Saturday, May 24, 2014

Passing the Walk Test

For those who have medical issues the Air Force uses a walk test. Initially, this walk test was a timed, 1-mile walk that also measured heart rate as you crossed the finish line. In 2013, the walk test was updated, removing the heart rate measurement, extending the walk to 1.25 miles (or 2 kilometers), and awarding no points for a person’s walk time. Instead, the test is either pass or fail.

The current passing times are listed below:

Based on these times, you will have to sustain an average speed of about 4.70 mph for men and 4.32 mph for women (which are pretty quick walking speeds). To give you some wiggle room during the test, I suggest that you should train to beat your maximum time by at least 30 seconds.

In this post, I'll help you prepare for your walk test by discussing basic race walking form.

Working Within Your Limitations
For me, the tricky part with designing an exercise program for the walk test is not knowing what your training limitations are. So, if my exercise suggestions conflict with what the HAWC says you can do, then modify my exercise program accordingly. The important thing is that you practice good walking form and try to improve your cardio as best you can.

Basic Walking Form
Although most of us have little difficulty walking from place to place, walking quickly actually takes a good deal of training to do correctly. Efficient race walking is comprised of four basic components: Standing tall, head alignment, arm swing, and hip/leg/foot movement.

Stand Tall
Your race walking form starts with good posture. Your back should be straight and relaxed (not rigid), with your ears and shoulders lined up (1). Be careful not to arch your lower back (2) or lean forward (3); instead, try to keep your pelvis in a neutral position by tightening your abs and squeezing your butt.

Keep Your Head Up
Keep your head straight and relaxed, looking about 60 feet ahead of you, chin parallel to the ground (1). Looking down or up from this neutral position can encourage your posture to change, which can increase fatigue and cause injuries.

Swing Your Arms
Proper arm movement is important for powerful hip and leg technique (described in next section). Your shoulders should be relaxed and not shrugged.  Your arms should be bent at 85-90 degrees at all times. They should also swing vigorously forward and back close to the torso, at about waist level (1), with your hands relaxed. On the forward swing, your hand should rise no higher than the center of the chest; on the backswing, your elbow should go no higher than the center of your back.

Your Hips, Legs, and Feet
Make sure that you drive with your hips as you move forward, rotating them horizontally (1). Avoid swinging your hips side-to-side as this can cause butt and hip muscle injuries.

Then, as your forward leg makes contact with the ground, try not to overstride (where your forward foot extends too far in front of you). Overstriding can cause a slower pace and injuries. Instead, your forward heel should stretch out only as far as your forward hand extends (1). Land on your heel, making sure that your ankle is flexed (2). Pull your leg straight forward and back, keeping your leg straight as your leg moves under your center of gravity (3). As your leg moves backward, roll off your foot, but keep your toes on the ground until the heel of the forward leg makes contact with the ground (3).

Be aware that some lower leg (shin) soreness is normal at first. As you race walk more, this soreness will go away.

Getting Ready for the Test
Training for the walk test is difficult because you will be limited in the physical activities you can use. Instead of trying to guess what your profile says, I've just created a simple program that will help you improve your cardio so that you can complete your 1.25-mile walk test in the lowest time possible.

Just with the 1.5-mile run, the best way to prepare for the walk test is to walk. You should also give yourself at least 12 weeks to help you learn proper technique and build up speed.

Click here for the pdf file of my walk test exercise program.

Here is an overview of my walk test exercise program:
  • Weeks 1-4 (blue) starts you off with some easy walking.
  • Weeks 5-8 (red) increases your walking pace and adds push-ups, sit-ups, planks, and the 1000-meter row.
  • Weeks 9-12 (green) prepares you for your test walking pace.
  • STOP exercising three days before your PT test. This will allow your body to fully recover from your training.

Each daily exercise can be done together, or broken up throughout the day. For instance, the push-ups and sit-ups can be done at work throughout the day and the run, planks, and other cardio exercise can be done in the morning, afternoon, or evening.

If the weather does not cooperate, then you can use the treadmill to build up your cardio. Set the treadmill up for a 2-degree incline and DO NOT hold on to the rails.


  1. Pdf link is broken. Could you post the plan here?

  2. Is there a food slow mo vid and regular to see this walk in action?

  3. i do the walk test once a day, ive never failed. the closet i came was when i took a day off, i started about a week and half out from my test. i test in 3 days, im under 16 mins. i think its easy so long as you practice