Is Hamstring Pain Stringing You
Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.
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.
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.
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
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.