Easy As Riding a Bike
Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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
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.