Always keep safety in mind when racewalking. Before you begin each workout, even when you're just practicing your form, you need to warm up your body and stretch your muscles. The same is true after each workout. If you neglect these important steps, you may be in for some serious muscle pain and perhaps even injury.
Before you begin your racewalking workout, walk slowly and casually (not in racewalking form) for a few minutes to warm up your muscles. Then stop and stretch. Stretches that involve the upper and lower body are important, because so many of the body's muscles are involved in racewalking.
Stretch your muscles gently, without bouncing or pulling to the point of pain. Once you've completed your walk, stretch again to help maintain your flexibility.
Even with proper stretching, you may feel some soreness early in the program. That's to be expected, since you may not have used some of those muscles in a while. Don't walk to the point of pain, however. If pain or discomfort persists, see your doctor.
Since racewalking is such a specialized activity, and so distinct from freestyle walking and jogging, shoes have been designed specifically for the sport.
A large number of local, national, and international racewalking competitions are held each year, covering distances from 1 mile to 31 miles (50 kilometers). These events allow you the opportunity to test out your speed and your form.
You could, of course, enter running races or marathons and racewalk your way through. This way, you wouldn't be judged on technique, but you would still be competing. As you increase your speed and skill, you may even find yourself passing some of the runners, especially in longer events.
Whichever type of competition you choose, it's best to begin with shorter, slower races. Stay away from very short sprinting races, however; you might be tempted to push yourself too hard too soon. You may want to try a more moderately paced four-mile event first. In order to progress to longer or faster races, you'll need to prepare yourself -- increasing your speed and distance gradually in your training sessions.
Before you begin entering races, you may want to attend a racewalking event as a spectator. By watching the competitors, you may be able to pick up tips for perfecting your form. You may also get the opportunity to ask the racers (or even the judges) for advice on proper racewalking form.
Whatever your racewalking goals may be, take advantage of the tips presented in this article to guide your fitness plan.
To learn more about walking, see:
Peggy Norwood Keating, MA, Contributing consultant
Rebecca Hughes, Contributing writer