Have You Had Your Walk Today?
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 Bonnie Stein

          Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.

Easy As Riding a Bike

By Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.


Camille, a new racewalking student from South Carolina, came to the Tampa Bay area for her first real racewalking lesson.  Until then, Camille had been teaching herself how to racewalk by videos, watching racewalkers in running races, and reading my articles in magazines like Running Journal.  “Goodness,” I thought, “did she get that technique from reading my articles?  I’d better try harder.”

When Camille informed me she was also a cyclist, I decided to explain some of the techniques in a way that a cyclist would relate to.  Since then a number of other racewalking students, who are also cyclists, have found it easier to understand.

Lose the Tricycle

Think about the difference between a two-wheeler and a tricycle.  Which one has more balance and stability?  Of course the tricycle.  It has more stability because it has a wide base of support (the same as we do when we spread apart our feet in a wider stance).  Yet, which of the two bikes can go faster (given the same rider)?  If you guessed the two-wheeler, you’re right of course.

To become a more proficient, faster walker - stop being a tricycle, and become a two-wheeler, maybe even a racing bike.  You do that by eliminating your normal, shoulder-width stance (the way most people walk) and make your stance much more narrow by placing one foot halfway into the path of the other.

I teach my students to pretend they’re racewalking on a balance beam.  Remember, a balance beam is NOT a tightrope.  Make your balance beam about 4-6 inches wide.  Plant one heel, then the other, on the balance beam.  That eliminates your wider base of support (tricycle) and turns you into a more streamline, aerodynamic racing bike.  True, you will have less balance, but racewalkers have one foot on the ground at all times, so you’re not going to fall – provided you don’t trip over something in the road.  Keep your eyes looking ahead about 12-20 feet. 

Pump up Your Tires

Now that you have your two-wheeler, imagine that your bicycle has two flat tires.  How fast could you go, no matter how streamline it is? Racewalking with flat-footed steps is as inefficient as riding a bike with flat tires.  When you step flat-footed, your foot becomes a brake, sending all your energy right into the ground with every step you take.  It’s a slow way to walk.

Pump up your tires by rocking your feet from heel to toe.  Don’t simply plant the heel first and then let the foot slap down.  Plant your heel, with your forefoot high, and feel every part of your foot (heel, midsole, ball of the foot, and toes) making contact with the ground.  Your rocking feet are now ready to get on your balance beam (see above).

If you’re not used to rocking your feet, your shins will probably tell you that you’re doing something new.  Either dig out my old Running Journal article on how to strengthen your shins, or contact me and I’ll e-mail it to you (Bonnie@AceWalker.com).  

Now that you’ve got your tires pumped up on your streamline, racing bike, you’re ready to peddle off into the sunset.  Just remember to keep one foot on the ground at all times and your knee straight upon contact.

© 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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