Power Walking: The Forgotten Workout
Walking is one of the most accessible, economical, healthy, joint friendly and simple exercises to perform. We can improve our cardiovascular fitness, strength, endurance and get our daily dose of vitamin D in one short walk.
Power walking can be deceptively challenging. Many people disregard walking as a form of cardiovascular activity. However, with the right tools and knowledge, you can burn almost as many calories as a light jog – without the impact.
As a nationally ranked race walker, I can tell you that walking can be made more intense with just a few simple adjustments. Changing technique, speed and terrain around slightly increases the intensity of the walk and transforms a regular stroll into a great workout.
Here’s a few things to try on your next walk. You’ll need to ensure you start with a good pair of running shoes to allow for optimal gait mechanics as well as comfort and safety.
- Take a shorter stride. To increase your speed, take small, quick steps. Try not to over stride as this can place pressure on the low back. Keeping the stride short creates a quick turnover and boosts speed. Also, be sure to keep one foot in contact with the ground at all times.
- Use your arms! Bend your arms between 45 and 90 degrees.Think about driving your elbows back. Try not to punch your arms forward as this is not a natural movement during walking. Drive the elbows back and let that backwards momentum propel you forward. Keep the palms facing inward and imagine holding onto a butterfly to keep the hands soft. The hands make an arc, coming up to 6 inches in front of the chest and going down so that the thumbs reach but not pass the hips.
- Push off your toes. The foot naturally strikes with the heel. After the heel strike, roll through the foot and finally, push off the toes. Think about pushing the ground away from you. This toe push off is going to propel you forward and increase your speed.
- Find a hill! Try walking up a hill and recover slowly on the way down. Start with one or two hill repeats and add one additional interval each week to work up to 5-10 intervals (depending on the size of the hill). Make sure you are well warmed up before trying your first hill repeat.
- Posture: Keeping proper posture is key. Bring the shoulders back, keep the head neutral (glance a few feet in front of you), and draw the hip bones together slightly to engage the core. Try to maintain this proper posture throughout the day. Great posture can make you appear taller and slimmer instantly!
If you are power walking for the first time, sore shins can be an issue. If you feel pain in your shins, slow the pace down slightly. Be sure to incorporate a sufficient warm up. To alleviate shin pain, try walking backwards for a few seconds.
Find a friend, a pooch or your favourite tunes and give it a try. Happy walking!
Sarah is a Registered Kinesiologist, Certified Exercise Physiologist, NeuroKinetic Therapy Practitioner, Group Fitness Instructor and co-owner of Continuum Fitness in Westboro. She studies Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa and graduated with honours with a minor in Biology. Sarah is a former international fitness competitor and was fortunate to represent Canada at the Ms Fitness Worls competition four times. Sarah enjoys spending time with her partner and two girls.