The Benefits of Racewalking
Racewalkers do more than burn a few calories; they undergo a full-body workout for extended periods of time.
"In racewalking you need to keep the body erect. When you do that you're using muscles and burning calories," says Eberle. "Everything in the body is actually being used."
One muscle that can expect a workout is the tibialis anterior, or more commonly known as the shin muscle. Unlike running where the calf takes a beating, racewalkers employ their shins, which helps control their rolled step.
A big benefit of racewalking—that helps keep Eberle moving nearly every day—is its low impact on the joints. Unlike some sports that wear and fatigue joints, racewalking is gentle on the ankles, knees and lower back. This is something that has kept Eberle moving well into her 80s; she uses this reasoning to get fellow seniors to join her in the sport.
"Aerobically, it's good for your heart," Eberle points out, but she can't stress enough the positive effects the sport has on her joints. "It's so easy on my joints; my legs, my arms, my body. Everything feels good and my joints don't hurt."
Racewalking has also helped her stay healthy and reduce stress. She was also able to meet many people through competitions with her organization.
More: Walking for Weight Loss
Get the Gear
To get started, newbies need sturdy shoes with a low heel. The heel height of the shoe cannot be too high, because racewalkers depend on heel strike.
Two other important pieces of equipment are T-shirts and shorts. T-shirts should be loose and comfortable, but shorts will fit a little differently. Eberle suggests a tight-fitting pair of shorts, but not something as tight as a cycling short. Too loose of shorts could result in chaffing. Shorts are a staple piece of gear for those who are interested in competitions. Form is everything in this sport and shorts allow the judges to see the knees.
Start Walking Today
Competitive or Olympic racewalkers can reach distances of 50K and speeds that marvel those of 100m sprinters. Endurance is key, but mere mortals don't need to worry about reaching such distances or top speeds. Eberle knows new racewalkers need to start slow.
"You need to start them out easy and show them it's not hard," suggests Eberle. "The hardest thing is to get that heel down first. Once they get the feel of it, it's not that bad."
Eberle suggests racewalkers take their walks to local trails or paved tracks. While sidewalks may be good for casual exercisers or runners, imperfections in the concrete can throw off form and technique. Or, they could simply trip.
And, like any new sport or activity, Eberle cautions new walkers to start slow and build their endurance.
"Slowly build yourself up. Don't go three miles at a time. It's a build up thing?Next couple of times, try a little further" says Eberle. "You don't have to push yourself crazily. This is a great sport that anyone can do."
Sign up for a walking event.