Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Walking to the Beat

When I worked out with the Southern Cal Walkers, Donna Cunningham, one of the members, had a metronome for pacing. It did sound a little weird hearing a beeping sound as she whizzed by but she did whizz by very fast.

There is a method to this. Here is an article that explains how a beat can help you walk and run faster:

Just in case the link breaks, here is an excerpt of the article that I found particularly interesting for racewalking:

But what is the right pace for me?

This is probably the most frequent question we get at the institute. Of
course, we always tell people that it depends on their goals and their
health and fitness level. Unless you are an athlete, it is not important
how fast your feet are going as it is how fast your heart is going when
you are walking for exercise. If your goal is weight loss, we suggest a
slower pace of 3 mph which is approximately 60-70% of your Maximum Heart
Rate. This is not quite in the aerobic zone for many people. What is
important for weight loss is distance covered and time spent (which
should be 1-2 hours per day). This pace then projects out to about 120
steps per minute.

To get in your aerobic zone you want to achieve closer to 75% of your
heart rate. But you only need to go this fast for 20-30 minutes three
times a week. This requires a faster pace of closer to 140 steps per

If your goal is endurance and increased fitness and/or mile time, you
will need to get your heart pumping in the 80-90% of your Maximum Heart
Rate. This begins at 160 steps (beats) per minute. Then eventually you
increase the pace to 170 steps per minute. This pace should eventually
help you generate a 12-minute-mile pace which is a race walk pace. But
remember, this takes time. You need to develop your aerobic capacity as
well as your lean muscle mass, strength and flexibility, before you
attempt this pace and faster. Most walkers need at least a year to
develop paces of 170 spm (12 minute mile) or faster.

Interestingly, many people are exercising at different paces on
different days or time frames, using all of the above paces. This is
because they have all three goals in mind: weight loss, aerobic
conditioning, and increased endurance and speed. Combining paces in a
workout is known as Interval Training and is an excellent way to
accelerate your health and fitness conditioning, and can even speed
recovery from sports injuries.

For those of you who use the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion, you can
count your repetitions per minute to find the pace which is synchronized
to the level your physiatrist, exercise physiologist, physical
therapist, or personal trainer have determined appropriate for you.
Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist usually begin their patients at around
3 mph on a treadmill which clocks out to around 120 steps (beats) per
minute. In clocking pace for motorized treadmills, we discovered that it
takes more steps per minute in terms of pace to produce the same Target
Heart Rate, or a higher mph, because the motor is doing half of the
work. A non-motorized treadmill required less mph, or steps per minute
to produce the same Target Heart Rate because in addition to the work
load of walking, the walker had to also power the treadmill, in effect,
becoming the motor for the treadmill. In all of these cases, it was the
Heart Rate which was the most important thing to watch. The pace or
steps per minute of the walker must then be adjusted to conform to the
right Target Heart Rate. So, walking in the woods, on a motorized
treadmill, and a non-motorized treadmill, would require three different
paces or mph to produce the same Target Heart Rate. This is why pace
tapes have become increasingly valuable to produce Target Heart Rate
compliance during exercise.

Matching up beats per minute to miles per hour for walking, running and
cycling became a completely new process which involved clocking footfall
frequencies of thousands of walkers and runners. We did this by simply
counting how many steps per minute they took and then factoring it into
the time they would walk or run a mile. In testing steps per minute, we
discovered that a person can walk the entire range of tempos from 100 to
220 steps or beats per minute. Racewalking biomechanics, necessary to
produce a 12-minute-mile pace (5 mph), begins around 170 steps (beats
per minute). The following table indicates empirically tested steps per
minute for each mph for walking.


LEVEL 1: VERY INACTIVE: 80-100 steps per minute = 2 mph (30 minute mile)
LEVEL 2: LIGHTLY ACTIVE: 120 steps per minute = 3 mph (20 minute mile)
LEVEL 3: MODERATELY ACTIVE: 130 steps per minute = 3.5 mph (17-18 minute mile)
LEVEL 4: ACTIVE: 140 steps per minute = 4 mph (15 minute mile)
LEVEL 5: VERY ACTIVE: 150 steps per minute = 4.3 mph (14 minute mile)
LEVEL 6: EXCEPTIONALLY ACTIVE: 160 steps per minute = 4.6 mph (13 minute mile)
LEVEL 7: ATHLETE: 170 steps per minute = 5 mph (12 minute mile)
LEVEL 8: ATHLETE: 180 steps per minute = 5.5 mph (11 minute mile)
LEVEL 9: ATHLETE: 190 steps per minute = 6.0 mph (9-10 minute mile)

These steps per minute are the equivalent of beats per minute in music
or with a metronome. So when walking at the steps (beats) per minute the
resulting pace projected is shown in the above chart. Remember your
walking pace is not a guarantee, only a projection, as you could walk in
place going 0 mph at 190 steps per minute.

If you are interested in knowing your own exact personalized pace and
stride length, you can obtain your own precise steps per minute-mile
equivalent. Simply walk one mile and clock the time. While walking,
count how many times your feet hit the ground for one minute.

Divide 5,280 by your minute-mile time. Divide this figure by how many
steps you took in one minute. This will give you your stride length. Now
if you want to improve your time, then divide 5,280 by the stride length
you now have. Divide this figure by the time of your new minute mile
goal. This calculation will tell you approximately how many steps per
minute you must now walk to achieve your improved time goal.