April 29, 2009

What is race walking? Discover the answer - and find out how to improve your aerobic fitness and burn calories with a low risk of sports injuries.

Named a women's Olympic sport in 1992, race walking differs from running and powerwalking with its two tricky technique rules. The first: You must be in contact with the ground at all times. This means that only when the front foot's heel touches down can the back foot's toe lift off.

Secondly, the knee of the supporting leg must remain straight from the time it hits the ground until it passes under the torso. The former keeps your body from lifting off the ground, as it would while running; the latter keeps the body from getting into bent-knee running stance.

Why race walk? You'll improve your aerobic fitness levels.

1. You'll get more of an aerobic workout with race walking than with standard walking, because you vigorously push your arms, low and close to your swiveling hips, while making small, quick strides.

2. Spending just 30 minutes race walking at speeds of at least 5 mph, a 145-pound woman can burn about 220 calories - more than she would walking or even jogging at the same pace shows a Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness study. What's more, without the pavement pounding inherent in running, race walking puts less pressure on your knees and hip joints.

To avoid sports injuries, get training before boosting your pace.

Focus on nailing the technique before upping the speed so you can avoid injuries. Don't rush to push the pace too soon to prevent pulling your hamstrings and other leg muscles. Once you've covered a lot of distance and built muscle then you can go faster.

Joining a club can help you structure your training and fine-tune your moves under the guidance of experienced striders. Go to Racewalk.com to find a walking club near you.

Gear up for your aerobic fitness!

Finding the right shoes is an essential part of avoiding sports injuries and increasing speed. Before buying race-walking shoes, know what type of arch you have - high, neutral or flat. This determines how much cushioning you'll need. Because race walking involves forward motion, the shoe should support the longitudinal arch which runs along the inside of the foot from toes to heel.

Look for a racing flat, a thinner-soled running shoe designed for racing, or a run-walk shoe. The shoe should also be lightweight, so it won't weigh you down, with flexible soles that allow your foot to roll through each stride without impediment.