Tips to Build Your Athletic Walking Technique

Courtesy of Jeff Salvage and HealthyWalking.com

Why do you walk? For some the answer is out of necessity. Many of you Active.com readers walk for exercise or enjoyment. When a person walks for exercise there are many terms used to describe their activity. Whether you call it health walking, fitness walking, or speed walking, they are all loosely defined terms that take on different meanings to different people.

Since all of these terms have one thing in common--the concept of walking for exercise--I lump all of the "undefined" forms of walking for exercise under the label "athletic walking." An athlete, after all, embodies many of the attributes we hope our exercise program achieves: physical strength, stamina, and agility. By walking athletically we achieve all of these goals and do so without the risk associated with more rigorous physical activities.

Many question whether walking achieves all of these goals? Most people assume that walking, which appears easy, does not produce the same benefits as more traditional workouts such as running, biking, or swimming. However, by walking like an athlete, you can receive the benefits of these more vigorous exercises without the stress, expense, or inconvenience.

Athletic Walking:

  • is more dynamic than pedestrian walking or slow jogging
  • involves your major body movements, working your arms, legs and hips
  • gains greater health benefits than most people realize
  • loses more weight than pedestrian walking
  • improves your cardiovascular conditioning
  • improves muscle tone
  • increases your range of motion

Walking like an athlete is the most sensible way to exercise. Athletic walking is easy to start. Unlike other activities, no special equipment is required. To walk athletically, you do not even need a special place to get started. For most, the front door, a pair of study athletic shoes, loose fitting clothing, and a desire to get fit are all that is required. Athletic walking is a low intensity exercise that can be ramped up for the more adventurous.

By working out without raising your pulse too high, you burn more fat than runners who work at higher intensity levels. Instead, these runners burn more carbohydrates, thereby reducing the amount of fat loss. For those wishing to really push their physical limits athletic walking can propel you at speeds greater than ten mph, although most athletic walkers top out a 6 mph (10 minutes per mile).

As a beginning athletic walker, you do not raise your pulse to stressful levels. Therefore, you do not get "wiped out" with your first workout. Often when starting an exercise program, you overdo it, get sore, and feel discouraged from continuing. This is especially important as most people can start an exercise program, but have difficulty sticking to one. That's one reason athletic walking makes so much sense as a form of exercise. Instead of starting a new activity, by walking athletically you start with an activity with which you are already comfortable. Then by practicing the athletic walking techniques, you learn to enhance your walking workout.

Athletic walking emphasizes a relaxed an upright body posture resulting in a most efficient gait. With this technique, your skeleton supports your body using your spine and leg bones to keep you walking tall. Compare to the hunched over technique used by runners, athletic walkers put less stress on their lower backs. Unlike runners and joggers, athletic walkers, stretch the postural muscles.

Athletic walkers fully extend the muscles at the back of the leg, stretching them with each stride. All of these techniques help the athletic walker combat the middle age sag. The tummy, posterior and thighs all get a toning workout. Keeping your posture upright can also result in better breathing, allowing your diaphragm to pull oxygen into the lungs. By walking athletically you benefit not only from the calories burned during exercise, but from a raised metabolism that continues to expend calories throughout the day.

The athletic walking technique improves blood circulation. While walking, the calf muscles contract like a "second heart," forcing blood to return to the heart. Finally, athletic walking has a calming effect on the mind. The ancient Greeks believed that walking made their minds more lucid, helping them crack problems of logic and philosophy. 

  Learn more about learning to athletically walk with the "Walk Like an Athlete" set. This book and video series will help you with improving your walking workout by teaching you all the techniques involved in great walking style. Walk Like an Athlete is great whether your goal is fun, fitness, or competition.

 

All of these benefits occur while keeping impact to a minimum. While walking, the body is always in contact with the ground. This reduces the jarring motion present in running. In athletic walking, the force produced from the body's impact with the ground is only approximately 1.25 to 1.5 times the walker's body weight. In contrast, runners strike the ground with forces three or more times the body's weight.

You may think that it's desirable to remove all impact stress, however, low impact exercise stimulates calcium deposits in the bones, retarding bone loss caused by osteoporosis. This is why non-impact sports, such as swimming, cannot meet a person's complete exercise needs.

Stay tuned for more articles explaining how to make athletic walking a part of your exercise routine or purchase the Walk Like an Athlete book and video set from www.walkinghealthy.com.


Jeff Salvage is the founder of www.walkinghealthy.com, author of the Walk Like an Athlete Book and Video set, as well as the Race Walk Like a Champion Book and DVD set . He has coached walkers at all levels including beginners, juniors, walkers attempting the marathon, masters race walkers, and elite athletes competing internationally. He is a diligent promoter of walking and the founder of www.racewalk.com and www.greattreks.com.

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