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 Bonnie Stein

          Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.

Faster Feet
Pump Up Your Tires and Walk The Balance Beam

By Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.

 

Good racewalkers have something in common with cyclists and gymnasts.  Top cyclists, like Greg La Monde, would only set off on properly inflated tires.  World class gymnasts, like Mary Lou Retton, plant their feet close together on the balance beam-  racewalkers should do the same.

Important to you may be how your feet look in your racewalking shoes.  What’s more important to fast racewalking is what your feet are doing in your shoes.  Here are two “feet” techniques guaranteed to improve your racewalking form and speed.

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 Rocking Feet - Many exercise walkers land with a flat-footed step.  They let the whole foot make contact with the ground as one unit.  Plop, plop, plop.  A flat-footed step is a braking action.  Stepping that way sends your energy right into the ground; it’s a slow way to walk.  According to Dave McGovern, a member of the 1997 U.S. World Cup Racewalking Team, walking flat-footed is like riding a bike with flat tires.  Think about how much energy goes into pedaling and you don’t get very far for your effort.

Instead, a racewalker needs rocking feet.  Pretend that on the bottom of your shoes (instead of soles) you have rockers - like on a rocking chair.  Plant your heel and roll to your toes.  As your rock your foot, feel every part of your foot make contact with the ground.  First your heel, then your mid-foot, then the ball of your foot, finally your toes.   As you start your “rocking foot” by planting your heel, try to elevate at the ankle joint, not at the toes.  By rocking your feet instead of plopping them down, you have a more propulsive device from which to push off.  It’s like pumping up your tires.  You’re doing it right when you can’t hear your feet.

 

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Walk on the Balance Beam - Typically, people walk with a shoulder-width stance.  That’s too wide apart for racewalkers.  A wide stance causes some upper body lateral sway, which takes away from forward motion.  To exaggerate - think about a one year old who’s just learning to walk.  They spread their little feet apart and “toddle” back and forth.  I guess that’s why we call them toddlers.  Their wide apart stance gives them more balance and stability, however it compromises forward motion.

A racewalker doesn’t need to worry about balance and stability.  Remember, we’ve got one foot on the ground at all times.  Pretend you are walking on a four to six inch balance beam.  Keep in mind that a balance beam is not a tight rope.  You shouldn’t be putting one foot directly in front of the other.  That’s an old style of racewalking.  It led to the feet crossing over and way too much sideways hip and arm action.  Crossing over with your feet is just as inefficient as too wide of a stance.  Rather, plant one heel about half-way into the path of the other foot.   Of course you’re still using your rocking feet on the balance beam.

Greg La Monde and  Mary Lou Retton may have nothing to worry about if you pump up your tires and walk on your balance beam.  Yet, if you practice these two techniques, neither will be able to come close to you in your next racewalk.

 
© 2007 by Bonnie Stein. All Rights Reserved.

LIMITS OF LIABILITY AND DISCLAIMER - The authors and publishers of this newsletter have used their best efforts in preparing the articles and information contained within it. Additionally, you are advised to consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. The authors and publishers make no warranty of any kind, expressed or implied, and shall not be liable in the event of incidental or consequential damages.

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