Shed those extra kilos with this six-week walking plan

Whether you’re pregnant or a new mom, walking is a low-impact exercise that will get you fit in no time. Try our six-week plan to achieve 5km. By Candice Tehini

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WonderFit jeansDuring and after pregnancy, walking is an easy cheap and beneficial way to keep fit and healthy. But as personal trainer, marathon runner and triathlete Graham Parker explains, you first need to enjoy your exercise. “There’s nothing worse than forcing yourself to do something just because you feel you have to. So tag a friend, make a bet or challenge your spouse to make this fun – by doing so you’ll set the base for further activities and events,” he says.

Graham’s designed a plan that will help you not only achieve a 5km walk, but also incorporates other forms of exercise for a total-body workout.

ALSO SEE: The benefits of walking during pregnancy

Before you begin

  • You may have heard that during pregnancy, the general rule is to keep your heart rate between 140 and 145 beats per minute and that you should always use a heart-rate monitor. “However, your heart rate responds differently to exercise during pregnancy and post-pregnancy. Instead of tracking your heart rate, I recommend using what’s called a ‘perceived exertion’ rating. Keep the intensity of your workout in a range that is moderate to somewhat challenging for you. You should be able to hold a conversation while walking and not feel out of breath. As soon as you find yourself out of breath, slow down and reduce the intensity,” suggests Graham.
  • Listen to your body and discuss your exercise routine with your healthcare provider before starting. If you experience any discomfort, pain or extreme exhaustion then either tone it down or stop altogether.
  • Modify your exercise routine as your pregnancy progresses and then again once you have given birth. “A growing baby adds weight, which changes your intensity and affects the way your body reacts. Post-pregnancy, your ‘lighter’ body weight will allow you to up your intensity,” says Graham.
  • Rest days are important, so make sure you take them. They allow your body to recover and reboot. Even though it’s only walking, your body will welcome rest if you’re not used to exercise.
  • Make sure you drink enough fluids. Always carry a water bottle with you. Energy drinks are not recommended as they contain unnecessary and excess amounts of sugar and carbohydrates.
  • Active rest days are days when you still exercise, but take part in an activity other than the one you’re currently training. Try a swim, a light cycle or even the elliptical trainer as a good option. If you can’t get to a gym, try walking lunges and squats for variety.
  • Mark out a route with your car before walking it, taking note of each kilometre so you know how you’re progressing each week.

The plan

WEEK 1

  1. Monday: Walk 20 minutes at an easy pace.
  2. Tuesday: Rest.
  3. Wednesday: Walk 20 minutes and try and cover the same distance as you did on Monday.
  4. Thursday: Walk 20 minutes – as far as you are comfortable.
  5. Friday: Active rest day – swimming, cycling, walking lunges, etc.
  6. Saturday: Walk 20 minutes – as far as you are comfortable.
  7. Sunday: Rest.

WEEK 2

  1. Monday: Walk 25 minutes – at an easy pace.
  2. Tuesday: Rest.
  3. Wednesday: Walk 25 minutes and try to cover the same distance as you did on Monday.
  4. Thursday: Walk 15 minutes. Back-to-back days of walking will show you whether you can push yourself a little harder or not. If this is too tiring, rest on Friday.
  5. Friday: Active rest day – swimming, cycling, walking lunges, etc.
  6. Saturday: Walk 25 minutes for as far as you are comfortable.
  7. Sunday: Rest.

WEEK 3

  1. Monday: Walk 25 minutes for as far as you are comfortable.
  2. Tuesday: Walk 15 minutes for as far as you are comfortable.
  3. Wednesday: Rest.
  4. Thursday: Active rest day – swimming, cycling or walking lunges.
  5. Friday: Walk 25 minutes for as far as you are comfortable.
  6. Saturday: Walk 20 minutes for as far as you are comfortable.
  7. Sunday: Rest.

WEEK 4

  1. Monday: Walk 30 minutes for as far as you are comfortable.
  2. Tuesday: Rest.
  3. Wednesday: Walk 20 minutes and try to cover the same distance as Monday.
  4. Thursday: Walk 20 minutes for as far as you are comfortable.
  5. Friday: Active rest day – swimming, cycling, walking lunges, etc.
  6. Saturday: Walk 20 minutes and try to get a little further than previously.
  7. Sunday: Rest.

WEEK 5

  1. Monday: Walk 30 minutes – as far as you can.
  2. Tuesday: Walk 20 minutes – as far as you can.
  3. Wednesday: Walk 30 minutes – as far as you can.
  4. Thursday: Rest.
  5. Friday: Active rest day – swimming, cycling, walking lunges, etc.
  6. Saturday: Walk 40 minutes – this is the longest you will have walked, so pace yourself and be aware of how you are feeling throughout.
  7. Sunday: Rest.

WEEK 6

  1. Monday: Walk 25 minutes for as far as you can.
  2. Tuesday: Walk 30 minutes for as far as you can.
  3. Wednesday: Walk 35 minutes for as far as you can. This steady build-up helps increase stamina and endurance.
  4. Thursday: Rest.
  5. Friday: Walk 30 minutes for as far as you can.
  6. Saturday: Rest.
  7. Sunday: Walk 5km. Focus on reaching the distance rather than the amount of time it takes.

ALSO SEE: 8 exercises you can do with your baby at home

For a full-body workout

Incorporate these exercises into your walking plan to work on all areas of your body.

Short bursts

These can also be referred to as intervals. Try to speed up your walking pace for a few minutes, then return to your normal pace before speeding up again. “Don’t introduce them until week three, so you have a good walking base. Be mindful of your exertion level and don’t do too many bursts,” says Graham.

Upper-body strength

If you are walking with your baby in a pram, you are using your upper body and arms, but you can engage your core muscles too. If you are pregnant, you can move your arms in a focused forward-and-back motion. If there are hills on your route, you can imagine a rope in front of you that you are using to pull yourself up the hill (a grab and pull-back motion with your arms).
If you are doing well with your intensity and pace, try walking with a small dumbbell (1.5kg or 2kg) in each hand. You can use these dumbbells to do some curls while walking to tone your arms.

Spot-on form

“If your core muscles are strong and firing, you will have good form when walking,” says Graham. Core involves the abdominal muscles, lower back, glutes and hamstring muscles. Squeezing them when standing will make you aware of the areas you need to focus on while walking. This also helps to keep your shoulders down and relaxed rather than tense.

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