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Race Walking: All You Need to Know

During the recent Summer Olympics, I tuned in to see what was on show. The Men’s 50km Race Walking event instantly entranced me, and it was the first time I had watched the sport. The mental focus required of the unique gait pattern hypnotized me, and I had to watch the remainder of the thrilling race.


I also learned that 2021 is the final year that the men’s 50km event will be included in the Olympic games due to the IOC’s vision for gender equality in future games. Afterward, I found myself further intrigued by the sport and had to learn more about it. While it seemed like a relatively modern addition to sport, I have learned that it dates back to the 17th century and made its first  Olympic  appearance in 1904!


 While I watched the race, I considered the increasing level of arthritis in my feet and my recent foot fracture. For this reason, the race had me thinking that race walking might be a great alternative to pounding the pavement while running. Any exercise that offers low impact and great cardiovascular exercise is a winner.


Is Race Walking Right For Me?


Race walking is incredibly technical and vastly different than running. In order to be ‘race walking,’ one of your feet must always be in contact with the ground. Further, the leg moving forward has to be straight.


If you can walk without discomfort, you can likely give race walking a try. As a recreational race walker, there isn’t the need to worry about being disqualified for breaking the gait pattern! So, next time you are walking, give it a try.


What Are the Benefits of Race Walking?


As a calorie burner,  race walking falls between walking and running, but these numbers depend on many factors. To get an accurate read on how many calories you are burning is a real challenge; your workout intensity, age, gender, weight, height, body composition, and nutrition all play a role in your caloric expenditure. 


Race walking can be a great option if you are looking for low-impact cardiovascular exercise. What I find appealing is that there is little impact on the body’s joints while race walking.

Another substantial benefit of race walking is that the hip sway and leg movement and the upright posture are fantastic core workouts. Expect your abs to be a little tender after your first sessions!


What Are the Risks?


The risks associated with race walking are generally low. However, as with any new exercise, take it slow and easy to start; keep your intensity low as you focus on learning the technique, and keep your distances short. Further, be sure to discuss any and all exercise plans with your health care team, mainly if you are not yet active. 


Be sure to wear solid footwear; your shoes should be comfortable right away, and they should not cause blisters or sores. Consider using a  quality orthotic insole  to ease any potential strains on your legs and back. Finally, a. solid resistance training plan will strengthen your entire body; a body with sound muscular  strength and endurance encounters fewer joint issues and other aches and pains. 


How Do I Get the Technique Right?


To master the technique of race walking, you will need to practice. Race walking is not simply walking fast or running slow. If you want to mimic the pros, the two basic rules are always to keep one foot touching the ground at all times, and the other is to keep the swing leg straight. The straight leg must stay straight as it touching the ground and as your hips move over the top of this leg and foot.


You should move quickly, and your hips should sway from side to side in a broad pattern. The arms are critical to the correct movement pattern and the intensity of your workout. Bend your elbows at ninety degrees, and then swing them loosely from your shoulders. Your arms should move forward and backward, not across your body.

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