10 Most-Common Mistakes in a Distance Walking Event
Walking a 5K (3.1 miles) or longer distance is a noble endeavor but it can be a greater challenge than most people realize. There are common mistakes that people make that can make their event less than pleasurable, or even cause pain and injury.
Here are the 10 most-common mistakes and how to avoid making them.
Disregarding walking technique: Most people think walking does not cause injury and that you can just go out walking as you always do. Walking is a fitness activity that deserves the same kind of training as any other sport. Walking a long distance can cause pain and injury that can keep you from being active after the event. We all walked beautifully as children, but few of us have the same healthy, flexible bodies we had when we were young, and years of poor movement patterns and lifestyle habits have changed our bodies to where our walking technique is no longer optimal for long distances.
The Chi Walking technique will improve your biomechanics, making any distance event easier and more enjoyable. It will also enable you to experience more benefits of distance walking because you’ll be able to walk consistently and properly, without taking “recovery” breaks or being sidelined by pain or injury.
Under-training: Although walking is recognized for being a great fitness program, the need for training for distance walking events is not understood. Walking for an hour or more can be a strain on the body if you have not walked regularly and trained for your event. The longer the walking distance, the more training you need.
Walking is the perfect health and fitness program, but you need to walk consistently during the week, including one long walk, in order to sufficiently train for an event. Walking a minimum of 45 minutes, 5 days per week, plus one weekly walk of 60+ minutes will condition you sufficiently for a 5K distance walking event. For longer events like a half/full marathon or multiple-day walk, you should walk a minimum of 60 minutes five days per week, including one weekly long walk, starting at 60+ minutes, incrementally increasing to two-four hours, depending on the event you’re training for. Make sure that you’re comfortable walking for extended periods of time before your event.
Over-striding: Almost everyone walks with too long a stride. Shortening your stride protects your hips, knees, Achilles tendon and helps prevent plantar fasciitis. In Chi Walking you learn to walk with a shorter, quicker stride and a slight forward lean using the strength of your core muscles.
Not using your arms: When your arms are left hanging at your side, you are losing a great deal of energy and momentum. Hold your arms at a 90-degree angle and make sure they swing to the rear and do not cross your front centerline. Always balance the swing of your legs with a brisk arm swing.
Leaning back with your upper body: Most people lean slightly back with their upper body as they walk forward (leading with their hips). A slight forward emphasis with your head and shoulders will help you engage your core muscles and will make distance walking much easier.
Wearing new shoes: It is so tempting to walk an event with a brand new pair of shoes, but it can cause blisters and other foot problems. The best shoes for walking distance are neither too old nor too new. Old walking shoes lack shock absorption and are very hard on the legs and back. Walk in new walking shoes for at least 5 hours, over different walks, before you wear them in a distance walking event of 5K or more.
Improper nutrition: Eating nutrient-poor food is a very common mistake, not only for distance walking events, but in everyday life. When walking a long distance event, feed your body lots of nutrient-rich foods: lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein. Foods with white flour, corn syrup and sugar actually deplete your system of the energy you need to feel good during and after your event.
Assuming pain or injury means you have to stop walking: Whether during an event or during your training, it is important to stop walking if you feel the kind of pain that can lead to injury. However, before you give up, it is important to realize that almost all pain is caused by improper walking technique or walking beyond your conditioning level. You can avoid pain by learning good walking technique. Then, if you feel pain while training, you can adjust your technique to reduce the pain.
Dehydration: If you want to enjoy your event, and not get muscle cramps, headaches, lightheaded or dizzy, you have to keep hydrated and have enough electrolytes in your system to prevent dehydration. We suggest drinking 2-4oz. of water every 15 minutes and taking an electrolyte replacement capsule every hour.
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