Mundane Things I Do Well - Fast Walking

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I’m standing, waiting in a crowd at a ‘Don’t Walk’ sign in the city. On the other side of the road I need to go right, but there’s going to be people crossing beside me who will force me to slow down. That’s when I spot the traffic-light post on the opposite side of the street. It makes eye-contact back and lifts up a fist. The pick is set.

Welcome to the first entry in a series about the mundane things that I do incredibly well.

My journal is a place to celebrate things I’m good at in life, but none of my abilities are what are traditionally thought of as great or noteworthy. I won’t be winning critical awards, recognition for technical expertise within my industry, or athletic gold medals. But, there are little things in life which offer their own opportunities for excellence. Things you probably already practice every day, without realising it’s something you might be capable of being incredibly good at.

Today’s topic, fast walking.... Which I guess actually is an Olympic sport, but anyway...

One of the things people tell me whenever we walk somewhere together for the first time is, “Brad, you walk so fast.” Often they will make reference to my long legs, as if that explains everything. Long legs are helpful for fast walking, but they’re not required. There are other techniques and strategies that even the stubbiest legged person can use. What distinguishes a great fast walker is not their legs, but their head.

Before we talk about how to walk fast, let’s reflect on why we want to. Walking fast has so many benefits in daily life:

  • You move between places quicker. That could mean an extra thirty seconds of sleep in the morning, or the ability to reach a far away shop and get back to your desk without exceeding the length of your lunch break.
  • It burn more calories
  • You can look important and busy
  • It’s easier to escape awkward social interactions, and chuggers

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I keep an eye on the road’s traffic lights, and when they turn amber I am primed for my own light to change to green. I step off the curb, already angling my shoulders slightly right to cross the road on the hypotenuse.

Beside me a man is also striding briskly, and he’s on my right. Locomotion and reflexes are core facets of fast walking, but they’re not unique, so he and I are evenly matched. If I want to continue minimising the distance travelled to go left once I’m over the road I will have to either cut him off, which would be impolite, or I need to slow down a step to cut behind him.

That would be if I hadn’t already lined myself up with the traffic light pole before I started crossing. When we reach the opposite curb our trajectories are taking my shoulder right past the pole, and the man’s path straight into it. I slide past the screen and into open footpath, alone. A demonstration of good versus great fast walking has just been given to those still ambling halfway across the crossing. I don’t see the man again.

Using inanimate objects as screens isn’t the only benefit a basketball background brings to fast walking. At its essence, a skilled fast walker is not so good at moving fast as they are at moving smoothly. Anyone can hustle uncontrollably towards a destination, just hang out by the train station in the afternoon peak hour and see. There will always be obstacles, both stationary and moving, between your feet and where you want to go. The ability to pivot, move laterally, and euro-step as appropriate will be the difference between getting to your location quickly, and walking up the back of an old woman with a walking frame accidentally. The most important thing is feeling in control of your movement. If you don’t feel confident, you will not hit your top speed, and a truly great fast walker will soon overtake you.

Sometimes, while walking fast in a sea of slow walkers, it’s possible to become self conscious about the gait or bob your pace brings with it. Any hesitation caused by this image management will slow you down. A true fast walker must block out all negative thoughts. A good pair of black sunglasses and/or some noise cancelling headphones playing something upbeat will solve that problem.


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