Approaching The Burn

Half a lifetime ago, when there was ample time for everything, I would typically spend about 4 hours per day walking from one place to another. There were numerous reasons for this, but one of the lovely aspects of investing in physical exercise is that a person has a great deal of time to think. Being me, I would invest time in measuring distances travelled and average velocities. This was well before smart watches, pedometers, and other modern tools were available to the general public (for a reasonable price), so I would often measure distances using a map book while time was left to a stopwatch. If memory serves, I would walk an average of 7.1 kilometres per hour when I was 22 years old; which is faster than many people ride their bike.

For two of the past three months I've been trying to get back to this speed while out for my twice-daily power walks. In the mornings I tend to average about 9m01s per kilometre, a velocity of 6.65km/h. In the evenings it's a little slower at 9m18s per kilometre, which is 6.45km/h. To hit the average I enjoyed two decades ago, a kilometre will need to be completed in 8 minutes 27 seconds.


That's just fifteen seconds away from today's best split.

The average person tends to move around 4.5km per hour, so one of the questions that people will ask when they see me not speeding by is why I like to walk so fast. There are multiple answers, such as wanting to beat a previous speed record or losing some weight, but one of the more difficult-to-explain reasons is the "high" one can get when they push themselves really hard to walk and not run.

When a person moves really quickly, the body instinctively knows when it's time to switch from walking to a jog or an outright run. This tends to happen at around the 7km/h mark for many people. However, if you resist the urge to run and instead push the walk, then you will consume more calories and begin to feel a combination of light-headedness and exhilaration. It's like a runner's high without the running, which is a nice reward for a job well done.

While there is no plan to enter myself into one of those brutal 50km speed walking competitions where it looks like everybody needs the bathroom RIGHT NOW, I would like to work myself up to a 15km per day routine. Eight in the morning before breakfast, and seven in the evening after dinner1. If I were to do this at the typical speed that people walk, I would need to dedicate more than three hours to outdoor exercise. However, if I can accomplish this in a little over two hours, then that burns more calories, results in a "walking high", and leaves more time for other activities. It also allows me to feel a little better about myself, as this 43 year old me may not be as young, but I'm still able to compete2.

At some point in the future I will be forced to slow down to something approaching a "normal" walking speed. I just hope it doesn't happen for another quarter century at the very least.

  1. The way the pedestrian paths around the neighbourhood are designed, a person can choose how many kilometres they'd like to go and plan a route accordingly. Adding an extra kilometre is usually as easy as choosing to cross the next bridge before returning to a point of origin.

  2. Rule 4: Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not to who somebody else is today.