Arm Yourself for Fast Walking
Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.
By Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.
We've all seen them in our
neighborhoods. Flapping elbows pointing right and left, looking like they're
ready for lift-off. They're the walkers who give fast walking a bad name. Or, at
least make walking look rather strange. When done properly, racewalking looks
far from strange. It looks so smooth, so fluid, like poetry in motion. Using
proper mechanics with your arms is so important that I teach it the first night
in my Beginning Racewalking classes. In fact, I've always felt that even if I
never see a walker after the first week of class, if I can teach him proper arm
technique his walking workout will be enhanced 100 percent. Hopefully, he'll
want to come back for the five other techniques that will rev up his walking
Elbows - The elbows are ideally bent at a 90 degree angle. Elbows
should be held in, close to the body. When you point your elbows out, you
encourage lateral motion instead of forward motion. For a walker who wants to
walk faster, sideways is not where you want to go. Lateral motion is simply
inefficient. Plus, it looks funny. Think about being streamline, like a rocket.
Another tip: pretend that you're walking down a skinny hallway. That will keep
your elbows in to avoid getting "concrete reinforcement."
Fists - Fists should be loosely closed and kept low - below the
sternum, but pointing up, higher than the elbows. You know you've got the angle
right when you can feel your thumb brush your waistband during every stroke of
the arm forward and backward. If your thumbs are brushing at your pockets, or
worse - at your thighs, then your arms (pendulums) are too long. And there's
nothing worst than long, slow pendulums.
Shoulders - Once your elbows are positioned properly, it's time to
concentrate on the shoulders. Imagine that the shoulder joint is a hinge. Your
shortened pendulums (arms) move forward and backward comfortably on that hinge.
There's no punching forward and no yanking back. Keep your shoulders down and
relaxed. It's one of the hardest things for new racewalkers to master: They're
concentrating so hard on their techniques that their shoulders are being worn as
earrings. When you're racewalking, pretend that the heaviest part of your arm is
your elbow. Once your elbow drops down a bit, the shoulder will probably follow.
Another tip to check if
you've tightened up: about every five minutes, take an extra big breath and
exhale strongly. When you exhale, your shoulders will drop down to where they're
supposed to be. The racewalkers in class have me to keep nagging them about
their shoulders: you have to remind yourself.