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Ask the Trainer: should I walk or run to lose weight?

Our Ask the Trainer program allows readers to submit questions to a panel of nationally recognized fitness experts.  Answers are posted here in the blog for all readers to see.  This week’s question comes from a Get Your Rear in Gear participant.

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Reader: I am not a runner, but I am going to try to train to run the New York Get Your Rear in Gear 5K.  I would also like to lose some weight.  So what is better for weight loss, walking or running?

Kris Wayne: If  you have  no knee or back issues  but are a bit de-conditioned,  then I would suggest that you start with a power walk and intersperse intervals of jogging. Eventually moving from a jog to a run and adding that into the mix.

Power walking is this:

  1. Engage the core – I tell my clients to “zip up.” Pretend your pants are  too tight, but you’re going to get that zipper up anyway. Draw the navel into the spine and up  which helps create some spinal stabilization for the low back.  Good posture is important to avoid stress on the neck and shoulders, so when you “zip up,” lift the chest slightly, and look out, not down, as your are moving.
  2. Brushing the Belt – The arms should be bent with elbows at the sides which is called “brushing the belt.”  Try to avoid dropping the arms by the sides.  Keep the neck and shoulders relaxed to maintain good posture.
  3. Stride Length– The gait should reflect a shorter stride, with glutes (butt muscles) slightly squeezed. Practicing taking shorter strides  to recruit more glute rather than elongating the stride which tend to use more quad but not much butt. The butt is a big fat burner so it ” costs more” calorically and energetically to use both. When you put the foot down imagine a 3″ stripe and you are putting the foot down on the edge of the 3″ stripe while taking a very small step.

Use power walking as part of an interval program. The 5K Training Plan describes how to increase the intensity of walk/jog intervals over time.   If you are not currently working out on a regular basis, be sure not to do too much too soon.  Often we tend to want to jump right into it if we are de-conditioned and then have to take time off to re-coup. You will lose weight and build your endurance with a slow steady increase of demand, even though it takes a bit longer in the beginning. Then, think of cross training using an elliptical which allows you to build intensity intervals with little load on the shock absorbers that effect knees and back.

And remember, it is harder to get fit than to stay fit.  Once you are fit you can use much more intensity for shorter periods of time to achieve the same effect. Make sure, at any age you are using a good stretching routine to insure maximal muscle recruitment and recovery and you will be less like to injure also.

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