About race walking

What is race walking?
Race walking is a progression of steps taken in a way that the walker does not lose contact with the ground. The advancing leg must be straight (i.e. not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until the vertical upright position.

What is the origin of race walking?
Race walking was originally a sport of footmen who walked long distances alongside their employer’s carriages. By the 19th century, race walking (or "pedestrianism") became a popular sport offering large purses and attracting heavy betting by fans. Unfortunately, scandals erupted over the fairness of some competitions, which reduced the sport’s popularity. To ensure fairness, standard rules for race walking began to develop, and the reputation of the sport began to recover. By 1908, race walking was included in the Olympic Games.

Is race walking like power walking?
Not really. Power walkers increase the aerobic benefits of ordinary walking by exaggerating their walking stride and/or arm swing. In other words, they make their stride less efficient in order to burn more calories. Race walkers try to walk more efficiently in order to go as fast as possible. But like power walking, race walking also burns more calories and offers more aerobic benefits than regular walking.

Does race walking hurt your hips?
Seen from a distance, race walkers seem to wiggle their hips from side to side, but this is more an optical illusion than reality. In fact, race walkers’ hips move forward and back just as ordinary walkers’ hips do—only very much faster—so race walkers do not hurt or strain their hips.

Is race walking better for my knees than running?
Race walking involves roughly 80 per cent less impact on your knees than running. If running bothers your knees, race walking is an excellent alternative for you.

OK, I’ve practiced the technique—now how do I go faster?
The answer is use your arms. Your legs follow the pace of your arms’ swing. If you let your arms drag, your legs will too. (Ever noticed big shoulder and arm muscles sprinters have?)

When doing speed workouts, set the pace with your arms. Move them a bit faster and harder. Your legs should follow. Practice this over short distances first, taking rests between repeats. (If you want to add some arm strengthening to your training, focus on triceps muscles at the back of the upper arms.)

Where can I get more help?
Attend any of the classes on our home page.