Olympic Sports You Should Try: Race Walking

It may look funny, but race walking is as good a lifelong workout as you can get

by Matthew Solan • Next Avenue
women walking image
Photograph: Shutterstock.com

This is the third article in a five-part series from writer Matthew Solan on Summer Olympic sports that fiftysomething readers may want to take up to boost their fitness.

Okay, we'll admit it: Race walking looks funny. You try to go as fast as you can — without actually going as fast as you can. You madly pump your arms, swivel your hips for momentum, and take quick steps like you are about to break into a trot, though you never do.

It may be one of the quirkiest events of the Summer Games, but race walking is also one of the few Olympic-level sports that almost anyone can take up at any age. It’s great for adults who can't run like they once did, but still strive to be active and competitive.

(MORE: 4 Ways to Turn Your Walk Into a Workout)

Race walking differs from traditional running in that you have to maintain contact with the ground at all times. You must straighten your front knee when your foot touches the ground, and keep it straight until your knee passes under your body. In competitive races, judges keep a sharp eye out for fouls, and disqualifications are not unusual.
 
Race walking first appeared in the modern Olympics in 1904, on a half-mile course. Today, men compete in 20- and 50-kilometer events. Women's Olympic race walking began as a 10K event in 1992. It was increased to 20K in 2000. At the London Games, Russian and Chinese walkers will be the favorites in both the men's and women's fields. Larry Young is the only American ever to win race walking medals, claiming bronze in both 1968 and 1972.
 
Click here to learn how to start racewalking on Next Avenue

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Photo courtesy of Wallenrock/Shutterstock.com

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