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 Bonnie Stein

          Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.

Questions For Racewalkers to Ask Themselves to Avoid Injury

By Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.

Most racewalking injuries are preventable with safe, progressive training.  If you do incur an injury when racewalking, it’s quite likely that you had something to do with it.  99% of the time when a student is injured – we find the answer when I ask them this series of questions:

When was the last time you replaced your shoes?  It should be every 3-5 months if you’re racewalking regularly.  By the time the outer sole is worn out, the mid-sole shock absorption is long gone.  New shoes are inexpensive insurance against injuries.  Replace your shoes before you think they’re worn out.

Do you wear racing flats too often?  We love racing flats.  They comfortable, very flexible and come in wild colors that match our favorite outfits.  But, unless you like injuries, I recommend saving racing flats only for races and track workouts.  I like something more supportive like lightweight training running shoes (NOT cross trainers) for your everyday workouts and especially for your long racewalking workouts.  Wearing non-supportive racing flats too often can set you up for foot injuries like plantar faciitis.

Do you always warm up before racewalking?  I find that most walkers start out too fast when they’re fresh and their energy level is high.  Not warming up properly can set you up for injuries or at the very least – sore shins.  My favorite warm up – slow racewalking for 8-10 minutes, minimum.

Do you cool down after your racewalking workout?  I cringe when I see people stop their running or walking workout at their car, open the door, sit down and drive away.  Many exercise-related heart attacks don’t happen during exercise.  They happen immediately after exercise when the person has been sending blood vigorously to the working muscles, and then stops suddenly without a proper cool down.  When you’re about two blocks from your house or 1/4 mile from your car simply put your racewalking arms down and walk slowly for at least five minutes.  Ideally, keep walking slowly until your heart rate has come back down below 100 beats per minute.  Then you can do your stretching.

Do you stretch warm muscles? There’s plenty of controversy regarding stretching and whether or not it helps alleviate sore muscles or prevent injuries.  Even though we don’t have the scientific data to back up stretching, most coaches and exercise physiologists still recommend it.  Just remember to stretch warm muscles - after racewalking or at least after your warm up.

Do you increase your mileage gradually when starting a new program or when returning to racewalking after a lay off such as an illness?  The quickest way to get an injury in an injury-free sport like racewalking is to do too much, too soon.  Remember to increase your mileage no more than 5-10% per week.  Every three weeks I like to back down my mileage especially when doing long distances.

According to Dr. Owen Anderson, the author of Running Research News, 65% of all runners are injured during an average year.  According to statistics in a national running magazine, 90% of runners will get injured sometime during their running career.  That’s not the case with racewalking.  Research done on competitive racewalkers by Dr. Peter Francis at San Diego State University showed that racewalkers rarely incur injuries that are serious enough to take them out of their sport.

Dr. Perry Julien, a sports podiatrist in Atlanta and medical advisor at the Olympic Racewalks in 1996, told my racewalking students that with proper training, replacing our shoes often, warming up, cooling down, and stretching warm muscles – there’s no reason for a racewalker to experience any injuries.  Ask yourself the questions above now and prevent any injuries in the future.

© 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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