Call it Race-Walking or Speed-Walking or Power-Walking: whatever form you choose, it can be a great alternative to running – particularly for those whose joints can no longer take the pounding running demands.
Yet hardly anyone seems to take advantage of this cheap, convenient, calorie-blasting, joint-friendly workout. Why is that?Simple: it’s Fear of Looking Ridiculous.
It must be, right? Because otherwise, race-walking makes sense for so many reasons. With proper form, you can get an intense aerobic workout. (Top competitors can walk way faster than most joggers can run). And similar to running, race walking can be done almost anywhere. It’s practically free! You don’t need a gym membership or a lot of fancy equipment, just a good pair of shoes and maybe a heart rate monitor. And all this without further trashing your aching joints.
But next time you’re out running or strolling on a busy trail, just count the number of Race Walkers who zip by. Usually: that would be zero.
Because no matter what the cheerful magazines articles say, just “walking briskly” in a normal manner won’t get your heart rate up the way running does. To get the same sort of aerobic benefits from walking, you’re going to have to really go for it. And you know what? You’re going to look a bit silly. Pump your arms. Vigorously! Swing your hips! The North American Racewalking Foundation has a lot more helpful information on proper form.
But what if your concern is not “how to,” but, “how can I make myself swing my hips and pump my arms in public where people might actually see me? Here are a few tips:
- Find a Race Walking Club in your area or get hooked up with a partner. It’s amazing how much less goofy you’ll feel when you’ve got someone with you, proving you’re not the only other person in the world who actually does this.
- Try to avoid busy commercial streets. The more “exercisey” your course looks, the less self-conscious you’ll feel. Tracks, known running trails, bike paths-for some reason, these help.
- Get up Way early in the morning. Less traffic fumes then too!
- Even if you don’t compete, consider buying a T-shirt from a Race or Race Walking Association-sort of a walking explanation for why you’re walking in such a frantic way without actually breaking into a run.
- Decide not to give a hoot what anyone else thinks! You’re doing a great thing for your body. If anyone stares at you funny, just smile happily and figure they’re secretly jealous. After all, you’re out doing your cardio without needing an ice pack, a bottle of ibuprofen, a big cumbersome knee brace or a smelly tube of Ben-Gay when you get home.