5 Ways to Walk for Charity

Races to cure breast cancer are one of the most popular charity walks.
A few hints can help you find a charity event that's right for your fitness level and interests.

Supporting a worthy cause and staying fit can be as easy as putting one foot in front of the other when you sign up for a charity walk.

"Charity walks can help provide a goal to motivate you to stay active," says Mark Fenton, author of The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss and Fitness. "The number of walks continues to increase. They're more popular than ever."

Here are five steps to help you successfully stroll your way through a charity walk.

1. Seek out a charity

Maybe you want to help support research for curing an ailment of a family member or friend. There are walks that support just about every cause. Here are a few examples (and how to find them online):

Breast cancer
Mental illness
Leukemia and lymphoma

In addition to such national charities, local organizations often sponsor walks. A good place to start your search is right here at Active.com with all the dates, distances, and registration requirements for thousands of charity walks across the country.

2. Gauge your goal

Figure out what you want to get out of the event, advises Fenton. Do you aim to participate in a fun, social event with friends, or are you using the walk as a fitness goal? For fun seekers, aim for shorter events, such as one mile or, at the most, a 5K. If your primary motivation is fitness, look for longer events such as a 10K or a half marathon if you have the time and persistence to train.

Find what you can when and where

3. Find your fitness

Especially if you're aiming for longer events, you need to figure out how far you're capable of walking. Can you walk continuously for 30 minutes? Fenton recommends being able to walk a certain amount of time for event distances.

If you plan for these specific distances, you should be able to walk this long beforehand:
One mile, 15 to 20 minutes
5K, 30 to 40 minutes
10K, 75 to 90 minutes
13 miles (half marathon), three hours
26 miles (marathon), five hours          

4. Build endurance

When training for an event, remember Fenton's basic rule for preparation: The longer the event, the further ahead you need to plan. For example, if you'll be walking a half marathon, you need about three months to work up to that distance. For a full marathon, Fenton recommends starting six months or longer before the event.

5. Plan on prep

To prepare for an event, you should count on the amount of time needed. Once you know how far before an event to start your training, you can create a weekly training plan, suggests Fenton. Your training schedule can be as simple as marks on a calendar in your kitchen or as thorough as a training log to record what you eat, along with distances and times walked. The number of days a week you should plan to walk varies with the distance of your event. For a 5K event, plan to walk three days a week; for a 10K, shoot for four or five days; half marathon, five days a week; and a marathon, put in six days a week to ensure you're ready for that distance. For more walking advice, check out Fenton's site at www.pbs.org/americaswalking.
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