If you are new to race walking, and want to get started quickly, simply do the following:
  • Go out for a walk, keeping one foot on the ground at all times, and having the knee of each leg straightened from the time its foot touches the ground until that foot passes behind your body.
Having met ALL of the requirements,
you are now a bona fide race walker.
BUT . . . before you tell anyone about your newfound status, please answer one question.
Do you want to walk really fast--perhaps as fast as you can possibly go?
  • If your answer is "NO," then I would wonder why you want to be a race walker. You can get all the benefits of slow race walking by simply walking slow. There is no need to straighten your knees. And, if you want to enjoy the camaraderie shared by race walkers, they would love to have you join them as a volunteer. There are many easy and fun ways of being a valued member of the race walking community without ever walking fast. While many volunteers are spouses or parents of race walkers, everyone is welcome. PLEASE NOTE: If you are not interested in speed but are interested in walking very long distances (e.g., half marathons, marathons, or longer), the basic race walking technique shown below can be very helpful to you. That technique (modified to use only relatively straight knees) can help you walk long distances more efficiently and, perhaps, with fewer injuries.
  • If your answer is a qualified or enthusiastic "YES," then I suggest you read the rest of this page, and practice the basic techniques shown below as you begin to figure out how best to proceed. If you have a race walking club in your area, get in touch with them about your options: getting some advice or feedback from a club member, taking a class, watching a race walk, or participating in a race walk (they will love having you join in no matter how good or bad your technique might be). If there are no club activities in your area (or even if there are), buy one or more books-videos-DVDs, attend a clinic by a "traveling" instructor", and/or join one of the race walking support groups on the Internet--AND introduce yourself to the group. Because you obviously surf the Internet, go to YouTube, enter "race walking" in the search box at the top of the page, and view a variety of race walking videos (along with those of a few "comedians"). My Other Resources page offers access to a large number of race walking resources. Use them! Finally, if you are really serious, begin to study my materials on Intermediate Techniques and Advanced Techniques. You can do a lot on your own while you are looking for other resources. Good luck and great walking.
There are certain fundamental technical elements new race walkers should try to master. Collectively and properly executed, these technical elements will allow most people to walk fast and legal. My friend, Icabod, is demonstrating in slow motion one technique that is legal, fundamentally sound, and reflects basic technical elements commonly taught by race walking coaches and instructors. Each element is described briefly below and then in more detail on other pages. When you are ready to know more about each element, use the menu at left.
posture: stand tall but not rigid; stand straight; do not lean back or bend forward at the hips
head: hold your head up; don't bury your chin in your chest; use your eyes to look down at the road
shoulders: keep them relaxed and down especially when going fast; avoid up and down rotation
arms: bend elbows about 85°; let relaxed fists arc from waistband to about sternum height
hips: rotate moderately about spine; tilt pelvis to minimize swayback
knees: straighten knees just before heel contact; don't bend again until behind the body
feet: hold toes up on/after heel contact; roll over feet; toe off; on return to front, let foot skim ground
step length: keep step short in front of your body, and longer behind; walk a narrow beam--plant feet almost directly in front of one another
step rate: increase speed initially by using a quicker step rate, lengthen step (behind the body) later
If you are ready for more information at the beginner level, check out the Race Walking 101 tutorial. This tutorial, in one form or another, has been one of the most popular features on my race walking Web sites for over ten years.
If and when you want to do more than just keep up with the slower race walkers, you need to use the menu at left to begin studying the other pages in this section. At that time, I would urge you to try to find other race walkers, instructors, clinic/camp presenters, or coaches to help you learn how to be all you can be as a race walker. You can do it all on your own, but it is much more difficult to follow that route. See the Other Resources page for help in finding other resources in your geographic area. If you do nothing else, locate a race walking race that you can attend and just watch all the people who show up (racers, volunteers, and spectators). But, be careful, fast and/or far walking can be quite contageous.
Good luck in your race walking endeavors. I hope to see you at a race someday.
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