I’ve cruised this far with my blog without actually offering readers background on what power walk is, and just as importantly, what it is not. The confusion is understandable because there have been no formal rules or guidance on having power walk competitions. Several NSGA state qualifying games have held fast walk or power walk events, and for most people the term has been loosely applied to walking at faster pace purely for exercise.
In 2016, the United States Power Walking Association (USPWA) was founded by Doug and Marianne Hamilton to provide structure and promote the sport and its exercise benefits. Concurrently there was discussion within NSGA about the rising number of race walkers (hold on, we’ll get to the difference below) who were being disqualified at National Senior Games for using improper technique as required by the Olympic sport’s stringent rules. As people age, it becomes more difficult to maintain form and even some experienced race walkers were being thrown the dreaded “red cards.”
Power Walk not only provides longtime race walkers with an alternative to continue to compete in a similar sport, it is also a great entry-level sport for novices. Like ME. The idea was so potent that the National Games Committee decided to add power walk as a 2019 medal sport in the 1500-meter and 5K distances. Because the qualifying year was at hand it was made an open sport – no qualifying necessary for the inaugural races.
It must be serving a need because registration for power walk has been steady, and with seven weeks to go before the deadline, it looks like signups will exceed expectations. That doesn’t bode well for medal hopes for little ole me, as the 65-69 age group will likely be crowded. If I snag one of those ribbons awarded out to 8th place I’ll be a happy Moon Walker.
So how do you compete in power walk? Bonnie Parrish-Kell is an athlete and self-described “Publisher and Chief Motivational Diva” for Slowpoke Divas, an online resource of health and fitness information and inspiration for women primarily over 40, out of shape or overweight to fully enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle and outdoor sports. Bonnie also serves on the USPWA board and produced a very informative and instructive video to show the difference between Race Walk, Power Walk and basic fitness walk.
If you would like to read in detail the USPWA power walking rules, here’s the page from their website.
I actually met Bonnie last summer in Boise at the cycling time trials for the Idaho Senior Games when CEO Marc Riker and I were there to recognize Personal Best athlete Dick Johnson. I enjoyed her passion and wit when we chatted near the Start/Finish line. “Wait for me, I’ll probably be the last one in,” she joked before launching on her time trial.
Moon Walker Training Update: I’m doing more fast pace walking with minimal physical issues. I’m fortunate to live in Florida where there are 19 local senior games in addition to the Florida Senior Games state event. I found three in easy driving range that come before June for competition tune-ups. In March I will enter the 1500 event at the Good Life Games (in my county), then go to the Polk Senior Games an hour away, and in April I’ll make the day trip to The Villages Senior Games.
It’s always good to have an exercise partner (my wife walks with me often) or a support group, especially if you can’t budget for a trainer. When I called the Good Life Games to sign up, organizer and 2014 Florida Senior Athlete of the Year Walt Deal invited me to join Walk With a Doc, a monthly walking group sponsored by Dr. John Norris, a heart arrythmia specialist who is also a sponsor of the local games.
Some just come out to enjoy a walk in the park and the social time together, but I tagged along with the seasoned pace walkers, all of whom are older than me. It turns out trying to keep up with those yard birds is no easy walk in the park, and it reminds me I have a long way to go before I can even dream about placing or medaling at the National Senior Games. Believe me, just to be on the track at the University of New Mexico will be an exhilarating experience.
Walk on, people. The Dude abides, but the Moon Walker strides…