“Power walking is like running, only slower and you look weirder!”

Power Walking - Your Getting Started Guide

Power Walking – What is it?

Yup!  The 80s is giving us back power walking!  Remember the hilarious outfits and crazy arm movements of the eager and middle-aged speeding down the sidewalk?  Watch out folks, power walking is making a come back! Today we provide you a quick and easy getting started guide to launch you into better fitness!

As a runner, a runner that has completed an entire range of race distances, I am not shy to admit that I love power walking!  But what exactly is it anyway?  Javonne Blackley from Live Strong, defines it as follows:

” Power walking is a low-impact way to improve cardiovascular endurance and total body strength. Some of the benefits of power walking are that it helps tone and strengthen your muscles, improves physical health and burns the same amount of calories as jogging.”

With some preparation and technique, power walking is a great addition to a runners workout regime, or anyone starting a successful exercise program.  For those that do not run year round, power walking is a great way to stay in shape.  It is also a very effective cross-training technique as you recover from injury or burnout.

Even Olympians Power (Race) Walk

Power walking has morphed into an official Olympic event called “race walking”.  Evan Dunfee, a Canadian who competed in the 2016 Olympics, power walked the 2017 BMO Vancouver Marathon.  He completed the race in under four hours (3:10:34).

Race walking it is quite bizarre to watch.  It looks something like a rapid wide-gated goose waddle.  Evan took 4th at the 2016 Olympic 50k race walk.  He used the BMO Vancouver Marathon as part of his preparing for the Pan American Race Walking Cup, where he placed 8th.

Zero Injury and Mental Health Benefits

Runners spend a great deal of time preventing and treating injury.  An intense walking workout routine, technically speaking, has little to no injury risk.  However, similar to running, I have heard anecdotal reports of upper back pain after extremely long walking workouts.  As we continue to walk, or run, mile after mile, we tend to slouch forward, a sign of abdominal and lower back fatigue.  Runners and long distance walkers both should work on a solid core to prevent the slouch effect.

Walking, whether short intensive sessions, or long duration, has a positive effect on perceived levels of stress and mood.  Miller and Krizan, in their peer-reviewed analysis, “Walking Facilitates Positive Affect,” describe a trend that,

“…incidental ambulation systematically promotes positive affect regardless of the focus on such movement, and that it can override the effects of other emotionally relevant events such as boredom and dread. The findings hold key implications for understanding the role of movement in shaping affect as well as for clarifying the embodied nature of emotion.”

Any athletic endeavour that does not cause injury, and improves mood, is sustainable, and therefore, accessible to everyone.  It is important that we find ways to stay in motion throughout the day.  Adding focused walking sessions, is a brilliant way to incorporate movement as part of your transformational lifestyle shift.

The Duration and Fat Burn Benefit 

Walking requires more time compared to running, for the same calorie burn.  In a 5k run that takes me 30 minutes, I typically burn about 500 calories.  On courses with more hills, and if I run at tempo pace, the calorie burn ticks up significantly.  Walking 5k takes me about 55 minutes, with approximately the same burn.  Walking simply takes longer but has a similar calorie outcome.

Another important metric is fat burn efficiency.  According to the theory, in order to measure fat burn potential, you have to record heart rate broken down in to training zones.  Most professional level training wearables have this capability.  The Apple Watch records heart rate very accurately.  Once you know your heart rate, all you have to do is calculate your “fat-burning” zone, a rage that equals between 60 and 70% of your maximum heart rate (moderate intensity).  If your wearable does not calculate this for you, Live Strong has an online calculator.

Remember that fat-burning zone is only a theory.  There is no conclusive data showing that it exists, especially with the wide range of variables that affect the calculation (age, metabolic rate, etc.).  Marc Perry, Founder and CEO of Built Lean, debunks the cardio zone myth, stating that total calorie burn is the only metric you should pay attention to.

Thus, it is clear that walking requires longer duration to get the same calorie output compared to running.  Furthermore, if fat-burning zone theory is true, walking is actually more efficient at burning fat than running, since your heart rate hovers in the moderate heart rate zone throughout the duration of your effort.  But again, there is no clear data pointing to this added efficiency, let alone replicated data and meta-analysis.

Power Walking Tips – Getting Started Guide

One approach to power walking is to simply get your but moving!  Get out there, your body is mean to move!  However, it is important to consider a few techniques that will assure enjoyment of the workout.  Following are bits of advice to get you started:

  1. Pay attention to posture:  Stand tall and walk naturally.  Avoid the tendency to lower your head and lean too far forward.
  2. Look ahead:  Pick a target in front of you.  Avoid staring at the ground.
  3. Swing your arms:  Power walk with your arms like you do when you run – hold each arm with a 90 degree bend at the elbow, and avoid crossing them in from of your chest.  Swing them naturally with your stride. Avoid exaggerated movement as this puts strain on your upper thoracic and cervical spine.
  4. Forget about the people around you.  Power walking feels a bit awkward at first.  Never mind the awkwardness and the funny looks you might get.  Focus on your form and taking in the beautiful day.
  5. Hydrate:  Bring water and sip as you go.  Waiting until you are thirsty to drink is often too late.

Recommended Gear

It goes without mention that having proper foot gear is a must.  If you are a runner, there  is nothing wrong with using your running shoes.  This is particularly important if you had a gate analysis and bought a line of shoes accordingly.  Your power-walking gate and your running gate are very much the same.

Other than having the right foot wear, dress for the weather.  Avoid over dressing, and use athletic fabrics that are designed to pull sweat away from your body.  Avoid cotton!

The Yeti Challenge

I am a runner, and I power walk.  I have found that focusing on moving my body all day helps round off my experience as a runner, and prevents injury.

We hope that this nifty getting started guide has sparked your interest in staying active through walking.  The Svelte Yeti Health and Fitness team challenges you to 30 days of power walking.  Start by getting in 10,000 steps a day.  Do a power walk for at least 30 minutes as part of your 10,000 steps. Keep track of your data and do not forget to record how you feel.  Finally, let us know how you did!  

Happy walking!

Yeti Power Walking – Your Getting Started Guide was last modified: September 7th, 2017 by Jerod Killick