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Walking, the hot new trend?

When we started training health and fitness professionals to offer walking programs in 2013, we used to say that you won’t find walking on any of the hottest workout lists or latest trend reports. And then Covid-19 happened! More people started walking. According to 2020 data from Strava, outdoor walks increased by three times this year, and walking is the favorite new way to work out. Major media outlets such as The New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today were regularly featuring articles about walking. And then, both the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise named outdoor workouts such as walking as trends for 2021. If you want to take advantage of these new trends and renewed interest in walking, now is the time! Start planning and educating yourself so you’re ready to offer walking classes and programs when warmer temps and sunnier days beckon everyone to venture outdoors.

Walking can be transformational for a range of demographics. It can also be a powerful gateway activity to other programming that you offer as a fitness professional. Here are ways that you could incorporate walking into your programs based on your experience and business model.

If you have fitness and/or wellness expertise: Walking programs can be incorporated into your core offerings, or they can be made the focus of your programming. Value your expertise as you set pricing. Even though you will need little capital expense, you will need to pay for insurance and any permits, as well as be paid for your expertise and on-going continuing education requirements. Do not be dismayed by the availability of free walking programs in your area, you bring unique knowledge that offers real value in terms of programming that will both challenge your participants and find them seeing real fitness results. Consider setting your pricing according to the typical cost of local yoga or fitness classes. Create your class schedule with a view to long term commitment. If people love your classes, can you keep offering it on that specific day and at that time all year long?  Likewise consider your location for safety and all-season accessibility.

If you have a solid client base: In a corporate, college, or institutional wellness environment, it will be straight-forward to introduce a walking program, especially if the environment around your location is walk friendly. In many of these environments, programming is offered at no additional charge to employees, faculty, students, or members, so you don’t need to set a pricing structure. You will, though, need an understanding of your audience, as well as an appreciation for logistical concerns such as where and when to walk. Ideally, you will have car-free trails and/or wide sidewalks, green space, and accessible public washrooms at your start/end points.

If you own a gym or yoga studio: Walking workouts will be an excellent addition to your programming and may be an opportunity to attract individuals who are intimidated by traditional fitness offerings. Have a look at your insurance policy to be sure that you are covered when taking clients outside of your indoor space.

If you work for, or own, a wellness, chiropractic, or nutrition business: Support clients beyond your specialized treatments by adding a walking program as a fitness aspect to your services. If your outside environment is suitable for walking, you can do it from your office, no matter how small. Promotion can be done through the typical channels you currently use to keep in touch with your clients. If you’re hiring a certified coach to lead the program (and we recommend that you do this), you may want to charge a fee.

If you are starting or growing a business: For group fitness leaders, personal trainers, health coaches, or other fitness/wellness professionals who are building a business and want to do so with minimal capital investment, walking offers lots of options. Walking programs appeal to a wider audience than traditional fitness programming because it’s more accessible, giving you a way to tap into the approximately 80 percent of the population who are sedentary or not active enough to meet current guidelines. Because of walking’s low-cost and low-risk profile, it may be a perfect option if you are interested in booking corporate or health care clients. Your education and training give you a great leg-up on using this book as a resource to create a business based on walking workouts or to include walking workouts as one aspect of your programming. You may want to test the waters by simply offering one class a week in your community. If it is popular, you could expand your course offerings and support your growth with a website, advertising, and marketing, using some or all of the suggestions in this chapter.

You have a passion for walking, but no fitness or wellness experience or credentials.  Have you caught the walking bug and would like to see formal walking workouts offered in your community? Do you have friends who enjoy walking together?  Could you recruit people through a parent group, a book club, a local advocacy group, or a sports team?

No matter your specific situation, think of your walking program like any other fitness program.  Apply fitness principles to creating walking workout classes including warm-up, intensity, and cool down (there are many examples of how to structure classes and programs in the book), identify your audience (consider that walking is accessible but consider who might want to attend at specific times and/or days), identify ideal locations, set a class schedule and location, be insured, establish pricing, and then take it to market!

In our experience walking programs benefit from fitness expertise in two key areas: coaching good walking technique and motivating people to challenge themselves in order to get a high intensity cardio workout while walking. For more on that, check out our book The Walking Solution and its companion CEC course to give you an edge when offering walking programs.

As walking coaches, Lee Scott and Michele Stanten, have spent decades bringing creativity, inspiration, and intensity to walking workouts. The above is an excerpt from their book The Walking Solution: Get People Walking for Results (Human Kinetics, 2020).

Example of how we typically walk: 

 

Example of how we should be walking for fitness: