Apparently the average sedentary person takes around 3,000 steps a day, well below the RDA of around 10,000 for active people.  We are all different, some of us are stuck behind a desk, whilst others a more mobile. Whatever the case, it’s a sign of the times that even a basic human function like walking has become cause for concern. And since sitting seems to be our main occupation these days, creating time for some perambulating makes a lot of sense. We are made for movement. Get to it!

Consider this, from the Osaka Health Survey – (this study looked at the association of physical activity, duration of the walk to work and leisure time exercise, with the risk of hypertension between 1981-1997.) Out of 6,017 men, 626 men developed hypertension. Adjustments were made for age, body mass index, alcohol consumption, smoking status, leisure-time exercise (or duration of the walk to work), blood pressure and fasting plasma glucose level.

 Duration of Walking

Risk for hypertension decreased as the duration of the walk to work increased (Figure 1). Men whose walk lasted 20 minutes or more reduced their risk by 29% (relative risk 0.71, 95% confidence interval 0.52 to 0.97) compared with men whose walk lasted 10 minutes or less. Increasing the walk by just 10 minutes reduced the risk for hypertension by 12% (relative risk 0.88, 95% confidence interval 0.79 to 0.98).

However you look at it,walking works!
What we  propose with the One Hundred Step Challenge (OSC) is simple, requires no special equipment, no stop watch, heart rate monitor or special shoes. In less than twenty minutes you can add some much needed movement to your day. Those of you who already run may have forgotten  just how much of a challenge it can be for the average person. Let’s face it, most of us simply don’t run anymore. When required to do so, we quickly find ourselves well out of our comfort zone.

On the subject of footwear, I personally think that less is better. The simpler the shoe, the thinner the sole, the less engineered, the better. Our feet are complex, containing 25% of the bodies bones, and a host of receptors that act as a sixth sense, telling us where we are and where we are going. Let them do their job and your body will follow.

You can treat this as your 100 Rep challenge for the day or consider it an add on two or three times a week (or more). Just remember, the only good time is now. If you opt for Level One, try and do it every day. Level One can easily be done in a lunch hour with time to eat and without having to worry about needing a shower afterwards.

The 100 Step Challenge is very loosely based on an interesting study from the University of Copenhagen published in the scientific Journal of Applied of Physiology. This study used a timed 10-20-30 training concept developed by researchers from the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences. We are counting steps rather than seconds. (For those of you who already run, it’s well worth looking at the wide ranging benefits of this protocol, it’s more accessible than brutal tabatas and the results are based on actual runners.)

“The 10-20-30 training concept consists of a 1-km warm-up at a low intensity followed by 3-4 blocks of 5 minutes running interspersed by 2 minutes of rest. Each block consists of 5 consecutive 1-minute intervals divided into 30, 20 and 10 seconds of running at a low, moderate and near maximal intensity, respectively.”

If you are up for it, you can simply dive in and use their protocol. Our version however is all about setting the foundation one step at a time. It is simple and anyone can start.

Level 1 -Walking

Warm Up – Walk and a relaxed pace for five minutes before beginning the OSC.

We are now going to do ten rounds of 100 Steps. We break each round down as follows -

  • 60 Steps – Normal Walking Pace
  • 30 Steps – Medium Walking Pace
  • 10 Steps – Fast Walking Pace

Simply repeat the above for 10 rounds (1000 steps in total). Cool down walking at normal pace for 5 minutes.

You should find the start of each round gives you a chance to pace yourself and restore your breathing. Breathe normally, in and out through the nose, pacing your steps and rhythm with your natural breath. Though this will become more challenging as the intensity increases, it’s a good habit to form.

Remember, we are not out for a stroll, we are engaged and challenging ourselves as we move. You may finding shifting intensity and tempo a little challenging to start with, stick with it. The trick is to create a rhythm and simply count out the steps as you go.

As the levels increase in speed, counting each step can be tricky. Simply count from the second foot strike in multiples of two – 2,4,6,8,10 etc.

With all this counting going on, some people may find it easier to keep track of rounds by making a fist, one finger at a time. Two fists and you are done.

If at any point you find the next round too challenging simply alternate, taking 100 Steps at a medium walking pace.

Level 2 – Walking to Jogging
If level 1 feels comfortable you can start to add in level 2. You can mix and match level 1 and 2 to suit your week and ability.
Warm Up – Walk and a relaxed pace for five minutes before beginning the OSC.
  • 60 Steps – Medium Walking Pace
  • 30 Steps – Fast Walking Pace
  • 10 Steps – Jogging Pace
Again, repeat the above for 10 rounds (1000 steps in total).Cool down walking at normal pace for 5 minutes.
Level 3 – Walking to Running
Warm Up – Walk and a medium pace for five minutes before beginning the OSC Level 3
  • 60 Steps – Fast Walking Pace
  • 30 Steps – Slow Running Pace
  • 10 Steps – Med Running Pace
Can you see a pattern here? Repeat the above for 10 rounds (1000 steps in total). Cool down walking at normal pace for 5 minutes.
Level 4 – Running to Sprinting
Warm Up – Walk at a medium pace for a few minutes then jog for the last couple before beginning the OSC Level 4
  • 60 Steps – Medium Running Pace
  • 30 Steps – Fast Running Pace
  • 10 Steps – Sprinting Pace
Here we go again… repeat the above for 10 rounds (1000 steps in total). If you find yourself struggling to start of a round simply walk at a normal pace for 100 steps. Cool down, walking at normal pace for 5 minutes.
Movement specialist, Jonathan Lewis of Balance Performance in London offers some suggestions on integrating your breathing whilst practicing the 100 Step Challenge.
Your breathing will undoubtedly respond to the changes in intensity this protocol demands. Mindful control of your breathing is an essential component of smooth, efficient movement so you should find a rhythm in your breathing that matches the degree of effort needed at each level of this challenge. Your running rhythm can follow that of your breathing rather than your breathing copying your foot falls – each step’s impact does NOT need to be accompanied by a breath.
Breathe in and out through your nose. At some point this may become difficult and you’ll feel the need to exhale – and/or inspire – through the mouth. Don’t fight it, be patient in your efforts to improve breathing control.

Feel that the air you breathe is drawn in by the belly rather than high in the chest. Your breathing is closely linked to your core stability – all phases of breathing (inspiration, expiration and the momentary hold) contribute to core muscle tension and control of your trunk. Be mindful and further your awareness.”

And when it comes to running technique I defer to running expert Naeem Akram A.K.A The Running Engineer  who offers some great tips on getting started, with a look at barefoot running principles…
Naeem’s 10 steps to better running movement:
  1.  Posture is #1. Stay proud, chest leading and eyes forward. Relax.
  2. Stop putting on the brakes. Forget about stride length. Correct landing position is with your hip vertically stacked over your foot so your body weight is over your point of support, not behind it. Do this with bent knees so you stay in a spring position, try not to let your shin come ahead of your knee.
  3. Land with a flat foot letting your weight absorb from the ball of foot. Many ‘barefoot’ runners struggle with unnecessary torque and calf issues because they try to land on their forefoot, the forefoot reduces torque but … (it’s a story for a clinic).
  4. Train first on hard surfaces. Soft surfaces are actually much more difficult to manage. If you want to hone your technique quickly use a surface which gives you most feedback and allows for your system to relax, i.e. smooth, clean road or pavement. Soft surfaces are important too. Some great perspective  from Barefoot Ted in the above clip, as we ran together during a Mumbai sun rise.
  5. Pick your foot up vertically, directly underneath your hip. Don’t be, lazy leaving your foot on the ground behind you can lead to hamstring injury and unnecessary head movement.
  6. Feel your big toe leading the direction of your movement. By ensuring your big toe is facing forward the rest of your body is stacked on top of it’s point of leverage, allowing you to move forward without resistance.
  7. Try being barefoot whenever possible.I recommend wearing VIVOBAREFOOT shoes when barefoot is not an option. (Use discount code AKRAM20 on-line at VIVO or in a vivobarefoot store)
  8. Look into MovNat, it’s as important to running as running is to MovNat.
  9. Download and read Lee Saxbys book: Proprioception – Making Sense Of Barefoot Running
  10. Minimum takeaway from this book is to deep squat as frequently and for as long as possible.

Naeem, the Running Engineer holds his next Vivo Barefoot Running Clinic at Balance Performance  -  RunningEngineer Clinic

This incredibly simple routine,  including warm up and cool down, lets you add around 2,200 steps to your day. If you decide to mix and match walking and running levels there is no reason why you can do this daily. That’s 15,400 steps a week, 61,000 a month, 803,000 a year. Add to that the fact that in time you will be doing levels at different intensity and you have yourself a fantastic foundation to work from. Who knows, maybe that 10k will start to look like a fun challenge.