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 Bonnie Stein

          Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.

Is Hamstring Pain Stringing You Out?

By Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.

Since over 8000 racewalkers (competitive and recreational) have passed through the Beginning Racewalking classes and lessons, I have seen hamstring issues more than a few times.  It most often is due to one of three reasons.



The racewalker is not warmed up enough before beginning the workout.  I encourage racewalkers to start with a very slow (below 60% heart rate) racewalking warm-up for a whole mile.  Start out racewalking slowly so that you are using the same muscles that you are actually going to be using in your workout.  Many racewalkers start out too fast without a sufficient warm-up.



The second reason for hamstring problems in racewalking is overstriding with the front leg.  Overstriding does not make you a faster racewalker.  Instead, that front leg acts like a brake.  Instead aim to plant your heel as close to under your body as possible, thereby reducing the braking action of your front leg.  As you become more flexible, your stride behind you will increase over time, but the stride in front always stays close to the body.  New racewalkers tend to try to increase the stride in front by stepping too far out.  That will make you slower, not faster.  Plus, it is a tremendous stress on the hamstrings.



Lastly, are you stretching enough?  To straighten your knee, as required for racewalking, the hamstrings are involved.  You must incorporate time into each workout for stretching.  I like to stretch after I'm through racewalking.  However, some coaches believe we should warm up slowly for one mile, then stop and stretch, then do our workout, cool down, and stretch again.  I recommend that approach for anyone who has been injured in the past or if you have particularly tight hamstrings or other areas.  Once a muscle is injured, your window of "injury-freedom" becomes a little smaller.  You have to be a bit more careful and conservative than someone who has never injured that same muscle.



I would also recommend that you find a good massage therapist.  Massage has worked wonders with many of my students.  Expect that you'll have to go once a week for 6-8 weeks.  Then once or twice a month after that for a while.  Many racewalkers, me included, receive sports massage therapy once a week or every other week, as a preventative to injuries.  Ask around to find someone knowledgeable about sports injuries.

 Often when new racewalkers have only 45 minutes to an hour to workout, they skip some important parts like warming up, cooling down, or stretching.  I'd rather that my students skip 10 minutes of racewalking and never skip the others.  I've racewalked for 19 years injury-free, yet, I am a former injured runner.  I always warmup, cool down, and stretch.  If you want to stay injury-free long into the future - practice these safe workout habits.

2007 by Bonnie Stein. All Rights Reserved.

LIMITS OF LIABILITY AND DISCLAIMER - The authors and publishers of this newsletter have used their best efforts in preparing the articles and information contained within it. Additionally, you are advised to consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. The authors and publishers make no warranty of any kind, expressed or implied, and shall not be liable in the event of incidental or consequential damages.

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