Racewalking Training Tips

Racewalking is a long-distance discipline within the sport of athletics. Although it is a foot race, it is different from running in that one foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times. This is assessed by race judges, making it the most subjective of the disciplines in athletics. Typically held on either roads or on running tracks, common distances vary from 3000 metres (1.8 mi) up to 100 kilometres (62.1 mi).

Training Tips, Schedules, and Injury Information.

New tips will posted and available with each update. All eMail address and links where valid at the time of the original posting.

Introduction

This page contains training tips and tricks that I have gathered throught out my racewalking career. As you will see hitting the track for workouts is one of the real keys to fast walking. Put that together with some endurance work and the times will drop.

Also a collection of URLs with training tips from walkers around the world.

Some of the BEST articles available on the web are at Dave McGovern's Worldclass Walking website.

Curt Clausen

Hate to recommend too much without taking training schedule as a whole into account but here's a couple I've been doing.

1. Rhythm work 100m,200,300,400 fast with 100m easy walking rests between can do 3 to 5 sets w/ just the 100m easy walk between sets. Also to start out I would recommend not doing the 400m and adding this after a time or two. I usually warm-up 1kjog,2kwalk, stretch and drills prior and then cool down. I do some version of this every week.

2. 1000m repeats - a staple done probably every other week. I'm doing them at race pace or a bit faster (4:15-4:00) progressivly faster throughout workout. I do 10-12 reps with 2min rests.

3. 3x3k or 3x5k - also every other week or so. Done progressively faster each repeat 3-5min rests (or how you feel). Tough one mentally. Yesterday did 22:00, 21:31, 20:58. Alternate weeks or days if training real hard, I might do a 15k - 25k effort that gets progressively faster and ends the last 5k around 20k goal pace.

Curt also pointed out that the real trick is to get out everyday.

Allen James

Maintaining Pace

The key to maintaining pace is doing your workouts progressively faster. I've trained with some of the best in the world and we almost always started off our walks at a nice comfortable pace and progressively picked up the pace, depending on what kind of intensity we were working on.

I'd also mark out a course in 1/2 mile or 1k increments, I prefer kilometers. Depending on your intensity, easy or hard day, treat your workouts the same. Your first few k's should always be slower than your last few.

One of best workouts was a 40k where I started at an easy 54:02(10k) and progressively got faster until my last 10k was a 44:33. When training with Stefan Johansson and Simon Baker in Australia we did the same sort of thing. Stefan once finished a 32k walk with a blazing 4:05k. Not to say that any of you will ever walk 1:18:35 20k like Stefan, but we have a lot to learn and apply from our top athletes.

(ED: This is actually how most 50K international races are RACED. With the first few 10 kilometers going along at a good pace. The the last few really flying.)

Dave McGovern

For more information on Dave McGovern's Worldclass Walking.

Dave's web site has lots of articles on these matters plus his new book is getting rave reviews.

More Tips

Racewalkers are one of the nicest group of people that one will every be associated with and are more than eager to help a new or fellow walker out.

Treadmill Training

A 1% treadmill grade most accurately reflects the energetic cost of outdoor running. Journal of Sports Science, 1996 Aug;14(4):321-7.

Altitude Training

From Stella Cashman, FranciCash@aol.com

Great info at http://www.sportsci.org/news/news9807/acsmwgh.html also Altitude Training info at http://www.sportsci.org/traintech/altitude/wgh.html

Black Toes

From Marjorie Hokanson

I have had a similar problem to the one you describe with toe pain during long walks (although my long walks aren't as long as yours), and had a "black toe" once on my second toe. At around the time I was experiencing this problem, Bonnie Stein pointed out to me that I was toeing in more that I should. Since I have paid attention to placing my foot in a truly forward position, I haven't had any toe pain. This may be coincidence, but it seems to have held true for several weeks now. I think straightening my foot out has placed the pressure of toe-off back on the pads of my toes where it's supposed to be instead of rocking from my baby toe around to the tips of the rest of them (where it feels like bone on concrete!).

From Halie Hanley - Try taking a razor blade and cutting a little "x" in your track shoe right over the blackened toe-nail. This relieves pressure and often fixes the problem. (I know it's hard to do this to an expensive shoe, but I bet it works!)

I learned this from four-time Olympian Ron Laird.

From Jim McGrath - I have hammer toes and get black toes all the time. What helps me:

  1. Keep the nails short.
  2. File them so they are smoothe and cant catch on socks.
  3. Use an antiseptic liquid bandage 'Newskin' over the whole nail and onto adjoining skin to smooth out the toe.
  4. Make sure your socks are loose by the toes. It seems that tight socks can cause the nail to be hammered into the root of the toe.

I do these things and the black toe nail falls off and a new regrows. Then I get lazy with the above and it happens again. The good part is that the Newskin takes away the pain and allows you to train.

From Mike Bandoni - This remedy was used many years ago for track athletes who had cronic shin-splint problem's, but and interesting side effect occurred, those with hammer toes had their toe's start to straighten out an lengthen, some even had to go out and get new shoe's ( thus entered my awareness) 21/2 to 3 sizes larger!!!

What was used was a simple REGULAR Routine of a specific stretching. What you have is short tendons that run on top of your foot above each metatarsal bone which needs to be reeducated, as well as the outer front part of your leg's below your knee's.

Here's the stretch, get down on your knees on your floor with your toe's pointing straight behind you and the top's of your feet laying flat on the floor, now start to lean backwards ( WARNING YOU MAY NOT GO TO FAR WITH OUT RECEIVING SOME PAIN SO GO SLOWLY NEVER BOUNCE OR RUSH WHEN STRETCHING!! ) The goal is to directly sit upon your heels and continue to lean backwards for a period of time allowing the stretching to ac cure. This stretch should be done every day and as long as you can tolerate it. Be patient the rewards can be even greater than straighten the toe's, it can improve your balance when walking and maybe even help in getting those toe's up for racewalking !!!.

Blisters

From Curt Sheller - Some replies to questions from a walker with blister problems.

1) Should I use moleskin as a preventative? If not, should I tape if I get a hot spot?
2) Should I use a lubricant as a preventative measure?
3) Should I use double layer socks (I was using double layer socks when I got my blisters.)
4) Should I stop every 4-5 miles, dry off my feet, and change socks?

1. "moleskin or tape" Probally a last resort if you address 2 and 3 and maybe shoes. Tape would probally be a bad idea as it might cause it's ovn problems. Moleskin can work after you have repaired a blister. You do need to catch blisters before they get too big.

2. Defintely. I always usa a lubricant for my longer walks. I tend to have problems with my toes (from toe off) on long walks and 20 or further races. I lubricant to tops and bottoms.

3. Socks. You might want to experment with socks and try different brands. I went thru several brands before I settled on Throlo (personal preference). I actually found that double layer socks for me actually created aditional unwanted friction.

4. "Should I stop every 4-5 miles " - If needed and 1, 2,and 3 don't work.

I would also say that walking on a trail could be some of your problem. Try staying on a firmer surface (road) for a while. You foot will not move around as much as on trail walking. Also make sure that you are not training in too light a shoe. A lot of walkers training in their racing shoes when they should save them for the races and train in a more supportive shoe. Also make sure that you shoe is not to shug, tight. In walking you shoe could bu 1/2 size larger than a shoe that you would use for running. Remember your foot placement is a lot more controled than in running and as such doesn't really needed to be that tight (snug). Your feet actually need room to move around in a shoe while race walking. I've always wanted to walk in my Minnitonka Mocs or a pair of sandals. You really don't need that much in a show for walking. (vs running)

Also, check your technique. Your foot strike (placement) could need some work.

From Sheila and Bill Purves - There is, or used to be, a product called Toughskin. I've only seen it in huge tubs. I don't know where you could buy a little tube of the stuff. But you might try the football coach at your local high school. It's that time of year.

From Donohue, Maureen - I used to have blister problems, but solved them in the following ways:

  1. I use a lubricant - Bag Balm or Vaseline on my feet
  2. Thorlo socks - padded and coolmax
  3. For marathon training I added a coolmax sockliner too
  4. I have a "D" width foot in the front and an "A" heel. There is no such combination last. Although I can get away with medium width shoes for short walks, but need wider, usually men's, shoes for longer walks. Then I have to worry about heel blisters. So for very long walks (over 18 miles), instead of lubricanting my heels, I sometimes used a product called Compeed. It is a sterile gel pack that pads and protects. It is available at drug stores and outdoor stores - CVS and REI both have it. Eckerds does not. Compeed is available in sizes - small and medium. I have never seen 'large". For heel blisters, you would definitely need "Medium". It costs between $6 and $8 for 5 gel packs- REI is priced on the high end.

Compeed is better than moleskin, which I loved as a hiker but it doesn't stay in place for racewalking, and better than "Nuskin" or "ToughSkin" which I find messy. Read the accompanying directions carefully before you apply so that each pad lasts as long as possible. I apply them correctly, they last 5-7 days.

You can use Compeed to prevent blisters and to protect the skin if you get a blister. I carried Compeed (and a needle and a pack of matches to break a blister if I got one)with me during the NYC Marathon last year, but luckily did not have to use any of it - the double socks and lubricant worked with the New Balance 825 shoes, wide width shoes I used in the event.

I know what you're going through. By the day of the NYC Marathon, my training program had gone so well that blisters were my only concern. I had gotten a giant heel blister on a 9 mile training walk , in the Men's Addidas Oswego, and knew that although I could have "toughed it out for 12 miles", I never would have made 26 with that bubble on my heel. Like all the other Marathon problems, you can solve the blister issue.

SportSlick - A blister prevention product.

Training in the Heat

From Dave McGovern posted the following URL: www.runnersworld.com/nutrition for a number of articles on hydrating and training in the heat.

Allen James

When training during the summer months there are a few must you should always try to follow.

1 is to always weight yourself before and after your workout. Losing 3 to 5 percent of your body weight can be normal but you need to make sure you are hydrating properly and taking the appropriate supplements as well. Whenever you sweat a lot you're bound to lose minerals. If you lose more than 5 percent, you need to be extremely cautious. Again mind your hydration, electrolyte intake, and minerals, while being all the more aware of what is happening on a daily basis. Repeated days of losses greater than 5percent can cause greater health risk - to which point I'm no longer qualified to give advice.

I will say this, keep a daily log of your training and include you weight. If your weight is still low the morning after a hot and hard training session, you may consider not training that day. I speak from experience as one who had runner's anemia from heat training.

2 Purchase a quality waterbottle pack. Ultimate Torsopack is the brand I use. It takes a little getting used to, but when filled with your favorite electrolyte replacement drink and ice, you'll feel much better. Also, try to regulate your drinking to a certain time period or distance like 10 minutes or 2k. Your body will like the pacing. If you can't find the Ultimate pack at your favorite running store, you can call Super Jock 'n Jill in Seattle (real hot place you know!) at 1-800-343-4411 or check out their website at: www.superjocknjill.com

3 Try wearing a singlet(coolmax or something similar) with a wet t-shirt that you have cropped just below your chest. (I've never seen a woman do this so you may want to cut it a little bit lower depending on how you feel of course.) This system works two-fold: a good singlet will help wick the moisture away from the skin surface, the wet shirt won't stick to your skin and if cropped right it will actually catch some airflow which will act as a mini airconditioning system. It worked for me and I got the idea from the Swedes who didn't always take kindly to the heat.

Shin Splints

Shin splints is a general medical term denoting medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), a slow healing and painful condition in the shins, usually caused by exercise such as running, jumping, dancing or other sports.[1][2] Ten to fifteen percent of running injuries are shin splints.

See WidipediA: Link...

Shin That Win

From by Bonnie Stein, M.Ed - Great article on shins.

Whether you're a brand new walker just starting an exercise program, a committed fitness walker who wants to rev up the intensity, or a racewalker looking to speed up your 5K pace - we all have something in common. We all could benefit from shin improvement therapy. Sore shins are the most common complaint I hear from walkers no matter if they're doing the K-Mart Stroll (aka "Mall Walking Pace") or they're racewalking at an eight minute mile. Even those of us who have been racewalking for years find out that every time we increase the intensity or speed of our walks, we're again reminded that our shins seem to have a mind of their own.

Hey, don't give up your walking program so easily. New Year's Resolutions are still fresh. The tips below will help strengthen your weak and wimpy shins and make them SHINS THAT WIN. Or at least shins that don't hurt. Before you hang up your walking shoes, follow the prescription below. Your shins will be thanking you long before you're toasting 1999.

1. Stretch your calves (back of your lower leg) everyday. Tight calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) cause the anterior leg muscles to work harder to elevate the foot. According to Dr. Perry Julien, a sports podiatrist in Atlanta who was part of the medical team for the '96 Olympic Racewalks and Marathons, "tight calf muscles are often the cause of shin pain." Dr. Julien says that the two best things racewalkers can do to prevent foot injuries and shin discomfort are things that don't cost as much as a visit to the doctor. Stretch your calf muscles often and buy new shoes before yours wear out. Bob Anderson's book Stretching is a great resource for stretching ideas.

Here's my favorite calf stretch: Stand about two feet from a wall, facing toward the wall. Put one foot in front and one foot behind. Both feet should point directly forward and both heels stay on the ground. Bend the front knee while keeping the back leg straight. Lean into the wall until you feel mild tension, but no pain, in the calf of the back leg. Hold for 30 seconds. If it hurts, you're stretching too intensely. Back off and try again. Repeat with both legs and do this stretch daily.

2. Rock in a Sock - Here's a tip from Maryanne Torrellas, a six time National Racewalk Champion. Put a rock in the toe of your sock (use a long sock.) Dangle the sock (with the rock) over your toes; i.e. don't put the sock all the way on your foot, but rather about half way on. Use the dangling sock as a weight and flex and relax the foot 10 times. Do both feet for three sets.

3. Walk on your heels everyday to strengthen your shin muscles. In my advanced racewalking classes, the students walk on their heels for 30-40 second intervals. Try it in your house for 10 seconds at a time. Repeat during the day five or ten times.

4. Write the alphabet with your toes. You can do it in bed before you go to sleep or under your desk at work. If you're really resourceful, get in a few letters in your car at each red light. See if you can finish the whole alphabet by the time you arrive home. Both feet, of course.

5. Flexing and pointing the foot at the ankle joint will help strengthen the shin muscle. Place a hand weight or Velcro weight (one pound to start) on your bare foot. Sit where you can dangle your legs from a stool or table. Slowly flex your foot up and then point your toes down. Think of your ankle as a hinge. Do it 10 times with each foot and repeat three times.

6. Peas, please! Icing reduces inflammation while you're continuing to stretch your calves and strengthen your shins. Use a bag of frozen peas (only 20 minutes at a time) on your shins every time you finish a workout. I prefer frozen peas, but yes . . . you can use corn in a pinch. Brussel sprouts are out of the question.

7. Are you warming up for at least 5-8 minutes with slow walking before you get into a regular pace? Starting out too fast can make your shins beg for mercy. After warming up for 5-8 minutes stop by a tree, pole, or car and do a couple minutes of the stretch mentioned above before you continue your walk. Just remember not to stretch cold muscles. (Ladies, if you're single, this is a good way to meet new men. Someone is likely to stop and ask if you need help with the car. Or so I'm told.)

8. Make circles with each foot. Go clockwise, then counterclockwise. The ankle joint is your point of rotation.

9. Have you let your shoes hang around too long? I find that most racewalkers don't buy shoes as often as they should. We think that because racewalking is a low impact activity, we don't need new shoes as often as runners. I recommend replacing your racewalking shoes every 3-5 months. By the time the soles have flattened out, the mid-sole shock absorption (the part you can't see) has long been gone. Old shoes also break down where the support used to be. Both can result in shin pain for you.

10. If you've tried the nine items above and still have shin pain, see a sports podiatrist. Excessive pronation (rolling in of the foot) is another cause of shin pain. It can be controlled with an orthotic, a device which controls pronation and is molded specifically for your foot by a podiatrist. If pronation is your problem, orthotics could be your answer. Since orthotics are expensive ($250-$500 depending on where you live), try the other nine items first. With the exception of new shoes, the other suggestions are free. Provided you're not eating the peas.

AceWalker Walk Your Way to Fitness Programs

Fitness is not a commodity to be stored, but rather a condition to be renewed on a daily basis. Have you had your walk today?

Phone: 813-394-WALK
Fax: 813-398-1855
E-mail: AceWalkR@mindspring.com

Shin Pain

"No, not the political wing of the IRA."

From Elaine Ward - NARF - You may have heard that racewalkers "raise their toes" before heel contact and be tensing and pulling back your toes to "help" get the forefoot up. Keep in mind that the raising of the forefoot is done by dorsi flexing your foot - that is flexing your ankle to raise your forefoot. Pulling your toes back doesn't do anything other than to add a lot of tension to your shin muscles. Try keeping your foot relaxed as you flex your ankle. You may well find it helps.

Piriformis (Pain in the butt)

From Wendy Bumgardner - Interesting, short run-down on shin splints, including stretching exercises, at the "Ask Dr Weil" Website.

See Link...

Lactate-lactic Acid

From Dave McGovern - Lactate/lactic acid is esentially incompletely combusted carbohydrate; carbohydrate burned in the absence of sufficient oxygen for complete combustion. This lactate is created in the working muscles, then circulated through the body for "processing." Although lactate can subsequently be used by the heart (and other organs) as a fuel (assuming sufficient oxygen is present...), it slows down enzymatic activity in the working muscles by lowering the pH (raising the acidity) within these muscles. The result? You, as a walker, have to slow down. Slowing down (obviously) requires less energy, so less carbohydrates are burned, and less lactate is spun off. After several minutes of slower walking, excess lactate is consumed and you generally get a "second wind" which will allow you to pick up the pace again.

The lesson: Don't go out too hard in the first place and you won't build up high lactate levels. Also, yes, you can "teach" the body to create less lactate, and process it more efficiently by doing speed work, but the real solution is to do more EASY DISTANCE work. Doing so will increase capillarization into the working muscles. The average guy on the street has 1 - 2 capillaries supplying each muscle cell with oxygen. A well-trained athlete has 4 - 6, which means he/she has 2 to 6 times more oxygen going into the muscles. More oxygen means you can walk much faster without building up lactic acid. The easy aerobic distance work also increases the size and number of mitochondria in the working muscles. Remember high school biology? Mitochondria are the "power houses" where fuel (carbs) are turned into ATP, which leads to muscle contractions. More mitochondria per muscle cell potential higher total energy output (i.e., faster racewalking!)

See Link... for more articles by Dave on this and other subjects.

Using Walkmans

From Allen James - recommendation on Walkmans and the like. Though Walkman was my nickname in college and my e-mail address, I never used one. There are many reason why not to use, such as security and safety, but I strongly feel that you should try to listen to your body. It's okay to talk, have self talk, or have a song in your mind while walking. Listening to your body is kind of a way out there subject, maybe some of you can help me out on this. It's being in touch with knowing how much to push, to drink, to relax, or to back off. I feel being closed in by a pair of earphones of any type will compromise your being in touch.

UPDATED Substitute iPod for the Walkman.

Negative Splits

There was a lot of debate on the Racewalk List regarding "Negative Splits" and Allen had what I thought was the best advice.

From Allen James - In international races and most records set negative splitting usually occurs. It's how it occurs that can vary widely. In most of the records I set, my third quarter of the race was always the fastest. In the competitions that were highly competitive and I was actively engaging opponents, often my final quarter was the fastest. Very rarely, in walking, will you see highly conditioned athletes that are on their game plan slow down the second half of a race. As others have alluded to, that negative split is usually no more than 1%.

Here's the Application, and I think Dave will agree with me, gear your workouts toward negative splitting. Whether it's and easy, medium, or hard paced workout always drop your pace. I recall one 40k workout I did where my first 10k in 54:30 or so. The last 10k was 44:11. Every thing between the first and the last kilo was progressively cut down in fairly equal segments. The total workout was 3:21 and change. I recall a 32k workout in Australia that we cut down similarly. Stefan Johanssen's last 1k was about 4:10. These kind of workouts are medium effort, distance days. They really don't hammer you that bad.

If it's an easy 10k day, start off easy and finish it progressively faster, relative to an easy day anyway. If it's intervals or rythym, each phase should be quicker than the previous. Most all of the international competitors I've talked with or trained with follow this pattern. It works for them, it worked for me. I also believe it is rooted in sports science as well, but I couldn't quote you the studies.

Striding

From Jeff Salvage

There will be those on the list Racewalk List that preach an exact ratio 60/40 or 70/30 that could be measured simply in a picture. However, a lot depends on the exact point on measurement and you have to take into account that people's bodies are different.

I you were to try to conform to a ratio when lets say your hip flexibility was lacking, you would have a problem. The solution would be to increase you hip flexibility not to try to artificially lengthen your stride.

I was doing research on another topic when I came across a study that said when they tried to extend or shrink a race walkers stride by 5% in either direction that the race walkers slowed down. The conclusion was that a race walker picks the optimum stride length naturally. I am not sure that this is true, because they may have been studying elite athletes that were already at their optimum.

My definition of over striding has been "When a person is taking too long of a stride that it impeeds the forward progress of the walker, they are over striding". So I would suggest that you look at everything else. If they are using their hips right. Keep their arms in the proper motion as well as keeping proper posture, etc... then their stride should come in line.

For some more info on the importance of stride length and ration see my article on Calculating Your Steps Per Minute .

Just browsing over both books, they look fantastic! I'm a guitarist and uke player for over 25 years and was thinking about writing a ukulele book but you've already written what I think are the best, most comprehensive and thorough books I've ever seen for the instrument. I just might end up buying every book you've written and I'll be giving my highest recommendation for your books to my friends and students. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such great books!Peter Rhee

Aloha, Curt, All I can say is WOW! What you have accomplished is simply incredible! All the bestGlen Hirabayashi, The Aloha Boys

Folks, if you haven't stopped by Curt's site, do so right now! ..And get his books, they are fantastic. This guy knows his stuff and is able to pass it along too.Alan Johnson Proprietor, The 4th Peg

I can highly recommend Curt's Uke books — I have four of them and they are excellent.fatveg — Portland

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Original Animation by Curt Sheller - 1987 for my first web site 32 years ago.