He walks faster than we can run: Lessons from a race walker


  • Fitness
  • Wednesday, 19 Feb 2020

Ng first learned to race walk in his teens but only picked up the sport again after more than 20 years. — Photos: NG T. C.

My breathing is laboured and my feet heavy as I struggle to complete my weekly 5km run at the Majlis Perbandaran Subang Jaya (MPSJ) stadium race track.

As I press on with what little strength I have left, a tall, bespectacled man whizzes past me effortlessly. To my surprise, he’s not even running.

He is walking – race walking to be exact. “I first started race walking as a secondary school student in Perak, ” says 45-year-old Ng T.C. “There was a walkathon event and a teacher saw that I had potential, so the school got a private coach to train me for a few weeks. That’s how I learnt the basics.”

Ng went on to represent his school at race walking competitions, reaching as far as the state level.

Unfortunately, when Ng left to pursue his studies overseas, he quit the sport altogether.

“Since my 30s, I’ve been doing mostly yoga. About five years ago, my yoga teacher recommended that I incorporate some form of cardio exercise as part of my fitness routine.”Ng regularly takes part in competitions organised by the Race Walkers Association Of Malaysia.Ng regularly takes part in competitions organised by the Race Walkers Association Of Malaysia.

After more than 20 years, Ng picked up race walking again. Like yoga, he loves the fact that the sport helps him relax.

“I thought about running at first, but being older now, I felt it might put too much strain on my knees.”

Ng, a sales manager at an automotive trading company, makes it a point to race walk 5km – which takes him 30 to 40 minutes to complete – at least once a week.

He explains the basics of race walking: “There are two rules in race walking. Firstly, one foot must always be on the ground at all times. This is how it’s different from running. When you run, at a certain point, both legs are off the ground. Secondly, the leg that lands on the floor must always be straight.”

In a race walking competition, failure to comply with these rules will result in a disqualification.

Ng regularly takes part in competitions organised by the Race Walkers Association Of Malaysia.

“In terms of speed, my personal record so far is completing 5km within 31 minutes. In terms of the longest distance, I’ve walked more than 50km during a 12-hour walking event back in 2017.”

So how does one walk so quickly and efficiently, yet adhere to the rules? That’s where the hip swaying motion we often see (on TV especially during the Olympics) comes to play.

“Every time I move forward, that power is coming from my pelvis, not my legs. I twist my body left and right using my pelvis, which then pushes my leg forward.”

Ng with some other participants at a 12-hour walking event in 2017 where he clocked in his longest distance in race walking. Ng with some other participants at a 12-hour walking event in 2017 where he clocked in his longest distance in race walking.

Ng believes this hip swaying motion helps him stay in shape even more effectively than running.

“Race walking uses more of your core muscles. Running uses more of your leg muscles. So race walking is good for people who want a flat tummy.”

The father of two recalled that when he first got back into race walking, people gave him funny looks.

“When I first started race walking at MPSJ, I was the only one doing it and people looked at me strangely.

“There were people who laughed at me too, but I didn’t care. I was doing it for my health and I just focused on my exercise.

“After they saw me doing it more often, they stopped laughing at me, ” says Ng who is the one with the last laugh now.

The Paper’s People is an occasional column about Malaysia-based everyday folk who do what they love. If you have someone to recommend, email us at lifestyle@thestar.com.my.

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Race walking , walking , fitness , exercise , sports

   

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