Race Walking Is the Ultimate Way to Shake Up Your Advanced Walking Routine

When you can walk more than 10 miles a day for fitness, you’re an advanced walker. So where can you go from here? How can you shake up your walking routine and maybe even consider competitive walking for cash and glory? If regular walking seems too tame for you, race walking is the next step.

Often misunderstood and sometimes derided, race walking is in fact a serious sport, the ultimate in walking. Since 1904, race walking has been an Olympic sport, and Olympic race walking events cover some of the longest distances of any Olympic events, up to 20 kilometers.

Two Simple Rules Govern Race Walking

So what is race walking anyway? And why not just run? When non-racewalkers watch a race walking event, many scratch their heads. But there are only two basic rules that govern this world-class sport, and only human judges can determine if the rules are being followed.

The first rule of race walking is that at least one foot must be in contact with the ground at all times. This rule defines walking as opposed to running. The major catch is that the human eye is the only judge. You can easily find photos of race walkers clearly losing contact with the ground, but if that loss of contact is not perceptible to the human eye, no fault has occurred.

The second rule of race walking is that the leg moving forward with each stride must remain straight from contact with the ground until the leg is in a vertical position. In other words, you can’t bend your front knee until it is directly below the pelvis. This rule distinguishes race walking from normal walking and is what causes the funny looking stride of race walkers.

Race walking competitions usually take place on a stadium track so trained judges can monitor the race walker to make sure they stay within the rules. If a race walker is determined to lose contact with the ground, he or she is given a warning. After 3 warnings, the walker is disqualified. Judges must rely only on their eyes and use no other tools—such as photographs or digital camera—to determine if walkers are breaking the rules. In short, race walking is a matter of speed and good technique.

To avoid increasing their chances of losing contact with the ground, race walkers have developed distinctive arm and hip motions, as well as shortened strides. The walkers try to keep their shoulders low to the ground and their arms close to their hips. The seemingly exaggerated hip swivel of race walkers is merely a technique that helps them achieve more speed while not perceptibly losing contact with the ground.

Race Walking Takes Practice and Training

Race walking has many unique techniques that are hard to master at first, so trying to learn these refined walking techniques on your own is a tall order. Trying to imitate a race walker without knowing what you’re doing will not only make you look very awkward, but could also cause you to injure yourself.

If you want to learn race walking, look for professionals in your area who are willing to teach you. Many cities have race walking clubs and clinics to help advanced walkers take up this intense and highly competitive sport.