After falling in love with walking during lockdown, Stylist’s digital writer Lauren Geall decided to try power walking as a way to get more out of her daily stroll. Here’s what happened next.
Like almost everyone I know, I got into walking during the pandemic. While I’d enjoyed taking my family dog Marlowe for walks before the age of lockdowns and social distancing, I learnt to appreciate it even more when getting to go outside for my daily walk became a way to break up the day and escape the monotony of working from home.
Even on the days when I didn’t fancy getting active, heading outside for a lunchtime walk became a great way to blow away the cobwebs and destress. It became another piece in my self-care tool kit – something I could rely on to boost my spirits when I was feeling out of sorts.
So, when Stylist’s fitness editor Miranda Larbi asked me whether I fancied taking part in a power walking challenge, I decided to give it a go.
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I’d never tried power walking before, but I’d read about the benefits and hoped it would be a way for me to enjoy my daily walk while also improving my fitness – something I’m keen to do as someone who’s newly into running and hoping to improve my 5k PB.
With that in mind, then, I committed to a week-long power walking challenge, during which I would power walk every day for 20 minutes. Here’s how it went.
I thought power walking would be relatively easy. I was wrong.
Not only did I find it hard to stick to a consistent pace – my mind tends to wander when I’m walking, and you really need to focus to maintain a good speed – I also found it hard to sustain the power walk for the full 20 minutes, despite the fact that I consider myself relatively fit.
It wasn’t as if I was out of breath (although I did get pretty warm) but it felt hard. It was probably more of a mental thing than anything – focusing on pushing yourself to go faster, but not too much that you break into a run, is a weird concept to wrap your head around. By the time I got home, I felt pretty worn out.
However, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my first day. It was nice for my walk to have purpose, and it felt good to push myself a little more than I would usually. Here’s to the rest of the week!
I’ve realised I made a fatal flaw yesterday – I decided to wear a pair of boots rather than a proper pair of workout trainers. As a result, my legs are absolutely killing me, and the idea of getting out isn’t exactly appealing.
With this in mind, I decide to do a little bit of reading into the correct power walking technique before I head out again. While the main difference between power walking and plain old walking is the speed at which it’s done, there is an element of technique to power walking, such as making sure you land on your heel and roll forward onto your toe and take short strides where possible.
Taking these tips into consideration, I head out for today’s power walk. While the pace of yesterday’s walk was around the 9:30/km mark, today’s is 9:06/km – a significant improvement which I put down to my newfound technique.
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The main thing which helped me improve my speed was allowing my arms to swing as I moved (another key aspect of power walking), although it is a lot colder than having my hands in my pockets. It also stopped me from scrolling on my phone or checking it every so often, which can only be a good thing, right?
All in all, I found today’s power walk a little easier, although I still struggled to keep up the pace. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.
The positive feelings I had towards power walking yesterday have been replaced with some more sour ones. Effort wise, it does feel as if it’s getting a little bit easier – I’ve learnt how to get into a rhythm with my strides so it doesn’t feel as if I’m all over the place – and I’m still enjoying the challenge of it all, but I’m also finding it hard to motivate myself to head outside in the first place.
That’s not normally something I struggle with when it comes to my normal daily walks, so overcoming that feels a bit strange.
However, the weather was nice and I did manage to get my 20 minutes in (albeit at a slightly slower pace compared to yesterday’s speed run).
I’m at home visiting my parents, so my mum decides to join me for today’s outing, which gets me over the whole motivation hurdle.
Having someone come along for the ride makes the whole experience feel a lot easier, and I find the strength to push myself to go faster at several times during the walk. Showing my mum my newfound technique also makes the experience feel a lot more enjoyable, and we have a good time parading around the neighbourhood.
Before I know it, our 20 minutes is up – and I feel good for having done it.
The final day of the challenge is here, and I’m heading to the beach for today’s power walk. The scenery adds a pep to my step, and I manage to get my 20 minutes in relatively easily despite wearing my boots again (the soft sand underfoot seems to have done the trick).
Gorgeous scenery aside, I’ve definitely found it easier to maintain my speed as the week has gone on, mainly because I’ve been able to get into the swing of things and develop my technique.
Having that baseline knowledge of what I’m doing has also made getting through 20 minutes of power walking a lot easier, as I don’t need to think so hard about what I’m doing and make sure I’m not slowing down.
Yet again, I finish the walk feeling pretty good that I’ve done it – and the breathtaking sunset which greets me at the end is an added bonus.
As much as I enjoyed challenging myself this week, I’m kind of glad my power walking adventure has come to an end.
While I expected to love power walking because I’m already so into walking in general, I found it actually got in the way of the many non-physical benefits I get from my daily walk, such as reducing my stress levels and boosting my mood.
It’s made me realise how important walking has become for my mental health – instead of being a way to workout and stay fit, walking is something I use to be mindful and sort through my thoughts.
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It’s also given me a newfound appreciation for running. After getting used to the focus power walking requires, being able to jog along without too much thought made running feel unusually easy.
Power walking is a great way to workout if you’re not ready to get into running or are looking for a form of exercise which is a bit lower impact, but as someone who enjoys running, I’d much rather keep my walking and running sessions separate.
However, I am considering adding in a few power walks alongside my daily walks when I don’t fancy a run but want to give myself a workout – I’ve got to put my newfound technique to good use somehow!
My top power walking tips
While I’m by no means an expert, I did learn quite a few lessons over the course of this challenge. Below, you’ll find three of my top tips for getting started with power walking – all of which are things I wish I’d known before I started.
When you’re trying to go fast, it’s very tempting to reach your leg out as far as you can in order to build momentum. But overstriding can increase your risk of injury – something you’ll want to avoid.
Instead, take short strides. The power you get from your back foot (as opposed to pulling yourself forward from your front one) will help you to move faster.
Treat it like a workout
Power walking isn’t just walking fast – it’s a full-body workout that requires the same level of attention and commitment as any other form of exercise. Wearing workout clothes, donning proper trainers and focusing on your technique are all important.
Your arms are more important than you think
It’s surprising just how big a difference swinging your arms makes to your overall speed and momentum. You don’t need to go wild, but simply swinging them backwards and forwards in a rhythmic fashion will help you to go faster, no matter how silly you feel.
Images: Getty/Author’s Own
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