Unfortunately, I quickly ran into a problem: Shin pain. I realized that I had started out way too quickly, not allowing my shins to adjust to the new strain. Apparently, this is a rather common problem for new race walkers. I found a lot of exercises to strengthen the shins (some of them I can highly recommend!). But as much as I looked, there was no sample workout schedule for absolute beginners out there. I could find oodles of programs for getting off the couch and running a 5K. No such luck with race walking. Since the shin exercises didn’t seem to do much good, I gave up – on the race walking, not the exercises.
I kept in touch with the people from the Golden Gate Race Walkers, though, and during a recent fitness walk, I ended up doing some race walking. I loved it! And I noticed no shin pain! We had been walking for more than an hour before starting the race walking, so I figured my legs were just well warmed up. The experience rekindled my interest in race walking but I still didn’t know how to slowly start to race walk, allowing enough time for my body to adjust to the technique. And then, I looked in that old book the founder of GGRW had given me. There it was: a training schedule! I was excited and ready to try again.
I just came back from my first race walk. My shins were screaming at me after 5 minutes, so I stopped and stretched. I remembered from the Dave McGovern article that it’s important to watch the stride: Reaching out too far up front can cause shin pain. So, after my stretching I started out slowly watching my stride, pushing off with a long leg in the back but only taking a small step in front. When my shins said something again, I counted my steps. According to the Howard Jacobson schedule, I am supposed to take 90-120 steps per minute. I was way faster! I slowed down and soon was smiling: no shin pain!
Lessons learned: Watch proper form and start out slow! There are plenty of resources on technique. And thanks to Howard Jacobson’s book published in 1980, I now have a schedule for easing into race walking.