TRAINING: Race Walking

The final thought of the day is around an interesting walking technique I picked up in Tim Ferris’ “The 4-Hour Body”, a technique used by legendary sprint coach Barry Ross for getting his sprinters to baseline fitness.

It sounds simple: Walk out for 7.5 minutes at your fastest walking pace, so fast that you want to jog and then walk back in the same time. Repeat this three times per week and each time you have to go out faster.

Ludicrous as it sounded, I wondered if it had something in common with the old pedestrian techniques of Newton and decided that it could be a good low-impact cross-training for injured runners or as a second workout of the day for those whose joints cannot cope with a recovery jog.

As I walked out, I immediately felt like a darn fool (I certainly must have looked like one) but after a few hundred metres I noticed two things: 1) my muscles were working quite hard because the movement is so inefficient and 2) I was actually race-walking! Continuing at good clip I gained a new-found respect for this strange branch of athletics.

The heart is significantly less stressed by this exercise but it works the legs very well indeed and your speed is surprising: I walked the first kilometre in 6:37 then the second in 6:47 and did a total of 2.3km in 15:22, not too bad for walking speed. I could certainly imagine adding this in as extra aerobic effort when the legs are not up for any more pounding. For instance, this would have equated to a 4:40 marathon, so you are still moving at a pace and in a mode that could become useful in ultra-marathon races or very long and tough hill runs. Because you cannot use

As an added bonus, I noted I had plenty of time to concentrate on good upper body form: good erect posture and proper arm-swing that did not move in front of my centre.

Don’t get me wrong, aerobic running will give you a much superior cardiovascular workout and if I could sustain morning jogs every day in addition to normal training, that would be the preferred choice but knowing the limitations of joints and tendons, this type of speed walking could be a valuable way of getting more time on your feet than running alone will allow.