Racewalkers blur the line between power walkers and runners. Unlike power walkers who put forth an effort that is less about speed, and runners who speed by and disconnect themselves from the ground, racewalkers achieve a balance of body and flexibility that allows them to reach high speeds with low impact.
This perfected, sleek form and high speeds can be intimidating to newcomers, but it doesn't have to be. With a few tips and basic knowledge of the sport, anyone can become a racewalker.
Ideal racewalking form is built around two points, says Ruth Eberle, an avid racewalker. First, one foot has to be on the ground at all times. Contact with the ground cannot be broken. Second, the forward step comes down with the heel first and the leg must be straight, says Eberle. The step will be rolled, controlled and balanced.
"The knee is bent slightly when pushing off?therefore the step is short," says Eberle.
Eberle has been involved in the sport for nearly 30 years and helped found the Racewalkers' Club of St. Louis. When she isn't competing with her fellow club members or judging events, she's helping new racewalkers train and perfect their form.
This form sets racewalkers apart from casual walkers or power walkers. There are no rules concerning form in power walking so racewalkers need to be focused on their posture and foot strike.
To help propel forward, arms are important for good form and speed. The arms are bent at 90 degrees and never crossover around the body. Eberle compares the arms to the integral pistons of a train engine. Like the pistons, the arms go back and forth.
"A lot of power comes from the arms?the faster your arms go the faster your legs go," Eberle says.