It’s become a bit of a family tradition — each time I’m back home in Washington, my parents and I take an afternoon walk around Chambers Bay Golf Course after church on Sunday.
The course boasts panoramic views of South Puget Sound, and has a fabulous three-mile walking path, public park and doggie playground. It’s one of my favorite places to visit, and I wasn’t at all surprised to learn it was selected to host the 2015 PGA Tour U.S. Open.
Visiting Chambers this past weekend was especially wonderful as it was sixty-five degrees out. Sixty-five degrees! As my family leisurely strolled along the paved path, enjoying breathtaking views of the Narrows Bridge, I wondered why in the world I had opted for a life in the frozen tundra of Minnesota?!?!
This sentiment didn’t last long, as I was quickly distracted by my father’s…um…booty shorts.
The fact that I didn’t inherit my father’s long, shapely stems remains one of the great injustices of my life. How is it that a sixty-five year old man has better legs than I do? And less leg hair? I had to find out.
“Hey, Dad” I asked casually while picking up my pace to catch up with him, “What do you do for a leg workout?”
A mischievous grin spread slowly across his face. He turned his head toward me, a twinkle in his eye. “Speed walking.” he proclaimed dramatically with an eyebrow raise.
Of course. Speed walking.
Twenty minutes later, we had reached what I like to call “the hill from hell”. Anyone who’s visited Chambers Bay is familiar with the twisted uphill climb through the forest on the north side of the trail. It doesn’t matter if you run, walk, or crawl…that hill will seriously mess you up.
My dad, a good ten paces ahead of me stopped at the base of the climb, turning around to face me.
“Wanna do a speed walk race?” he challenged.
I instantly nodded my head in agreement…if only because I wanted my legs to look as good as his in a pair of booty shorts.
“Good luck!” my sister Hayley chimed sarcastically, “He’s really fast.”
“You’ve raced him before?” I asked.
“Yup,” she nodded tellingly, “He beat me.”
This is the point where I became frightened. My sister Hayley is an elite athlete. She not only competes in triathlons…she literally wins them. She’s also a competitive rower who travels the country racing Olympians in training. And she couldn’t beat Mark in a simple speed walk?
I wondered what I had gotten myself into.
Before I could grow too concerned, the race had begun. Determined not to be defeated by a senior citizen, I turned up the gas and walked with all of my might. But it wasn’t enough. I, a twenty-nine year-old fitness instructor, was getting my ass handed to me on a platter by an old man in daisy dukes.
Clearly aware of my struggling, dad stopped at the halfway point to give a me a few pointers in terms of form and technique. Here’s what I learned:
- Keep your elbows bent at ninety degrees, arms in close to your torso. You don’t want to swing your arms so much as you want to pump them.
- Long strides won’t help you, especially on an incline. The key to effective speed walking is short, quick steps.
- Lean forward slightly, bracing your core muscles.
- Don’t straighten your legs all the way — always keep a slight bend in the knees.
With that, we were off to finish the second leg of our race. While Mark’s tips were certainly helpful — my form felt better and I could tell I was moving with more efficiency — my father still beat me by quite a long distance. He powered out of sight immediately, leaving me to speed walk the final leg of the course in solitude. I wouldn’t have minded walking by myself had there not been so many people laughing hysterically at me. I’m not quite sure if they were making jests at my speed walking style, or the fanny pack I was wearing, but I suspect it was probably a combination of both.
Despite the masses of taunting strangers, I dug deep within myself to find the confidence to finish what I had started. You laugh in the face of public humiliation, I kept telling myself as I pushed through the final stretch. Moments later, I was greeted by a smiling father, cheering my on as I huffed my way across the official finish line.
If you take away one thing from this post, let it be this: Speed walking is not for the faint of
heart hamstrings. My heart was pounding, my body dripping with sweat, my face red as a beat. “That’s a serious workout!” I managed to gasp between breaths.
Mark nodded with validation. “I told you.”
Now that I’ve returned home, the speed walking experience keeps popping up in my daily thoughts. Much to my surprise, I really liked it. It was just as much cardio as a jog or run, simply without the impact on my joints. While an hour of running leaves my knees stiff and creaky the following day, an hour of speed walking would be much gentler, yet every bit as sweaty and challenging. Furthermore, I felt a serious burn in my legs while speed walking. During a run, my knees, hips and ankles are the first to grow weary, undoubtedly from repeatedly pounding the pavement. But with speed walking? My leg muscles were on fire! I could tell that in addition to getting my heart rate sky-high, there was some serious toning going on down there.
Booty shorts, here I come!
Over the past few days I’ve come to realize that I don’t want speed walking to be something I randomly engage in while back home visiting my family. Dare I say it, speed walking might just be my new running!
When I told Scott this, he instantly forbid me from speed walking anywhere publicly. (Especially while wearing the fanny pack.)
Looks like I’ll be forced to keep my new hobby hush-hush…at least from my husband. On the bright side, “The ‘Sota Secret Speed Walk Club” sure has a nice ring to it.