Walking is one of the best ways to get exercise, even for those just starting out. But more advanced athletes can benefit, too--just by picking up the pace and following a few rules.
That's the name of the game in racewalking, an Olympic sport that remains obscure in much of the United States. The top athletes can cover a mile in seven or eight minutes, or less. It takes some training, but anyone with the ability to put one foot down in front of the other can pick it up.
Average calorie burn: About 100 calories a mile at a good pace.
Family fun factor: Four out of five stars. This is a no-brainer. A family racewalk at the track or the park is a terrific way to spend time together.
What you need: A good pair of shoes. Look for a low heel, lots of support and plenty of room for your toes. Remember, your feet will swell, so you want to give them room.
The facts for:
Beginners: Racewalking is a discipline--there is a right way and a wrong way. But the rules are simple. Keep contact with the ground at all times. Keep your lead leg straight from the time it hits the ground until it is vertical to the ground. After that, it's a matter of practice.
Intermediate: You've got the basics down. Now try for some distance. Jeff Salvage, an expert, says that with training, he can go 25 miles with no problem.
Looking for a challenge: Look for a long, mild incline. Not a steep climb--those aren't good for racewalking form--but a gentle hill will increase your calorie burn. Just shorten your steps on the way up and stretch them out on the way down.
Other web sites:
www.racewalk.com. Jeff Salvage is a former competitor and coach. His Web site demonstrates the technique in detail.
www.racewalking.org. Dave McGovern is a 13-time U.S. national champion. His site is packed with information.
www.usatf.org. This site offers schedules of races, athlete bios, results, records and other stats.