Fitness Walking (AKA Power Walking)
Is walking a good way to lose weight? In short, yes. It is also a great way to burn body fat. Sports specialists define walking as a near-ideal physical output. Power walking can be done with minimal gear, so it can be a great way to start exercising and getting some fresh air while getting into a good podcast, album or conversation with a fellow power strider.
Fitness-orientated walking for beginners need not come with a big price tag for equipment, you can stick on any old pair of trainers to begin with. But, once you start putting the hours in, you might want to invest in footwear and clothing designed specifically for fitness walking.
Similarly, clothing-wise, once you begin power walking with more regularity, and especially if you start racking up your miles, you should begin to fine-tune your outfit. Clothing designed specifically for fitness walking will add comfort and functionality to your workouts, whether you are power walking alone, with a friend, or in a fitness group.
When exercising outside for a prolonged period of time, it is always sensible to be protected against the sun, make sure you put on sun cream half-hour before you leave and take a pair of sunglasses with you if it is glaring.
#2 Nice to have
Fitness walking shoes are specifically designed to facilitate the foot motion involved in power walking, which begins in the heel and transitions onto the ball of the foot, before the propulsion of the foot into the air while the adjacent foot takes another step.
Fitness walking shoes have a particular design to facilitate this 3-stage motion involved in power walking: less cushioning than running, support and stability, flexibility, breathability, reinforcement, and a grip zone.
Clothing-wise, your first port of call is sweat-wicking socks — avoid cotton. What we would also recommend investing in is a pair of running boxers or briefs, and a running bra for women. While not as intense as running or sprinting, power walking involves brisk movement of the limbs which can result in chafing, especially when you start to sweat.
For your outfit, it’s going to depend on the time of year, but generally, you are going to want a lightweight, flexible underlayer, that allows moisture wicking and a full range of movement of the limbs.
Over the underlayer, depending on the weather, you will want to add an insulative later if its cold and a waterproof layer if it's hot.
The key in your power walking outfit is support, flexibility, and breathability, which are all covered in gear designed specifically for fitness walking.
Once you’re putting serious miles in and you are kitted out for the job, you are going to want to start looking at extras to enhance your walks.
Pedometers can track your distance and give you something to work on for next time.
Fitness watches can add many more facets to the tracking facility of a pedometer. You can track your walk via GPS, see your heart rate and get an estimate of how many calories you burned.
Lastly, a lightweight backpack containing a bottle of water and an energy or protein bar will fuel through tougher walks. You might even want to stick in a power bank for your phone — who wants to run out of juice when they’ve styled a killer soundtrack to drive them through their power gliding gusto?
#4 Getting Competitive - race walking
When you are taking walking to a competitive level, you are going to need to be kitted out correctly. The long-distance, competitive nature of race walking means your shoes and outfit should really be sport-specific, to ensure comfort and a potential edge on your opponents.
Footwear is the most important item in a racewalker’s kit. Race walking shoes have a lower heel to avoid your foot hitting the ground before your heel.
Clothing-wise, it’s a similar deal to fitness walking. But, when you are taking things to the competitive level, moisture-wicking breathability and flexibility for the range of movement of your limbs become a must.
This is also where you want to consider the speed at which you can hydrate, without fumbling around in a backpack. Try a hydration bag, such as those in the Kaljeni range, which offer 5 and 10-liter, waistcoat-style bags. These hydration-harnesses can be filled with water, which is drinkable through a connected straw. Some models also have storage for extra bottles, energy drinks, protein bars and even for collapsible poles, for the Nordic walkers among you (although collapsible poles aren’t strictly Nordic).
#5 Full body - Nordic walking
This style of walking brings in walking poles to transform your walking routine into a full-body exercise. While the use of poles to aid balance has been rife with hikers, trekkers, and skiers for centuries, Nordic walking brings the full body aspect of pole-assisted walking to fitness walkers. It can also be a competitive sport, in which case the correct gear and hydration (before, during and after racing) is essential.
Regarding footwear, if you are using your poles to add an upper body workout to your walking, then your fitness walking gear will suffice. If you are taking your Nordic walking into the wilderness, you might want to look at hiking gear, particularly waterproof walking boots.
Clothing-wise, we advise the same, if you are taking your Nordic walks in the countryside, then on top of your breathable underlayer, ensure you have a warm insulation layer, and a final waterproof and windproof later. This needs to be the case on top and bottom — no excuses!
You will also want to double up on water, food and emergency shelter (a bivvy bag) if you are heading into the wild. That powerbank will be doubly useful here too, so you can show off your new Bear Grylls look to all your Instagram followers.
Headlamps and torches come in handy too, in case you end up out after dark.
Ultimately, to turn your walks Nordic you are going to need a set of poles. While Nordic walking poles are traditionally fixed, many if not the majority of Nordic walkers opt for adjustable poles due to their flexibility to the user's requirements, alongside their storability. That said, fixed Nordic poles will provide less vibration during your walks.
Any lightweight walking poles are going to do the job here, whether that is from the Forclaz, Newfeel, or Quechua range, and they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg, especially for beginners.
Whether you are considering power walking, race walking or Nordic walking, there is no time like the present. Get up, get out, and get those feet moving.