Fitness: Speedwalking for Fitness

Dick Moss, Editor, PE

It has often been said that walking is the ideal exercise. It's a relaxing, natural activity that is low-impact and requires no special equipment. However, students might prefer a faster, higher-energy exercise that still possesses the same qualities—speed walking! (Otherwise known as race walking).

In teaching speed walking, one of the keys is the pushoff.

The Pushoff
The pushoff is the phase of each stride in which the toe leaves the ground as the leg pushes backward. Unlike runners, the walker cannot rely on elastic energy to provide propulsion (“spring” from knees and ankles when the feet make contact with the ground). As a result, the pushoff is vital in providing forward propulsion.

Good Pushoff Technique: Leg Extended Behind and Pushing Off With Toes
Good Pushoff Technique: Leg Extended Behind and Pushing Off With Toes

Good Pushoff Technique
While keeping their heels on the ground as long as possible, be sure your students push fully backward on each stride—if they are doing so, the back leg will appear fully extended behind the walker.

As the leg moves backward and the heel can no longer stay in touch with the ground, your students should roll forward on the foot and push off hard with the toes and balls of the feet. They may feel their butt muscles contracting during this final push-off. As they push off, your students should feel themselves being propelled forward.

Pushoff Drill
Pushoff Drill

Pushoff Drill
To help your students experience the feeling of a good pushoff, have them face a wall, hands on the wall, the front leg forward and bent, and the other leg back and bent.

Instruct them to lift the heel of the rear leg and, keeping that leg straight, use the ball and toes of the back foot to push against the wall. They should feel the force they generate with their back foot as they push off—that's the same feeling they should have when they push off during speed walking.

Hill Drill
You can also give students the feeling for a good pushoff by having them walk uphill. Uphill walking forces walkers to emphasize a good extended pushoff.

1. Nina Barough, Walking for Fitness, Dk Publishing, 2011.
2. Ruth Iknoian, Walking Fast, Human Kinetics Publishers, 1998.

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© 2011, Physical Education,

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