Speed Walking

What is Speed Walking?

Racewalking Woman
Racewalking Woman. rhoon/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Speed walking is a general term for fast walking. Speed walking may mean a variety of fast walking styles and techniques. You may get called a speedwalker or powerwalker anytime you are out for a walking workout and walking briskly with determination. Those aren't insults for a fitness walker, although you might feel that way if you are in fact a racewalker or even on the Olympic Race Walking Team.

Olympic-style Racewalking

Racewalking is a specific technique where the knee is straight and unbent from the time the forward foot hits the ground until it passes underneath the body. One foot is in contact with the ground at all times. Racewalking technique results in a rolling hip action. Arm motion is used to enhance speed

This technique is subject to rules and judging at racewalking competitions. It is a track and field sport and has been part of the Olympic Games since 1906. It is a serious distance sport with 20 kilometer courses for men and women and 50 kilometers for men. This doesn't give them any respect from television commentators, however. Racewalking is a unique style of walking that draws comments and even jeers. It takes a tough skin to racewalk in public. You may want to arm yourself with these racewalking slogans and comeback lines.

Power Walking

Power walking is a general technique of walking without the formal racewalking style, but using arm motion for speed.

You may be referred to as a powerwalker whenever you are walking fast on a walking workout. Sloppy examples of powerwalking technique are seen with exaggerated arm motion that does not actually promote speed walking. If you learn good arm motion, you can definitely speed up and improve your workout.

Some forms of power walking use hand weights in an attempt to burn more calories or build upper body strength. You'll often see photos labeled as powerwalking with the walker holding handweights. This is frowned upon by every physical therapist I've ever met as it is a risk factor for strain on the neck, shoulder, elbow and wrist. Even worse are using ankle weights or specially designed weighted shoes. Those also set you up for strain and injury.

Fast Walking

Walkers can build speed without formal racewalking technique by using some simple points of good walking mechanics and technique. I've seen people speed up significantly with just a couple of pointers about good walking posture and appropriate arm motion.

The other elements that lead to a more fluid walking style, power and speed are knowing how to roll through each step from heel to toe and how to get a good push-off from the trailing foot.

This requires that you eliminate overstriding, a common walking mistake for people who are trying to walk faster.

Wearing the right shoes is another essential part of speedwalking. They have to be flat, flexible and lightweight in order to build speed and use the proper foot motion.

How Fast is Speedwalking?

A general rule of thumb for a fast walking pace starts at 15 minutes per mile, or four miles per hour. That's an objectively faster pace. Walkers who aren't racewalkers can walk as fast as 11 minutes per mile or 5.5 miles per hour. With training, 10 minutes per mile (6 miles per hour) is achievable. At that speed they are passing many slower runners.

Olympic racewalkers can walk  as fast as 6 minutes per mile (10 miles per hour) over a course of 12.4 miles.

Continue Reading