By Janet Eagon, CPT
It’s a Real Workout
If you are a “real runner” you may look at a power walker and feel sorry for them that they cannot run or choose not to run the distance. Power walking is a much different workout from running. Yes, both are forms of cardiovascular training, both are covering distance, and both are challenging.
My newfound, low impact cardio alternative to running is competitive power walking. I was an average runner who was caught in the mindset that running was the be all and end all of endurance training; then I started to really dial into training by my heartrate and realized even though I was clocking a good pace and distance, my heart was stressed to the max.
After talking with several experts and completing personal trainer certification, I learned that such a significant increase in heartrate was definitely too much stress on my heart and a zone-four heartrate should be saved for only minimal periods of time.
A power walk is not a stroll at a leisurely pace. You must build speed; speed builds your heart-rate. Then it burns more energy which then burns more calories. Check your form at all times. Check for posture, shoulders down and back to get more air into your lungs.
This will pump more blood through your heart and allow more nutrients to flow through your bloodstream. Keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle and drive forward aiming for hands coming up to eye level.
Abdominal and core muscles should be engaged the entire time. Concentrate on finding a good cadence with your arm movements. Your feet will follow the cadence of your arm swings as you become a stronger power walker. Sometimes, listening to music with a steady beat that’s slightly faster than your usual walking pace will help you increase your pace.
Do not go out too fast. Just like running, going out too fast can increase the chance of experiencing crash and burn.
Some people believe that power walking means you should increase the length of your stride to cover more area with each step. On the contrary, keep your stride length the same as your regular walking stride to avoid strain on your spine and knees.
Your feet should strike with the heel first and “roll” through the motion to launch you off the ball of your foot. It’s also important to wear supportive shoes that can absorb some of the impact of each step, as well as helping to support your feet and ankles to prevent them from twisting.
A long and proper warmup is necessary with any form of exercise program; the better the warmup, the easier the workout will feel, in my opinion. I always encourage people to find a like-minded buddy or exercise partner, which is a key component for me.
I need accountability and I need a partner who has similar goals in mind as It does neither one any good if my pace is a thirteen-minute power walk for ten miles and my buddy has half of that on the agenda or intends to move at a different speed for our workout.
Another option to just a power walk or just a run is a combination of both, some walking and running used as interval training. This combination can be beneficial as well, depending on your goals.
Just find what works well for you and change the style often to add muscle confusion for a bigger reward. Keep moving no matter what exercise you choose. Your body needs to be challenged; it craves it in order to see results.
Many cities are now holding walking competitions in an effort to get people off the couch and moving. It provides a means of cardiovascular exercise for persons with medical issues or those recovering from injuries with less impact on their joints than running. There are power walking competitions, as well as world records for power walking in half marathon and marathon events.
In the coming year, if you find yourself caught in a rut or stuck on an exercise plateau, change up your run with a power walk. Confuse your body by taking a different approach. I promise power walking will recruit a lot of different muscles that are not being used in running or it will work the muscles differently.
If your runner’s high is not as intense as it once was, then change the pace, gait, stride and arm swing, and find a new kind of exercise high. A power walker’s high.