This week we’ve been featuring our interview with Brent Bohlen, the author of BoomerWalk, a new book which presents the case for racewalking as a better aerobic exercise for baby boomers. According to Bohlen, racewalking is an activity that is kind to the body, but still as challenging a sport as you’ll find anywhere.
Previously, we asked Brent to explain why racewalking is better for boomers, and whether it’s difficult to find a natural rhythm for the activity (see Walk, Don’t Run – And Still Get a Great Workout). Now, we continue our questions about whether racewalking can make you feel like running does:
One of the appeals of running is the “runners’ high” you attain while doing it. Is it possible to achieve a similar euphoric feeling while racewalking?
If you get a euphoria from running, there is no reason why you can’t get it from racewalking. You won’t get it when you first start out because you need to go a little slower at first to pick up the technique. Once you have a feel for the technique you can pick up the pace. That’s when you’ll realize how aerobic racewalking is. Up to a pace of about 13 minutes or 14 minutes per mile walking is more efficient than running.
As you go faster than that, running becomes much more efficient. There is an online calculator that compares running and racewalking. Here is an example: Last year at the age of 59 I racewalked a half marathon (13.1 miles) at a pace of 10 minutes and 44 seconds per mile. That is the equivalent of someone my age running the half marathon at a pace of 7 minutes and 53 seconds per mile. Many of the racewalkers in our club have had the experience of passing runners and joggers in a road race. That’s really a good feeling for us because we know how much harder we are working to accomplish that. By the way, the world’s fastest have racewalked one mile in under 5 minutes and 30 seconds and the record for the 50K (31 mile) racewalk is at a pace of less than 7 minutes per mile!
Can you give us boomers some advice on how best to get started in racewalking?
Of course, I’d like to think that buying a copy of BoomerWalk is the best way to get started. I believe it is helpful because it explains why racewalking is good for baby boomers, it has profiles of racewalkers from their 50s to their 90s to serve as inspiration and encouragement, and it describes the basics of the racewalking technique in words and pictures to get you off on the right foot.
But I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say the very best way to get started is to get some training in the technique from experienced racewalkers. There are racewalking clubs in many urban areas around the country. Probably the most complete listing is on www.eracewalk.com. Club members will be happy to teach you the technique and guide your development. Also, Jeff Salvage and Olympian Tim Seaman give weekend clinics around the country, as does Dave McGovern. Their Web sites can be found through links from my Web site at www.boomerwalk.com.
You can learn on your own, though. I did it. I’d like for you to avoid some of my mistakes. They say it takes 10,000 repetitions for the muscle memory to internalize a physical action. My muscle memory learned some bad habits, and it’s been difficult breaking some of them. If you don’t have access to an experienced racewalker to be trained, first read about the technique and watch some videos online of racewalkers so you know what the technique is supposed to look like. Then, if you can get a friend to take up racewalking with you, that’s great because you can watch each other and see how close you each look to the ideal. Whether or not you have a walking partner, every week or two early in your training have someone take pictures of you from the side as you racewalk by. Digital cameras make this reasonable because you can take lots and lots of pictures without having to pay to develop them. You’ll need to take lots of pictures because you want to find some that capture the exact moment when your heel strikes the ground in front of your body so you can evaluate your posture and the positions of various parts of your body at that point in time.
The most important thing, however, is to just get started. Even if your technique isn’t great, it’s a lot better than sitting on the couch!
We want to thank Brent for taking the time to answer our questions about racewalking. If he’s piqued your interest in the sport, the book is available on Amazon. But Brent is also offering a special deal on BoomerWalk for bohemian boomer readers: For $15, he’ll send you an autographed copy and include shipping. Send a check for $15 to Brent Bohlen, 3015 Mill Bank Lane, Springfield, IL, 62704.