I’ve got the power

Walking sign

Five years ago I decided I wanted to run a marathon, you know, tick it off the bucket list. So I found a plan for beginners and I started training. I trained hard for 14 weeks then two weeks before the marathon something went pop in my knee and I ended up in a knee brace with no chance of running to the end of the garden path let alone 26.2 miles. I mopped for a while then I saw an advert for the Moonwalk. It was still 26.2 miles but instead of running I would be able to walk it. So I signed up and started training. The distances covered were the same, the times I took were longer, but I was still getting out there and exercising. And several months later I had completed my first marathon.

So what is the difference between running and walking? Well firstly walking is lower impact, you always have one foot in contact with the floor, which means it is easier on your joints. Speed can be a difference, although once you work on your technique you may find you are out pacing runners (always worth it for the look on their face). The average speed for walking is 3mph (20 minute mile pace); this is the pace you would bimble into town at. Power walking takes it up a notch to nearer 5mph (12 minute mile). I tend to train between 4.4-4.75mph, with a race pace of nearer the 5mph mark. Race walkers, those people with the hypnotic hips and impossibly bendy legs walk at 9mph plus, but this takes serious training and learning the technique.

There are also several similarities between walking and running. They both:

  • condition the same leg muscles
  • build bone density
  • build muscular endurance
  • strengthen ligaments and tendons
  • provide cardiovascular benefits.

So how do you decide which one is for you? Well this is entirely up to you but I prefer power walking for many reasons:

  • My knees prefer it.
  • It is more social – many of your friends will believe that they are too unfit to run, but suggest going for a walk and they’ll be squeezing into their lycra and lacing up their laces. I trained for my second Moonwalk with my mum and we shared some great experiences together.
  • I can take in more of my surroundings – this is particularly great when I’m doing events in new cities.
  • I can enter a wider variety of races (walking and running events).
  • It is a great stress buster – concentrating on how your body feels and your technique means there’s no room for any other crap in you head.
  • If you’re big ‘up top’, as I am, there’s definitely less bouncing going on.

But, even though power walking is lower impact (and can be slower), it shouldn’t be thought of as an easy option. You will still ache after long distances, you will get sweaty and red-faced and out of breath. It may be that you start walking to build your fitness before moving onto running (several beginner running plans mix walking and running). Or it may be that like me you stick with power walking, building your distances and working on your speed and technique. Whichever you decide, power walking will help you achieve goals that will improve your fitness, health and confidence.

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