was recovering from pneumonia, I had to walk. It was the only activity that kept my heart rate within my aerobic zone. Gradually I was able to intersperse slow jogs, and eventually run. I was reminded of this passage and dug it to remind myself that it is OK to walk. In fact, as I recovered, I added a longer warmup and cool down than I used to for my runs, and kept it to purely walking. As my fitness has improved I can feel the benefit that just plain low intensity walking has on my aerobic function. Some days I even add a walk to whatever other workouts I’m doing. Maffetone recounts that he even used walks as cross training for elite athletes. They were surprised to find (as I was) that they actually had a little muscle soreness just from the added walks! Turns out those small aerobic muscle fibers were underused, as he explains above. So I changed my mind about the minutes spent walking as “not part of the workout”.
So don’t be afraid to walk. In the game of maximizing aerobic function, walking is a very important move to make. The cardiovascular system doesn’t care if you’re walking or running, swimming or cycling. As long as it’s aerobic, you’re getting benefits. So long walking warmups and cool downs, as well as interspersing walks throughout the week can add to training volume, increase aerobic fitness an do it very safely. So go ahead, turn off the stop watch and enjoy a nice half hour walk.