Sunday, April 10, 2011

Confessions of a neighborhood power walker... :)

I am vertically challenged.  Okay... short.  My Dad, Mom, brothers - we were all short.  I have short legs, but I like to move them and move them fast.  I like to walk fast and walk far.  For me, mind therapy is a solid power walk.

I enjoy looking for dogs - cats - kids. I enjoy counting them as I walk - I enjoy breaking my own records for sightings.  I enjoy seeing the same people over and over and waving at new ones.  I enjoy watching people enjoying the outdoors as I walk by.  There's nothing like feeling the breeze - feeling the sun - feeling the outside against my face, and I relish that adrenalin rush as I walk out the work out.

Pump it up - pump it up...
up up UP...

I twisted my foot in a direction it wasn't meant to go late last summer and I couldn't walk right for a month.  I have vivid memories of wishing for a handicap cart at the grocery store, as I painfully hobbled up and down aisles.  I still remember the first time I actually used both feet to walk - it was though a gift had been given to me: the gift of TWO functioning feet!

I've always enjoyed walking and I've always been a fast walker, but now I pursue it as a focused passion.  I'm not doing it to race or even to do "it" right.  I'm not fixed on the moves. I'm doing it because it feels GOOOOOOD - it feels right - it makes me feel better.

Here are a few basics that I've learned.  Number one: It's POWER walking, not casual strolling.  Power walking requires an athelete's pace - it IS a workout.  Number two: You need to have a good pair of WALKING shoes, not running shoes.  Your feet move differently when  power walking than running.  When you run, the heel of the foot takes the brunt of the force.  The ball of the foot takes the force when power walking.

A good power walking speed is 4-5 mph.  To figure out your speed, measure a mile, then walk it and time yourself.  If it takes 20 minutes, that's about 3 mph (20 minutes = 1/3 of an hour); 15 minutes is 4 mph; 13 minutes is 4.5 mph; and 12 minutes is 5 mph.  Another way to get to a good pace is to work up to a level where you're just about ready to break into a jog - and keep it up.  THAT'S power walking.   

ALWAYS take a few minutes to warm up, cool down and stretch before you go.  PAIN is the consequence of not stretching and warming up before a workout!  Start off with several 10 to 30-minute power walks a week and try to add a couple of minutes to your sessions each week.  Even if you start with just a10-minute walk at first, your endurance will increase the more you walk.

Long strides don't work as well and are more tiring than quick heel-ball-toe steps.  Focus on landing on your heels, rolling through your instep, then propelling yourself with a push off your toes.  Walk with your chin up and look about 10 feet ahead, which is good posture for your head and neck.  Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle.  Close your hands so they make fists, but keep them relaxed (you're not out for a boxing match!).  Swing them in an arc from your waist to your chest, keeping them close to your body.  This helps you walk faster and builds upper-body strength.  It's also great for toning your arms.

Power walking is a GREAT toning workout.  It's a terrific way to enjoy the outdoors while doing good things for your body.  Once you've built up some endurance, you'll notice how much better you feel AND look, so consider getting yourself some walking shoes to ENJOY in your own neighborhood!  

1 comment:

  1. Good for you! Now you understand my running addiction.

    When I ran my first 5k, I was passed by a 70-year-old walker who completed it in 32:51 (close to a 6 mph pace.) In the last 10k I ran, there were a pair of race walkers who were doing 7-minute miles. There are some FAST walkers out there!

    Races are fun, just because of all the people and (usually) some neat scenery. You don't have to race to win, just race to beat your own time. :)