Masters Running


Walking 101 (Read 45 times)


    Hi everyone,


    "Jay - I'm a pretty strong power walker, but I don't think I'm very efficient (although I practice whenever I'm walking just about anywhere/anytime).  As the miles/hours increase (i.e., 6 hours of up and down, 25 miles into a 50k, etc.), I have a harder time keeping a steady pace.  I have a tendency to go too hard, then I wear myself out.  I need to find that efficient middle ground.  Of course, I'm probably not using the best technique in the first place and may be putting too much of a load on my quads.  Dunno.   Any advise of any kind would be most appreciated."


    This is for Leslie, but also for anyone who wants to incorporate walking into their workouts, and even racing, while A) being quick and efficient and, B) without having to learn how to racewalk.


    Arm swing: I've seen too many 'speed' or 'power' walkers going down the road with their arms fully-extended. It almost makes me cringe because it is so inefficient, and is probably slowing them down. When you have that long a 'pendulum,' you can't move it very fast. Just keeping your elbows bent at 90-degrees (with your hands at about the level of the hem of your shirt) will result in a faster and less tiring arm swing. And remember that when your arms move faster, so will your legs.


    To perfect your arm swing, remember these rules: 1) Imagine a line down the center of your torso and one across your body, just below your chest. Don't cross either line with your arm swing. If you go too much side-to-side, you'll be taking away from your forward momentum. And if you go too high, you'll throw off your balance, and you might punch yourself in the chin! 2) Don't swing your arms any further out than 6" in front of your body. Reaching further out just throws your balance off and is counter productive. On your back swing, however, you can go till your hand reaches the back of your hip. A powerful backswing helps the opposite leg swing forward with power.


    Stride length: Many speed and power walkers overstride. When they stretch their leg too far in front of their body, it takes a lot more effort to then pull the body over that leg to the next stride. In racewalking, only about 30% of the stride is in front of the body, making it very easy to roll over that front foot to the next stride. A shorter stride needs to be a quicker stride to maximize speed, but, as illogical as this may sound, it should still be less taxing than those longer and ultimately slower strides.


    Hips: Yes, racewalkers use a lot of hip action. No, you don't need to do near as much. But keep in mind that hip rotation helps bring the trailing leg forward faster, making you more efficient and quicker. And remember that when you swing your arms (just a little) across the front of your body, you are helping to facilitate hip rotation if you will just let it happen. Another way to help facilitate hip rotation is, when training on a track, walk on the line between lanes, placing each foot on the line. If you just stay relaxed, your hips will rotate, and your legs will move more quickly with a little less effort.


    Drill: Try this to help maximize your walking speed. Run at tempo speed for maybe 25 yards or so. Then, without slowing down your turnover rate, quickly switch from running to walking. It'll be hard at first, but you'll be amazed at how fast you can walk after making that transition.


    Pace: The same rules of pacing that you apply to running also work for walking. So whatever you do to learn, sustain, and improve your pace in running, you should apply to your walking workouts


    Last tip: Relax. Any extent to which you tense up (shoulders, hands, quads, anything) means that you are wasting energy. If you find yourself tensing during training walks, sometimes the best thing to do is to stop, take a deep breath, and start again.


    That's it! So, there's a little more to walking than just walking, but a little practice can make you a more efficient and faster walker.


    I hope this helps. If you have specific questions, just let me know.



    Without ice cream there would be darkness and chaos.

    MM #5616

      Thanks, Jay!


      Like Leslie, I also do a lot of power walking on the steeper hills, and while I'm a pretty fast walker,   I can always use some tips.  This morning I headed out for a trail run right after I read your post, and I realized that when I walk, I straighten my arms.  I also sometimes put my hands on my thighs on the really steep parts, or sometimes I put my hands on my hips.  So today I tried keeping my arms bent on the uphill walking parts.  Thanks for the suggestions!

      I hammered down the trail, passing rocks and trees like they were standing still.

        ...thanks jay//..........will give it a shot tomorrow..........

        ..nothing takes the place of persistence.....

        The Goofinator

          I need to work on my arm strength in that I need to deal with the fact that they get tired of being held at a bent angle.  BUT - I definitely have better speed when keeping the arms bent and swinging as you indicated and when I can relax my lower half and just let my hips rotate smoothly.


          I've been reading a book called "Chi Running," and a lot of what you are talking about they discuss in the book.  It's all a matter of practice, practice, practice.


          Carolyn - One of the things I learned in "Chi Running" is when going up hill lean slightly forward from the ankles and it really helps.  Also what I've been working incorporating is "pushing" back with my arms as opposed to "pulling," which sounds a lot like what Jay is saying.  My elbows never come forward any farther than my hips, and when my arms swing back, they "push" back and my hands go back as far as my waistline.  Also quick short steps in climbing.  Again, practice, practice, practice, and I am really working hard on all this.

          Living and Running Behind the Redwood Curtain


          Trail Runner Nation

          Marathon Maniac #957

            This is very helpful, and I think can be incorporated into help with running, too.  Thanks!

            Life is a headlong rush into the unknown. We can hunker down and hope nothing hits us or we can stand tall, lean into the wind and say, "Bring it on, darlin', and don't be stingy with the jalapenos."

              ...turns out

              for me ''Shot'' was the perfect choice of words.......

              ..nothing takes the place of persistence.....


                Leslie, the description of the arm swing from Chi Running is exactly right. Adding power to your backswing will also add power to the opposite leg's forward swing, helping to get it forward to start the next stride more quickly.


                I suppose it does take some time and training to get used to keeping your arm bent for a while. To be honest with you, I've been doing it long enough that I don't think about it or get fatigued by it any more, even in half marathons.


                I also lean into it a bit and shorten my stride going up hills, but try to maintain the same turnover rate (maintaining a strong arm swing here helps a lot). I was told, many years ago, to do the same when running up hills, but apparently many runners didn't learn or have forgotten that: I pass more runners going up hills in a race than on any other terrain, and don't really have a problem maintaining/increasing speed once the hill is crested.


                Hmm - Sorry about the "shot," TomW.



                Without ice cream there would be darkness and chaos.


                  thx Jay.  i'll try some of these suggestions


                    Thanks, Jay. This is very timely for me, as back issues have constrained many of my activities, but I've been cleared to walk as much as I want to. I think I remember reading somewhere that you can racewalk at a 10:30 pace, and was wondering if you have any advice about to work towards that kind of pace. Also, do you work on cadence? What kind of cadence do you keep?


                    Right now, about the best I've been able to muster is 15 minute miles. I'm pretty good on the arms, although reading your post I'm probably too enthusiastic on the upswing. I certainly have found that my arms seem to act like the orchestra conductor to my legs--the faster my arms go the faster my legs go.


                      Hi Tribee,


                      Yes, I can walk at a 10:30 pace, and closer to 10:00 on some days. The fastest racewalkers can hold a 7 minute/mile pace for a 5K, and 8+ minutes/mile for longer races. Those folks are younger and better trained than I. I have tracked my stride rate, and have been able to sustain about 140+ steps per minute for few miles. Faster racewalkers are around 200 strides/minute or better.


                      One drill that can help improve your speed is the one that I described above: run for a bit and then quickly switch to walking without slowing down your turnover rate/cadence. It is hard at first, but it gives you a sense of how fast you really can walk.


                      Another good drill is what we call a quick step drill: Walk by taking very short steps, one foot right in front of the other, as fast as you can. This is another way to give you a sense of how many strides you can take in 30 seconds or a minute. The challenge then becomes keeping up that same cadence as you lengthen your stride.


                      Some coaches I've met say the best way to walk faster is, well, to walk faster! That's very simplistic, but it is also the truth. How do you get to be a faster runner? By improving your efficiency, doing speed drills, and getting used to running faster.


                      Lastly, I also have back aches every once in a while, and, it may just be me, but I find that I almost always feel better after a good workout. I don't know why, maybe it has something to do with hip rotation, but it helps my back far more often than not.



                      Without ice cream there would be darkness and chaos.




                          hi Jay,

                          A couple more questions:

                          1) I looked at some of the race walking websites, and there is a big emphasis on the "straight leg" technique. Is this because of the need to meet the legal requirements of race walking? Or is it a more efficient, faster technique? I ask because I'm planning on walking some or all of the marathon in my Fall iron distance tri, and I want to go as fast as I can, but don't have the same technical requirements as race walking.

                          2) Is the rough rule of thumb of no more than 10% volume increase per week in running the same in race walking? I've been cleared to walk as much as I want because it doesn't have the same impact forces/vertical loading as running, so I was wondering if that factor changes how one goes about increasing duration and/or intensity.

                          Thanks again.

                          MM#209 / JapanJoyful#803

                            thanks Jay.  i think it`s too late because tomorrow`s already happened over here but I*m going to try walking all 42.195km in tomorrow`s 204th Imperial Palace Marathon sponsoredby the Jaan100 Marathon Joyful Running Club and would appreciate any thoughts you might have on walking in non-traditional, or maybe very traditional, footwear. If I can walk all 42.195 miles, it`ll be a big confidence boost for this year`s atempt for the hike up Mt. Fuji in them that has.failed for the past two years. If not, it`ll be a memorable PB PW, that`s for sure.  thanks.


                            Henry the Great: "I'm going to keep running as long as I can."  Me too, I hope.

                            T. Igarashi (summiting Mt. Fuji at age 100): "Enjoy yourself. Your younger days never come again."



                              Hi Tribee and Tet,


                              1) The emphasis on maintaining a straight leg is more because of the rules of racewalking than because it makes for a more efficient/faster way to walk quickly. Those who make the rules have determined that keeping your leading leg straight and always having one foot on the ground is what, in competition, differentiates racewalking from running. If you are not in a judged racewalking race, you can certainly bend that knee! The only caution I offer is that being able to bend that knee makes it easier to over stride, and stretching your leg out too far in front of you is counter-productive, and won't help you walk faster.


                              2) All the guidelines for training as a runner apply to walkers too. That includes how much you should increase your long walk each week, how often you should do speed work, easy/rest days, etc. Walking is probably more forgiving than running, but you still risk overuse or other injuries if you don't have and adhere to a good training schedule if you are training to walk in races.


                              Tet, it doesn't look like you'll have too much of a problem with "heel drop" with those shoes, bud they do seem to be lacking somewhat in cushioning. Landing on your heel with each stride could, I imagine, be a bit uncomfortable. Another plus is that those shoes seem like they would help improve one's balance!


                              Is/was your race 42.195 km. or miles? Bit of a difference there. Either way, I hope you do/did well, and that it bodes well for your next attempt on Mt. Fuji. However, I can't imagine hiking up any trail, let alone a mountain, in those shoes. Is there a way you can cut some "grabbers" into the bottom of them so you don't slide backward? If it is OK with you, I'll stick with my traditional (or non-traditional) racewalking shoes.



                              Without ice cream there would be darkness and chaos.

                              Maniac 505

                                Jay:  are racewalking shoes different then running shoes?