We had an interesting conversation during this morning’s Ashton Court walk about how to increase your speed. It arose from the fact that I completed last Sunday’s 20km Nordic walking race in 2hrs 32 mins at an average pace of 4.9mph (7.8kmph).

As I mentioned in an earlier blog (Nordic Walking Challenge Race) the average walking pace is just over 3 miles per hour (5 kmph).  A brisk walking pace is around 4 mph (6.5 kmph). Sunday’s stats clearly show that if you use the correct Nordic walking technique you can increase – and maintain - your walking speed well beyond a brisk walking pace.  This is fabulous news for your heart and indeed the rest of your body. Nordic walking improves your total fitness.

My speed Nordic walking blog sets out the things you can do if you want to walk faster.  However, I want to re-iterate one point which came up today.  It is this: Do not take longer exaggerated strides to increase your speed.  In other words, do not over stride.

It is a common mistake for walkers who are trying to walk briskly to try and lengthen their stride in front, reaching out further with their leading foot.  This is not correct.  Not only will it feel awkward but it will jar your shins and a heel strike so far in front can actually have a breaking effect – just the opposite of what you want!  Instead concentrate in particular on these two things:

  • Rolling actively from your heel to toe and pushing off firmly with your toes (all of them, evenly, not just your big toe!)
  • Pushing back quickly but smoothly with your pole, making sure that you push down into the ground, using your triceps and utilizing those powerful mid back muscles – your ‘lats’ (latissimus dorsi for those of you who like the jargon).

Your stride length will increase automatically and naturally if you focus on the above.

One more thing.  Each of us will have our own optimum walking pace so do not worry about how fast other people are going.  This is a pace which is fast enough to improve your cardiovascular fitness but which doesn’t leave you gasping for breath. It has nothing to do with your length of stride but is more a measure of your cv fitness and stamina. As a rule of thumb, if you’re walking and talking easily you are not pushing your fitness boundaries (but you will be reaping other health benefits as well as catching up on the latest news!).  Your optimum pace will be one where you can talk - but only in short sentences – before needing to take a breath.  It is good to build this into every walk that you do.  By doing so your strength, stamina and overall fitness will increase.  You will also burn lots of calories!

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