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Copyright 2012
Club Northwest
RACEWALKING by Stan Chraminski


Knee straightening is often more of a problem early on. In normal walking or running, the knee is bent so racewalking is an unnatural action which our bodies are not used to. Often stretching of the hamstrings and calf muscles are required to help straightening because of tightness in the back of the legs. A good test is to stand sideways to a full length mirror. Place your feet together and keep them flat on the floor. Look at your knees when standing. Are they straight? Lock the knees and let the bones hold your weight while relaxing the muscles.

Next, shift your weight from one leg to the other by bending first one knee, then the other. The weight bearing leg should be straight. You should also see and feel your hips riding up and down as each knee in turn bends and straightens. Weakness in the knees may be a problem in which case some supplemental strengthening exercises may be needed. Prior knee injuries may also keep you from full straightening. In extreme cases, racewalking in competitions may not be possible although it can still be a good fitness activity with less than perfect form. If tightness in the backs of the legs prevents straightening, try some stretches such as wall pushes for the calfs and hamstring stretches or back stretches.

During walking, there are several other techniques which contribute to knee straightening and speed.

Exaggerate the normal walking motion by pointing your toe upward. This forces the knee straighter and starts the powerful pushing motion which makes for walking speed. This toe up landing may cause some pain and stiffness in the lower shin muscles but this will usually disappear after a few minutes of warmup. Remember, you are using new muscles and there is always a break-in period. Lower your toes and resume normal walking for a few minutes until the stiffness goes away.