Remember that famous Aerosmith song?
“…It wasn’t me she was foolin
Cause she knew what was she was doin
When she told me how to walk this way.
Walk this Way!”
Spring has sprung so kick off the snow boots, lace up your sneakers and head out for a walk. Starting a walking program is a great way to enjoy the fresh air, get your legs in shape and boost your aerobic fitness. But how you walk and where you walk is the key to getting the most benefit out of your walking program.
There are 3 categories of walking –
Leisure Walking, Fitness Walking and Speed Walking.
The movement patterns are similar but the execution of the techniques varies. A well fitted walking shoe is all you need to get started, which makes walking an inexpensive and easily accessible activity.
And because it’s low impact almost anyone can participate. One of the most important components is to establish good posture, maintaining a vertical erect posture with proper body alignment.
Great for someone just starting out or anyone that wants to maintain cardiovascular endurance.
Depending upon your ‘normal’ pace, a leisure walk would be at a rate of 16 to 30 minutes per mile.
Stand erect and don’t lean forward or back. Keep your chin up and eyes looking forward not down. Walking with the head down puts strain on your neck and back. Pull your shoulders back and down, lift the chest from the sternum and gently contract the abdominals.
Your arm swing should be natural, relaxed and in opposition to your legs. The length of your stride should be comfortable with a natural heel strike and push off.
Slightly varying your stride, pace and terrain will add variety and a little challenge. Shifting from a sidewalk to hard packed sand or a path in the woods will vary the stability demands on your feet and ankles. Add an incline or decline, a few stairs or curbs to increase your heart rate and work your legs a bit more. Or just keep a nice steady pace and enjoy the stroll.
The goal of a fitness walk is to increase your aerobic capacity and burn more calories. This is accomplished by increasing your pace to a 13 to 15 minute mile. By increasing your pace and not your stride you can easily maintain good form and alignment while increasing the intensity. Then to ramp up the intensity you can increase your stride length, which may result in a slight forward lean. However the lean should occur from the ankles and not the waist as this can strain the lumbar spine.
As the intensity increases so does the arm action with a greater flex in the elbows and quicker arm swing. Keep the elbows close to your body and allow the movement to come from the shoulders and upper spine. The gait should be fluid with a natural rotation of the hips. The toes are raised toward the shin when the heel is planted and the foot should roll from heel to toe for push off.
Speed or race walking is a highly stylized technique that provides a greater physical challenge and caloric expenditure. The goal is to walk at a pace of 12 minutes per mile. Some competitive race walkers reach speeds of 6 to 7 minutes per mile, which is rivals a runners pace!
Mastery of the speed walking technique is required to increase the stride frequency because unlike in running where stride length is key, in walking one foot is always in contact with the ground so stride length is limited. For faster stride frequency the hips have to rotate more.
The elbows are flexed at 90 degrees so the hand crosses close to the center of your body at the sternum as your arm swings forward. On the back swing the hand shouldn’t reach farther than your buttocks. The elbows are kept close to the sides of the body and the speed of the arm swing increases with the stride rate.
At this higher walking speed the placement of the foot is different for speed walking and should form a continuous straight line. The inner edge of the front foot lands in front of the inner edge of the back foot. Visualize walking on line painted on the road with the inner edges of each foot landing on either side of the line. Avoid side to side hip movements. You’ll feel both your abdominals and hip flexors working as you increase your stride rate, with your hips rotating back and forward then tilting down as the leg reaches all the way through. This is where the stylized walk comes in.
Lace up your Shoes and Go-
The great thing about a walking program is that you can do it anywhere, at almost any time regardless of your fitness level. If you’re just starting out you can take a short leisure walk several times a week and build up distance and speed from there. Or if you’re a conditioned athlete but don’t like the joint impact of running you can work up to mastering speed walking and reap similar benefits. I love a really brisk fitness walk (and so does my dog Chico) that I vary by changing the distance, terrain and location from my neighborhood, to a hilly wooded trail, to sandy beaches. Use our WAG Gloves to give you a more comfortable workout during yoga, Pilates & more. Get moving and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air! Check out our selection of gym gloves with wrist support.