Amber Antonia, who ranked among the top three female race walking champions in America from 2001 to 2007, says we have enough stress in our lives without torturing our body to become fit. You do not have to twist, torque and pound your body in the name of fitness, she says.
“You can be fit” Amber explains, “but you may not be healthy.” The distinction between health and fitness gets lost these days, and as result, people rarely stop to ask if the latest exercise fad, gizmo or DVD set is healthy for them. As an aside, I am amazed at the number of people who are surprised when they hurt themselves doing some new jitterbugging – stepping – spinning – break-dancing exercise class. Then after icing, resting, and taking a mountain of Ibuprofen, they go right back to the same exercise class. Sure they’re getting in shape, but are they healthy?
When we repeatedly stress, strain, sweat and experience “surging cortisol” (as Amber says) it predisposes us to injury and dehydration, and the risk of adrenal deficiency and even heart attack. Amber explains that stories of people pushing themselves to the point of harm under the failed notion of “no pain, no gain” are commonplace and at times tragic.
Exercise should be enjoyable, energizing and safe, she says. The notion of “no pain, no gain” is absurd. We should strive for no pain and a ton of gain. Along these guidelines, she regularly enjoys what she calls “casual” walking (as opposed to “race” walking, I imagine). Like many determined athletes she learned this the hard way. She was originally a runner until a stress fracture in her foot sidelined her. To keep active, she took up walking, and discovered a myriad of health and fitness benefits. For her, the number one benefit was it improved her “mental focus.”
Her days walking led her to learn about health, fitness, biomechanics, and allowed her to travel the world to compete in competitions. She met remarkable walking athletes, including Olympic Medal Winner Kjersti Plätzer who she actually trained with.
Some people who prior to finding this site may not have given much thought to walking, may be surprised to learn how important it is to train to walk as well as possible in order to engage in competitive walking. Walking well is a skill and to do it right (whether walking around the block or competing as a race walker in the Pan Am games), requires moving and using your body, at its very best. (For those of us who are not in the race walking category, I would like to think that this is where FloWalking could help walk as correctly as possible.)
After competitively walking, Amber went on to become a certified fitness instructor, got married, opened a successful fitness center and currently engages in personal training, triathlon training, nutrition coaching and much more. You can visit her at Amber’s Wild Workouts And Wellness.
Walking has become very much a part of training people, Amber says. She recommends that runners spend some time walking to better work the glutes and hamstring areas. She will often take clients through a combination of walking and running. Running has momentum that carries you forward and “air time” where both feet are off the ground, she explains. With walking, she says, “It’s all muscle.” I would agree.
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