Power walking is often overlooked but can be a great workout whether you’re just beginning your fitness journey, or a seasoned marathon runner.
It provides a very low-impact cardio workout where you can end up covering many miles!
Isn’t power walking the same as I normally do, but faster?
Many people who have never tried it before might think so. In reality, there’s a bit more to it than your average quick stroll.
This Q&A guide will answer all your questions (and more) so you can start right away.
We’re going to get into:
- What is power walking?
- The benefits of power walking
- How to power walk – tips for power walking technique
- Typical power walking speeds!
Let’s jump in!
What Is Power Walking?
Power walking can technically include anything faster than your average walking speed but lower than a jog. It requires certain techniques to ensure that your form is correct and you’re brought up to a proper aerobic level.
Power walking can be either a great introduction to running or a solid exercise all on its own. Some people even walk full marathons!
Just because “walking” is in the name doesn’t mean it’s less effective than a jog. While many opt to skip straight to running, they don’t realize they can get a significant workout before ever breaking into a run.
With this type of exercise, there’s a lot of hip movement involved, and this means you’re directly working your waistline. Arm movement is also key, giving you added workout bonus points.
There are a whole host of reasons why power walking just might be the workout for you.
The Rules of Power Walking Technique
When it comes to competitive power walking, there are several rules that define power walking and differentiate it from running. From the Speed Walking International Website, the technique must include:
- The walker must walk straight.
- The walker must walk doing an alternating movement of feet and arms.
- The walker must walk with one foot in permanent contact with the ground.
- The leading leg must be bent.
- Each advancing foot strike must be heel to toe at all times.
- The walker can not walk doing an exaggerated swivel to the hip.
The 3rd rule of “one foot in permanent contact with the ground” is the primary rule that prevents a power walker from bursting into a jog, where both feet end up off the ground momentarily.
What Are the Benefits of Power Walking?
- It’s low-impact. Power walking is a great choice for those who are new to exercise or need something easy on the joints.
- You can burn as many calories walking as you can jogging if you do it right. Perfect your power walking technique, and you’ll be able to get into top shape.
- There’s much less potential for injury than running. So if you’re recovering from an injury, this is the exercise for you.
- It requires no equipment. It’s one of the most accessible workouts out there. No need for fancy kettlebells or weight machines here. All you need is a good pair of shoes and the right know-how.
- It significantly reduces your risk of cardiac issues. According to this study, there is a strong correlation between regular walking and lowered cardiovascular risk.
- It keeps your mind sharp. Studies show power walking on a regular basis boosts your overall cognitive function, including your reaction time. This study also recommends combining it with Tai Chi for optimum mental health benefits.
- You get just as many benefits as with other forms of exercise. All of the great things you’ve heard about keeping a normal workout routine, like more quality sleep, lower stress, better mood, increased energy – those are all yours with power walking without putting too much strain on the body.
How To Power Walk – How Do I Get Started?
I’ve been walking all my life, you say. Obviously, I know how to do it.
But knowing how to power walk is a whole different thing.
With this activity, you are consciously moving your muscles in ways you wouldn’t naturally move them. You will need to pay special attention to proper power walking technique, such as:
- Arm swing. You can burn 5-10% more calories with good motion here. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and make relaxed fists. Keep those elbows in close to your sides. When you move your arms, make sure they’re forward and not in a diagonal motion, swinging only to your breastbone but no higher. You can even add weights later if you want to up the intensity.
- Good posture, as with any exercise, will allow you to use the right muscles as you go. Focus on standing tall, with your head up and shoulders back. Pull your abs in tight and raise your chest.
- Hip rotation matters. Keep them relaxed and move them forward rather than to the side.
- Your legs and feet will be doing most of the work. Your feet should be stepping from heel to toe in one fluid movement. Roll all the way through. Don’t aim for long strides; keep them short and controlled.
How Can I Make the Most Out of My Power Walking Session?
Don’t start at full speed right away. Go at an easy pace, just getting your body used to moving again from a resting state. Do this for about five minutes.
It’s important not to skip this! As with any workout, make sure you’re limbered up before doing anything strenuous. Focus on the calves and feet, pointing and flexing until your muscles feel loosened and you’re ready to go.
Track your distance and adjust.
If you’ve ever heard of the Ten Percent Rule, it applies well here. The Ten Percent Rule states that when you need to increase your exercise, only turn it up by ten percent from the previous week. So with power walking, don’t double the miles you walk in a day in one go, or it could lead to burnout.
It can be easy to accidentally slip back into a moderate pace while in the park or by a lake. Stay in the speed mindset by introducing intervals to your routine. If you’re outside for 30 minutes, try pushing your speed to the fastest you can go for 30 seconds.
Just make sure you don’t cross over into jogging. Maintain your form so that your impact stays low. Over time, you can add 10-20 more seconds, until your intervals last for a few minutes each. Recover by doing these every other workout.
How Fast Should I Be Power Walking?
Finding the right power walking speed is going to depend a lot on your fitness level, as well as how long you’ve been doing it.
At first, start gradually. According to the British Heart Foundation, the average adult walks at 3-4 miles per hour, depending on age and fitness level.
Begin at a comfortable 3 miles per hour and see how you feel. If that works well, up your pace to 4. This brings you to a 15-minute mile, already burning the same amount of calories as a slow jogger. You’ll have torched around 200 calories every 30 minutes.
When you’re ready to go to full power walk mode, aim for 5 miles per hour, or a 12-minute mile. Remember, longer strides aren’t the goal here. Keep them short, but walk more quickly. You will end up with a much more effective session.
How Do I Keep From Getting Hurt While Power Walking?
Even with something as low impact as this, accidents still happen. Muscle strain and rolled ankles are still very possible if you’re not paying attention! Keep note of these injury prevention tips:
Don’t push yourself too hard.
One of the most common injuries with power walking is shin splints, where the tendons, muscles, and bone tissue become inflamed. Keep your muscles from getting too fatigued by setting small-increase goals for yourself, then head home. Forcing yourself to go too far or too long will only require more recovery time later.
Avoid power walking when sick below the neck.
For above the neck symptoms such as runny nose or sneezing, power walking can actually be beneficial. For the more serious symptoms such as body aches or swollen glands, skip your walk for another day.
Make sure you are wearing bright clothes or reflectors so that oncoming traffic from cars or cyclists can see you.
Wear the right gear.
Decent shoes that accommodate these new movements will save you both blisters and frustration. As power walking is more intense than regular walking, wear the right running shoes for the best flex and durability.
Is Race Walking Really a Thing?
It is! It may be under the radar, but competitive power walking, or race walking, has been an Olympic sport since 1906. The distances range from 20km to 50km.
While it may sound more laid-back than traditional marathon running, watching the race for yourself will quickly prove otherwise. Race walkers can still reach astonishing speeds—many can walk a mile in less than 6 minutes. A British Olympian named Tom Bosworth broke a world record in 2017 when he race-walked 1 mile in just 5 minutes and 31 seconds.
Race walking is arguably no less physically taxing than running. Competitions have a strict set of rules to keep the racer’s movements within the bounds of “walking.” One example: the front leg must be straight, with the knee unbent, from when it first hits the ground. They must also stay in contact with the ground at all times.
Can I Walk a Marathon?
Marathons aren’t just for runners. You can walk a full marathon if you wish, as long as you finish by the cut-off time. No race disqualifies you for doing so; many marathons have made adjustments specifically to make this possible.
Race walkers will need to stay ahead of the sweeper, the person who follows behind the participants. This person pulls them out of the race if they are going to finish outside the required time. If you don’t see the sweeper, you’re golden.
If you decide to take your power walking to the next level, we can help.
No matter how you approach it, having a good plan in place is the best way to ensure you’re ready for race day.
Check out our free library of training plans to get you in ideal racing shape.