Benefits of RacewalkingBy Jill L. Cox -
Atlanta Sports Mag
You're out for your daily run, huffing and
pounding your way to that physique of your dreams.
You are proud of those muscle-toned legs your hard
work has produced.
Then you notice them. Others have stopped to
stare. Their hips are swaying as gracefully as energetic dancers. Their bodies
are muscular and their speeds impressive.
Yet they are reaping the benefits of running
without lifting both feet off the ground. They are racewalking.
Keep in mind that simply walking quickly does not
equate to racewalking. Powerwalkers, fitness walkers and speedwalkers all walk
quickly, but never call racewalkers any of those. The difference, you see, is
The first documented racewalkers, servants in late
16th-century England, used a "fair heel and toe" approach to keep cheering and
betting noblemen happy.
Today, racewalkers follow two rules (both of which
are elite standards, since racewalking is an Olympic sport): First, keep at
least one foot in contact with the ground at all times, as visible to the naked
eye. Second, keep your leg straight from the moment it hits the ground until it
passes under your hip.
In a judged race, you can be disqualified if you
violate the rules. Sounds easy, but it can work your abs and legs like
nobodys business. But if you can walk, you can do it.
Not everyone who racewalks does it for the
"I dont care about a trophy, because
sometimes that just means people in my age group havent shown up," laughs
Ellen Miller, 52, who started racewalking in 1997. Miller averages a
13.5-minute mile on her weekly walks with The Walking Club of Georgia, which is
sanctioned by USA Track and Field.
"I think exercise is boring, but racewalking is a
good way to socialize, and youre getting your health benefits at the same
She cites a better resting heart rate, stronger
cardiovascular ability and weight maintenance as personal benefits.
Health professionals agree that racewalking is
great low-impact and cardiovascular exercise.
"If you have the joints to be able to jog,
thats fine. But walking for an hour is better than jogging for 30
minutes," says John Lumpkin, director of Physical Therapy at Spine and Sport
Physical Therapy of Woodstock.
"I used to be a runner, but now my knees are
shot," Miller says. According to coaches, some runners add racewalking to their
training to boost their speed.
Others racewalk to lose weight, but you should
always remember three things before you start any weight-loss program.
"You must eat correctly and burn off more calories
than you take in cardio is good for that," Lumpkin advises. "You should
also work on muscle mass and do some form of strength training."
Experts say walking a 15-minute mile for an hour
can burn anywhere between 360 to 420 calories. Racewalking burns even more
since you exert more energy with the proper technique. Walking is also good
exercise for elderly people.
"Its the best overall," Lumpkin says.
"Walking is what I suggest for older people to combat osteoporosis and joint
No matter your age, if youre looking for a
different physical activity, consider racewalking. You may have to endure a
little staring, but all you need to get started is to check with your doctor
and then put one foot in front of the other.
Jill L. Cox is a freelance writer who teaches
journalism and media studies at Kennesaw State University. She is also a fan of
racewalking for exercise.
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