What is Race Walking?

Three time Olympian demonstrates technique at the Wonders of Walking Regional Racewalk Retreat.

Have you been in a race and noticed those walkers whose hips sway, wiggle, move? You can almost feel the power generated, producing impressive speeds.

They may be traveling at paces associated with running but without lifting both feet from the ground. Often they appear to be stealth-walkers, appearing, whizzing by, gliding, and disappearing as you huff and puff wondering how they do that.

"Will you walk a little faster?"

said the whiting to the snail,

"There's a porpoise close behind us,

And he's treading on my tail."

—Lewis Carroll

Welcome to the world of race walking. This is not simply walking quickly; powerful yet not power walking; reaping tremendous benefits but not just speed walking—these are the technicians of the walking speedsters of the Olympics. Casey Meyers in this book Walking: A Complete Exercise refers to race walking as the ultimate athletic challenge.

This technical gait is defined by its smooth stride. The body lands on the heel of each foot with much less impact than in running—resulting in less force impacting feet, legs, knees, hips, and back. Race walking offers both upper and lower body workout. The purposeful arm swing uses back, shoulders, and arms more efficiently than running or fitness walking.

The muscles of the lower leg, in the calf, and of the foot propel the body forward. Propulsion combined with measured arm swings make race walkers more "point to point" on their heel and toe. A walker may feel less weighted, or up, as if "floating" over the ground. This smooth movement if done correctly increases efficiency and allows for rapid turnover, especially when combined with the back and forth movement of the hips.

Surprising to many people is the fact that a race walker will burn as many or more calories than a runner doing the same pace, and without the impact of pounding. The purpose of racewalkng is to get from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible, by walking.

Race walking uses all the muscle groups of the body making it an excellent fitness sport. This is walking for maximum benefit. Better fitness, promotes muscle toning of torso, upper and lower body, improving joint mobility, and muscular flexibility; increasing running endurance, burning maximum calories when walking, and improving cardiovascular fitness levels are a few of the benefits reaped. It is rhythmic, joyous, and fun.

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