How to Get Your Supporters in Shape for a Walk-A-Thon

Walk-a-thons are an excellent way to make money for charity because they require minimal overhead costs. All you really need for a successful walk-a-thon is a public trail or blocked off city area, good weather and willing volunteers. However, keep in mind that your walkers will often be amateur athletes – many might have not even exercised since high school.

That is why it's important to ensure that your walkers are safe and comfortable before they lace up those walking shoes for charity. The last thing you want is a walk-a-thon wrought with dehydrated or injured volunteers.

So take heed to our helpful walking tips and tricks that will help your volunteer treaders prepare for the walk ahead, and keep a healthy and safe pace come race day:

Make Exercise a Priority

If you are like most people, you probably don't have the time in the day to set aside for some exercise. Trying to squeeze in a simple walk between your demanding job, family and social life can be impossible. So how do you prepare your body for the walk come race day? You make the time to make fitness a priority in your busy life.

Make your Health Goals Personal

Sure, you're walking for a good cause, but while you're at it, why not make it about yourself as well – and by that I mean about your health! Taking the time out of your busy schedule to volunteer for a good cause is admirable, but why not take this opportunity to do something wonderful for yourself as well.

Use this as the excuse you need to set a concrete, long-range goal for better health. For example, deciding to complete in a charity walk might be the motivation you need to stop smoking, to lose weight, to eat better and to start being active.

Train Ahead for Success

OK, so the race is still a few months off. But if your walk-a-thon is scheduled for May or June, use that as your motivation to start training in February or March for the big day. If you haven't exercised in more than a few years, now is the time to start training.

Sure, finishing a long charity walk is a reasonable goal for novice walkers, but if you haven't walked around the block in 4 years your body might not be up for the challenge of a 60 minute walk-a-thon.

Baby Steps

Large charity organizations such as the Humane Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the American Cancer Society tend to hold lengthy walk-a-thons and races to raise money and awareness for their causes. These walks can range from 10k to 30k and even longer! If you're a novice walker who typically exercises 5 to 6 days a week then a 10 to 20K walk-a-thon should be no problem.

However if you're idea of exercise is walking from the refrigerator to the couch and back, a charity walk may be more than your body bargained for. There is no shame in starting small and working your way gradually up to a longer race once your body is physically prepared.

This will help your motivation, add to your chances of success and ensure you don't injure yourself in the process.

Choose a Walking Distance that Fits your Current Level of Fitness

We've already established that those who are new to walking and exercising should start with a shorter walk in the 5 to 10K range, but how exactly do you judge what length of walk your body can handle?

Sure, you are doing this walk for charity, but the last thing you want is to become sick or physically injured out because you wanted to help others. I tend to use these guidelines for choosing a walking or racing charity event that suits my level of physical fitness:

  • If you walk 30 to 45 minutes per day comfortably, you can handle a 5 to 10K walk
  • Those who are comfortable walking for 45 to 60 minutes per day can do a 15 walk
  • If you've been walking regularly for at least 6 months for 60 to 90 minutes, at least 6 days per week, you can safely commit to a longer 20K charity walk or race
  • For the true walkers, a 20K plus race can take 5 to 6 hours to complete. That means you should have been walking at this rate for at least the past year

Take the Time to Care for your Body

Regardless of the distance you choose for your target event, think of your training as your long-term commitment towards better health! Increasing your level of physical fitness and endurance will not happen overnight.

So it makes sense that your body will need at least 4 to 6 months walking 5 to 6 days per week at the speed and distance that the walk-a-thon demands to prepare you for race day. Take the following walking times into consideration:

  • If you intend to walk a 10K charity walk it will take at least 1 hour to 90 minutes to complete
  • If yours is a 15k event, you will want to build endurance to walking for 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours of straight walking
  • If you've chosen a 20K marathon walk, you will need to prepare your body for a 5 to 6 hour walk – or more!

More Walk-A-Thon Quick Tips

  • Start training 2 to 3 months before race day.
  • Find a suitable training ground, meaning if your walk-a-thon will be hosted in a local park, track, or road path – train on the same surface.
  • Be safe – choose a training ground that is well lit, safe and well populated.
  • Lace up the right shoes – Visit a specialty fitness store where a knowledgeable salesperson can help you find the proper style for your foot and your racing purposes.
  • If you're planning to walk, start with 20 minutes three days a week. Each week, add 10 minutes to one of your walks until you build up to a 60-minute walk.
  • Dress appropriately in layers. For instance dress according to temperature (e.g., if you plan to walk in 40 to 50 degrees weather wear shorts and a T-shirt that are breathable and made of material that wicks the sweat from your skin. However, if the temperature will be below 50 degrees, wear gloves, long running tights and long sleeves in layers so that you can shed them as the temperature changes).
  • Work in your gear so that your clothes and shoes are worn in and comfortable on the day of the event. This will help you stay comfortable, and avoid chaffing and painful blisters.
  • Always stop for water on race day. Charity walk-a-thons and races always supply water at stations along the track. Don't ever pass by an opportunity to stay hydrated and safe.

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