Part One Coaching Tips No.1 - Feet
Part Two Coaching Tips No.2 - Hips/Pelvis
Part Three Coaching Tips No.3 - Arms
Part Four Coaching Tips No.4 - Trainng
Part Five Coaching Tips No.5 - Foot Care
Part Six Coaching Tips No.6 - Shoes
Part Seven Coaching Tips No.7 - Shinsplints
Part Eight Coaching Tips No.8 - Defensive Walking
Part Nine Coaching Tips No.9 - Warm up/down

Jürgen Spencer is a member of Bellville Athletics Club in Cape Town. He has represented Western Province and South Africa on several occations.More....

Contact Jurgen Spencer at for any questions or advice.

Part One - Coaching Tips No.1

In this session we are going to concentrate on our FEET.

1. We grasp the ground with our feet. Imagine our feet are like hands on our legs. Think of a cat kneading the sofa, carpet or your lap.

2 In race walking, we hug the ground in a similar way - every part of it, heel, ball and toes.

3. Aim for the ideal 45° foot flex (heel to leg angle to ground) which is normally 30° - 40° (which is not bad).

4. Roll down, roll off, favouring the outside edge from heel to ball, (the outside edge is the strongest for weight support). It is the opposite of pronation.

5. Grip he ground with your feet so that you feel it moving along beneath you, (don't beat it to death). You are pushing the ground behind and away from you - (you are moving the ground).

6. Gently roll off, don't "slap" the ground, imagine you are walking on ice and at the moment of push-off with your near foot, you start to break the ice.

7. As the heel strikes in front you must transfer the weight of impact quickly to the rest of the sole and "roll-off", before breaking the ice. Aim to be light footed, tap, tap, tap silently, not slap, slap, slap clumsily.

8. With the heavy slamming down of the leading foot, you increase the friction, you decelerate, you break the speed you have generated by pushing off hard with your trailing foot. You are doing what you don't want to do. You should aim to maintain momentum and a smooth continuous and even top speed.

9. Walk with your feet parallel to each other, don't walk like a duck with your feet pointing outwards, (leave that to Charlie Chaplin), walk a straight line. Check your line walking and use a three inch road marking line and try staying on it. (Please be careful, this sort of training may be done at 05h00 on a Sunday morning when there is no traffic.)

10. Try and walk in front of a mirror without moving off the spot you are standing on. First with feet fully on the ground (don't lift the heels) to experience proper knee locking and hip movement.

11. Walk on the spot with proper heel raising and experience the flexing right up to the "toe off" position. Don’t lift toes off the floor. Watch yourself performing the ordinary walking motions.

12. Walk on your heels. This is an additional shin muscle exercise - (about he only pain producing muscle of a race walker at intermittent and always unexpected times.) This is one of the best exercises for strengthening the shines and calves.

13. Angle your front leading foot before "heel down", grip the ground, pull through, roll off and "feel the ground with your paws".

14. These exercises should increase your speed. This is the prime experience of walking - "Feel the ground disappearing under your pads".

Use the technique in daily life as an undercover race walking exercise; it really is fun and truly astonishing in its effect. You have to experience it yourself to believe it. You must use the image and visualize yourself doing it.

It looks as though you are walking, strolling along, but you are in actual fact out striding everybody in sight, virtually gliding along like a boat in full sail. All movements become fluid, smooth, and automatic without much effort and you get that feeling that you are a champion race walker.

"Lekker Stap" (Enjoy the walking)


Please note:

A general reminder before closing on this section about our feet. This section on feet is of prime importance, as we are inclined to neglect them compared to the attention we give the rest of our body. Look after your feet, pamper them, nurse them caress them, bathe them, treat them, massage them and every-so-often, give them the royal treatment. Cover them in the most comfortable socks you can find and then - the shoes - but this point will be worth an entire set of coaching tips.


Part Two - Coaching Tips No.2

In this session we will concentrate our efforts on our HIPS/PELVIS.

1. Realise that everything a race walker does while walking, starts with the hips. The hip/pelvis area is the centre of motion.

2. All properly initiated movement originates from the pelvis or hip area. Elvis the Pelvis knew that - he could have been a fantastic walker.

3. The pelvis region is the area between the groin and the waist and this includes the whole lot which is attached or wrapped around, including the buttocks.

4. The pelvis is the body's centre of gravity. from this point the body moves all he "attachments".

5. Don't be a "heavy walker" whose feet hit the ground with a thud with each step. This has nothing to do with your weight or age. Learn not to be heavy and earth-bound.

6. Don't be a "bouncy walker". Don't bounce along on the balls of your feet, your heels must strike first. walkers in this category bounce up and down too much, instead of driving forward. Both methods, (points 5 and 6) create unnecessary tension in the body.

7. Let's take a big step. Let's say your left leg is the supporting leg, your pelvis is over your left leg. As the right leg moves from behind after the push off, the hip moves foreword and the pelvis is lifted off the supporting leg and is suspended for a moment between your two legs.

As you move onto the right leg (your new supporting leg), the pelvis moves up and over that leg until it is directly over that leg (on top of the right leg). The path of your pelvis moves slightly in the shape of a "U", back and forth as you stride out.

8. You must discover and experience that feeling yourself, how the pelvis area lifts and moves your weight forward through space. This is the normal waking principal and you must discover this in order to be conscious and aware of it and to benefit from it by developing that flowing streamlined race walking action.

9. Support, lift and drop from the pelvis. lifting the back leg up and over the support leg in order to give it the opportunity to straighten into the forward thrusting heel action. Each shift from one leg to the other is done on a slightly horizontal plane; left, right, left, right. The basic motion however, is that straight line forward thrust.

10. As the right leg swings forward, the right side of the pelvis (right hip), slides on a horizontal plane to the outside, forward and down. It is this which gives race walking that unique hip swivel.

11. The important part for you is the internal sensation of the hip leading the impulse of the stride.

12. To help to experience that sensation, you must use the following image:-

Think of the area at the front of your hips as being two car headlights. as you are walking, think of these headlights as moving smoothly forward in space. "Send your hips ahead of you".

14. When concentrating on hip and pelvis keep in mind - forward, up and over each time you shift your weight onto the new supporting leg.

15. Forward is the directional thrust to add extra centimetres to each stride. Up and over is the slight internal motion and please remember two extra centimetres in the hips allows a further reach of ten centimetres in foot movement.

16. Every time you take a step, think forward, up and over in the pelvis area and most important, try to relax and don't forget to breathe.

"Lekker Stap" (Enjoy the walking)



Part Three - Coaching Tips No.3

In this session we will focus on the ARMS

 Don’t kid yourself; your arms play a bigger part in race walking than you think. Try walking without them or with them strapped to your sides. I’m serious; see how far you can go.

1. When your right foot goes out, your left arm goes out; this is the most natural   occurrence when the body goes into motion – a pendulum like motion.

2. If you move your arms faster your feet will automatically move faster. This is the secret of race walking. Your arms propel you automatically because they make your feet go faster. The faster the arms, the faster the feet.

3. If you swing your arms even faster, you will notice them starting to bend at the elbow. Allow this natural bending of the arms to continue until they form a “L” shape. This is known as the “Piston” or “pusher”.

4. To prove this point, try and straighten your arms while you are going fast and you will experience a reduction of speed.

5. Form your hand into a loose fist and picture a punching bag floating along just ahead of you. Keep punching but not too violently.

6. Experience how naturally your arms swing opposite to your legs. They move you forward and help you with your balance.

7. Find the rhythm of your arm movements in relation to your gait and speed. Start walking, bend your left arm and hold your left shoulder with your left hand hooking the shoulder, so that your palm rests on the collar bone. Let your elbow hang down like a dead weight. Do the same with your right arm and walk around a bit. If you are not tensed up you will feel each shoulder moving in opposition to your forward leg. Your arms want to do this.

8. Try to locate – sensing from the inside out – where this movement is coming from deep inside the shoulder. You should be able to sense the movement in your spine.

9. Your arm are long, in fact, very long. They are connected to your shoulder blade and right down into your spine by means of a muscle. Further connections are made through the pelvis, through the opposite leg and right into the heel of that opposite foot.

10.  Make a “ 5 point star” ( legs apart, arms up and stretched), the shape of an X. stretch a bit further to the left and feel the internal dynamics of a force between your left arm and right foot. Try the other side – same results. Use this exercise in your warm-up, it is very important.

11. The motion of the diagonal force can contribute more power, speed and balance to your race walking technique. This movement is the primary force in the body’s movement and activates the largest amount of muscles.

12. Your arms are the secret weapon for gaining speed. The natural feeling of ease in any movement comes from learning the basics and relaxing into the movement.

13. Try not to tense your shoulders or your fists. It will produce fatigue. Think where the swing starts from; allow your shoulders to relax enough so that they respond to the impulses from within your spine.

14. Bend your arms at elbows (the ‘L’ formation). Fully extended arms take longer to move and also take more effort. Remember the swifter and shorter the arms, the faster the legs. Isn’t that what we are after?

15. Keep the thrust of the arm swing forward and parallel to the imaginary punch bag in front of you. Keep your elbows in. If the arms angle out too much from your sides, or if they cross over your central body line in front of you, the motion will force you sideways rather than forward. Keep lateral movement to a minimum.

16. Race walk with one arm moving only. Experience what happens? You are going towards one side and going to curve away – why? You’ve just started removed the opposition. Pump the right arm and you angle off to your left. It’s like a canoe with one paddle.

17. Find a walk rhythm between your feet and your arms. Slow it down and speed it up. Play with it and improvise, pump, pump, pump.

Getting a little tired? Use your imagination again, the image, a set of parallel ropes in front of you. Grab the ropes and pull, pull, pull – it will help you to pull yourself along. Really use your hands to grab, grab and pull. It works! Just go with the image and you’ll be tripping on down the road faster than you think.

“Lekker Stap”



Part Four - Coaching Tips No.4

We have covered a number of body parts in our coaching tips, i.e., feet and arms, so far. It is time for a little variety and also to cover a few aspects of TRAINING IN GENERAL. A lot of it is common sense and many experts on sport and race walking have aired their views on training tactics, tips, do’s and don’ts or whatever you call it. Try and memorize these tips and you will go a long way towards enjoyable and injury-free competitive race walking.

1.Much has been said continuous training-training for nine, ten or eleven months per year and resting for one, two or three months every year. I believe that the key is to train regularly and to be consistent. I believe in training frequently all year round. To improve your health and to stay in good shape train three to four times per week for ± 30 minutes (± 5km sessions). For the competitive walker training must be done six days a week. However, a few odd days without training should not harm you much.

2. Don’t shock your body by expecting to change from a “lazy slob” who drives to the corner café a hundred meters away to a super human 100km a week race walker at 6 minutes per km overnight. Start gradually and train gently and give your body a chance to adapt. The human body is not able to adapt overnight to the stress of regular periods of race walking. Remember most elite race walkers only train at racing speed 10% of their training distance.

3. I have often mentioned to all walkers that under know circumstances should an athlete compensate speed for good technique and proper race walking style. To assure that you understand this important point fully, let me restate this very important “race walking law”. Never risk losing technique and style in order to make up time to beat the clock during training. This goes for all training, time trails, speed training interval training, Fartlek training and of course during actual racing.

The successful walker should count the time spent walking each week, rather than the distance he has covered or even worse, the time he took to cover a certain distance. Try and remember that the initial goal is distance. Thereafter we should gradually increase the speed and effort we wish to maintain for longer distances.

4. The tendency is that a lot of the walkers tend to race while they are training and many set themselves daily schedules. Remember that your body is not always equally equipped and ready to perform what you set out to achieve that day. A human body does not want to go along and produce a 30 minute, 5km walk when the temperature gauge reads 39°C. Listen to your body and act accordingly.

5. Alternate hard and easy sessions and don’t exceed two hard sessions per week. When you start try to achieve personal best performances on a minimum of training effort. Evaluate your body and how you feel and accordingly up your distances and gradually bring your times down. Do your legs feel tired? Have you got that tired and lethargic feelings? Well, abandon your walk and rest. One saying frequently mentioned in sport circles is: - “There is no gain without pain.” Nothing could be further from the truth. That sentence is the biggest rubbish ever to have been said. I for one get very cross when I hear it. A world famous athlete once stated: - “What is pain and discomfort to an inexperienced athlete is merely information to the elite sportsman.”

6. Now that time trails are introduced into training sessions, some additional information on the term “TIME TRAIL” is of great importance. Time trail doesn’t mean that you must place all your attention on the stopwatch. Too much concern with time can cause you to loose confidence. Do not make the mistake that by believing that each time trail must be faster than the last one. This is fallacy; it is neither desirable nor possible.

7. Time trails are used to develop co-ordination in walking races over certain distances, for you to find your weaknesses and to use training sessions to strengthen those weak points. You don’t walk time trails at full effort, but with a strong even effort, which leaves you with a certain amount of reserve. If you want to know whether or not you are improving do not only check the stopwatch, but also see if you are able to walk the same better time in successive time trails at a lower heart rate, with less effort and with more rapid recovery. Let us be absolutely clear on this point.

8. For those of you who are competitive walkers remember that the most intensive training must be performed only during the last six to eight weeks before you wish to enter. Once you have ht the top (your personal peak) you can maintain that peak for only four to six weeks. During this period you should mainly race and not train too hard.

9. Overstraining is the most commonest and least understand “illness”. If you have had a good race, a gold medal perhaps, without much effort in training what a fantastic motivator. You start to reason with yourself and you imagine what would happen if you really go for it and train very hard. Here is the danger of overdoing it. The mind is reaching for perfection and will soon demand more from your body that it can deliver. General fatigue, headaches, stomach upsets, weight loss, no interest in the opposite sex, lack of appetite for food or work, early morning waking and lighter sleep, generally unable to relax, a listless attitude to life, colds and flu, etc. Medication won’t help to overcome these symptoms; only rest can do that, not more training. Allow nature to heal and patch up the damage.

10. It is said that the success of an athlete is not determined by training the body, but by training the mind. I for one believe in this theory. Let us train our minds. Many athletes perform very well while training but never succeed in racing. Mental preparation is important. Top class athletes who “make it” are mentally some of the toughest people in the world. Relax, the beauty of about it is that people are not born with that toughness and it does not come overnight. You must work at it, develop it, cultivate it and cherish it. Let us work on our attitude towards positive training and racing.

When having a tough part in your training route like a steep uphill, don’t say, “Here comes the enemy” This sort of negativeness is a definite NO! Look at the hill as being your friend, believe that is good for you and your strength development and be positive.

11. To finish off, a note about coaching and your coach. Many serious athletes fail because they do not have someone to motivate or guide hem. A coach can provide lots of vital functions for you. He can assess when an athlete is doing too much, he can give mental comfort, advice and useful guidance and inspiration. Let us look at the poplar top marathon runners. We will find that all elite runners train at least twice a week under a coach, which suggests that they find this arrangement of great benefit. The potential value of a coach is accepted in all other sports. The physical preparation of an athlete is important and a coach can help to a certain extent. more important is the coach’s role when it comes to inspiration and support and to provide an objective analysis of where athletes are going wrong or doing to much.

I sincerely hope that you take these points to heart and act accordingly.

“Lekker Stap”



Part Five - Coaching Tips No.5

In this section we’ll look at FOOT CARE, SHOE SELECTION, and a common injury SHINSPLINTS.


Without a sturdy foundation a structure is basically worthless, yet ironically, we walkers do little or nothing to solidify and strengthen our foundation – our feet.

We walk hundreds maybe thousands of kilometers every year. We might even supplement our walking with running and strengthen other areas of our bodies by doing alternative exercises such as weightlifting, yoga etc., but we don’t do any specific exercises for our feet. Ponder on this, when was the last time you said, “I think I’ll do a little work on my posteria tibialis and my pedonias longus?".

No, of course we don’t say that. The crux of the matter is that weak foot muscles are common to most of us, simply because they’re not exercise enough. Walking and normal activity do strengthen the “38” foot muscles, but it doesn’t strengthen them enough to develop the foot and leg muscles sufficiently for race walking or running. We should do specific exercises which will make our feet strong enough to support the rest of the body and be strong enough to take the stress of a race or endurance walk.

Why is it important? It is really quite simple; the foot muscles of the leg interact with the muscles within the foot to cause the feet to function. The muscles are the activating units that are attached to the bones by tendons getting the foot to move, the muscles have to contract. If the muscles are weak, they will not move the foot into the position they are supposed to be. As a result the foot will flop around. If the muscles controlling the foot aren’t correctly balanced, one will over-power the other, resulting in over-pronation.

Floppy feet, over-pronation and wobbly knees are the most obvious results of weak foot and leg muscles. Many of the injuries we have come to know or heard about, such as, shin splints, stress fractures, runners knee, Achilles tendonitis, lower back pain etc., can be directly related to weak feet.

Strength training for our feet is most essential. A functional weak or poorly trained foot is the cause of more than half of all injuries in track and field athletics. A weak foot hinders the development of motor skills. Most of the common injuries, particularly those which plague beginners, such as shin splints, could be prevented if the foot and related leg muscles were stronger, better developed and, most important, in proper balance.

Strong foot muscles will not only make you less vulnerable to injuries, they’ll also make you faster and able to walk further. With stronger and more balanced foot muscles, your foot comes through straight ahead. No wasted motion with every step.

If we go for a walk, we might do a little stretching, we then tie our laces and take off. We don’t sit for 15 minutes and do foot exercises, it’s boring and we can’t see any visible results.

A famous coach once wrote: “Special exercises for strengthening the foot are uninteresting, unemotional, difficult to measure and their effect is not immediately apparent and are thus not willingly done by athletes. However, no other way of strengthening this important unit of the support-motor system exists.

One of the primary reasons for our feet being weak is because of the shoes we wear. Shoes limit the movement of the foot. They are like casts and prevent our feet from becoming stronger; they in fact weaken the feet. Observe the feet of some great African runners, hay all have extremely strong foot muscles. These muscles are not inherent, they have developed due to many of them growing up barefooted. They learn to walk and run with great toe action and naturally develop great foot strength and efficiency. They don’t appear to be plagued by many injuries, which afflict so many of us.

While you walk, the foot should be pointed straight ahead and the greater part of motion should be in the forefoot (not the heel). The leg should swing foreword, the heel makes contact and the “roll off” follows instantly to the ball of the foot, supported by the straightened toes and a powerful push-off to follow.

Some points to remember when doing the exercises.

- They should be done barefooted to allow freedom of movement for the flexors of the toes.

- They should be done every day, because you are not dealing with large muscle masses, which will cause fatigue to the rest of your body.

- Do some of the exercises while at work, under your desk, or whilst relaxing at home in the evenings.

- Build up gradually to when you are able to do 5 sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise, but don’t over-do it or you may damage ligaments.

Feet strengthening exercises.

1. Rolling the feet clockwise and then anti-clockwise.

2. Grasping an imaginary rope repeatedly like opening and closing your hands.

3. Writing the alphabet with your feet.

4. Rolling a golf or tennis ball under your foot.

5. Doing calf raises standing on the front half’s of both feet or front half of one foot with your other foot placed at the back of the exercising legs knee.

6. Briskly walking about 50m giving very small steps exaggerating heel placement, roll-off and push-off.

7. Walking the figure 8 at different paces

8. Walking on the beach in the sand or very soft grass.

9. Using an elastic band, pulling your foot towards you, try pointing your foot sideward against the resistance. Do both feet separately using repetitions.

10. Run stairs using only the first half of your feet pushing off with your toes.

There is no way you will be able to see any results, but after a few weeks of doing the exercises, you should notice that your feet don’t wobble as much when you walk faster, your shoes wont wear out as quickly and your feet won’t be as fatigued after a long walk.

Next month I’ll focus on shoe selection.

"Lekker Stap"



Part Six - Coaching Tips No.6

How to select a shoe

It is not, repeat not, becoming more difficult to buy the proper shoe. It is becoming more difficult to see how simple the task is.

Choosing the right pair of shoes is still a tricky business when there are so many different brands and types available, not mentioning the price. Overseas, a wrong choice is a relatively inexpensive exercise. In South Africa one must really think and be sure.

One must remember that there is no such thing as the “BEST’ shoe for everyone. What is the best for you will not be the best for everyone else as each person has its own leg, body, foot structure and walking style, technique and habits.

When deciding which shoe is the best for you, you should consider the following:

1. How much walking are you going to do
2. What type of walker are you
3. Your injury history
4. What to look for in a shoe

Common mechanical problems in walkers

Depending on what the problems are, certain inferences are made regarding the different features required in a shoe for the various mechanical problems.

Classifying feet by their arches is a simple procedure which takes into account individual differences which affect not only the selection of a shoe but the type of problems or injuries likely to be experienced.

· Normal feet
· Flat feet
· High-arched feet

The normal foot is generally not a problem; the flat foot has a number of interesting characteristics. The long inside arch is flat or collapsed. The flat foot is usually hyper mobile, allowing too much inward motion and tends to be associated with knee problems, medial shin splints and heel spurs. A supportive shoe is critical for good rear foot control, because the hyper mobile foot tends to absorb shock naturally. The insole material should be firm and supportive, (rather than soft with more cushioning). A straight lasted shoe is often ideal to support the fallen medial arch.

The high arched foot shows that the foot shows that the footprint is broken into separate rear foot, forefoot, and toe regions. The contact area is smaller and the force per unit area is nearly double that of the flat foot, thereby reducing the shock absorbing function of the foot and also the shoe. This type of foot calls for good cushioning, good arch support and flexibility in a shoe with strong heel camber and general all-round support.


What many fail to appreciate is that pronation is an essential mechanism to absorb shock whilst walking. Without a certain amount of pronation the foot could never assume a flat position on the ground and perform the necessary function during the support phase, It is only when pronation is excessive or at the wrong time that there is a tendency to injury. The foot and leg remain unstable at heel contact and not rigid enough at toe-off, creating excessive stress on the muscles and tendons which develop into oversize injuries.

It is important to note that to a certain extent excessive pronation can be limited by specific features incorporated into the design and construction of the shoes we use. More precise control for severe anomalies requires orthotics.

The most important requirements in a shoe for control of pronation is rear-foot control and stability. There are specific components in certain shoes which can provide this control.

When selecting a new shoe, there are three major areas of concern which must be addressed:

1. Your old shoe
2. Your injury history
3. Your physical characteristics (foot, leg, body weight etc.)

There are few shoes specifically designed for walking. The route followed by most walkers is by looking at running shoes. Our needs are slightly different to those of a runner, so careful attention should be paid to detail when shopping for a new pair.

Running shoes a very complex, so we’ll try to keep this simple.

The correct shoe will be your main expense when walking. A shoe can make or break your race walking enjoyment, so shop with care.

· Try on as many shoes as possible, walk around in them, they should feel good, comfortable, “like a glove”.

· Always wear similar socks to those worn when race walking, when you shop for new shoes.

· Sizes can be misleading, go fit and feel – not numbers. Allow that magic “full thumb width” space at the front of your toes. (I promise you there will be no blue nail blues if you apply this rule.)

· A good shoe has a built-up heel of +-20mm. This is especially important for race walking.

· The heel must not be too spongy and soft. Test this feature before you even try on the shoe. Press the heel of your hand on the inside heel of the shoe and push it against a firm surface. The heel should only have a bit of resilience. If there is too much resilience, the shoe is not for a race walker.

· The base of the shoe should be fairly wide. This is essential because every step lands on the heel.

· The sole of the shoe should be flexible. Test this by holding the shoe in both hands and bending it, it should bend easily. This flexibility is needed foe an easy powerful push-off with the rear foot. (Go for a lasted or combination lasted shoe rather than a board lasted model.)

· The toe boxes of shoes differ in size. Certain shoe makes have traditionally shallow tow boxes, which does not suit people with thick or turned-up nails. Consider the toe box aspect in conjunction with point 3 above, on the length of the shoe.

Next month we’ll cover shin splints. How do you know you have it, its cause and its treatments.

‘Lekker stap’


(This website supports New Balance. The only brand in SA catering for walkers with its lightweight and flexible shoes. Most walkers in SA can be seen wearing New Balance. The Team)


Part Seven - Coaching Tips No.7

Shin Splints

On a few occasions we’ve mentioned the aches and pains in shin areas of both legs, the development of the “walker’s muscle” and the self-diagnosis by many of our walkers that they have got shin splints.

Generally speaking, walking does not give a person “shin splints”, I also believe that we have had one or two isolated cases of this sports injury.

The medical profession agrees that “shin splints” are a result of the following conditions or situations:-

1. Subjecting yourself to intensive hard training – walking too much, too soon, too fast, too often.

2. Wearing the wrong type of shoe, or changing the type of shoe you are wearing too often or daily, ( Please note: tennis shoes, squash shoes, aerobic shoes, boots or cheap nasty tekkies are not recommended for race walking or running for that matter).

3. Include elements of jumping and repeated take-off in your sports

4. Train too much on hard tracks and roads.

5. Change training surfaces often, soft-hard-soft-hard etc.

6. Have a physical problem of excessive pronation or high instep. This can have a contributing influence.

How do you know when you have “shin splints”?

Symptoms and diagnostics –

1. Tenderness over the middle part of the tibia.

2. Pain is especially pronounced over the lower half of the bone.

3. A degree of swelling can be felt and sometimes seen.

4. The pain goes when at rest but returns on loading.

5. Pain can be felt when toes and ankle joint is turned downwards.

6. Local tenderness in the lower half of the tibia.

How can you prevent it?

1. Avoid too much “hard road walking”

2. Don’t mix hard and soft surfaces in one training session.

3. Use the correct type of shoe. Refer to the tips on shoe selection

4. A careful and progressive warm-up is strongly recommended.

What is the treatment?

1. Stop training and competing and rest as early as possible. The sooner you stop, the sooner it will heal.

2. Pain is a warning which should signal rest.

3. Don’t start training until there is no pain when loading and tenderness is gone.

4. If you must continue to exercise (building up to an important race etc.,) change to cycling or swimming. Should you opt on cycling, place the pedals under the heel of the foot, not the toes or the front part of the foot.

5. Apply local heat and apply a heat retainer.

6. If the complaint persists, see your doctor. He can tell you more and analyze the anatomy of the lower leg and the foot and determine malalignment as a cause.

7. Your doctor can also help you with anti-inflammatory medication and/or some excellent ointments which are available to aid your recovery.

While walking?

If you have a burning sensation in your shin area shortly after starting the walk or after 1 – 2 km on the road, you probably experience similar indications as described previously. Relax and take it easy, most probably on e of the following points is the reason for your shin’s rebellion:

1. You have today or only recently discovered the pleasure and well being walking can bring you and are very unfit in walking terms (the typical new starter).

2. You have today not warmed-up, you have not stretched. You have just jumped out of the car and told your body to go. Your body is in shock, and out of its comfort zone.

3. You had a hard or long walk the previous day and did not warm down or do any stretching afterwards. Your system and especially your legs are full of lactic acid.

4. You went too far last night and over indulged in alcohol, especially hard liquor or red wine. This has a dehydrating effect on your muscles and you have robbed them of essential fluids.

You should do the following:

1. Don’t worry too much if you only have a slight discomfort, you will be able to walk it through.

2. If the pain increases, stop immediately.

3. relax, sit on a wall or sit down on the kerb stone. Try to relax the muscle which is tense and in a cramp position.

4. Message with your hands, up and down and sideways across the shin muscle. Massage one leg at a time with both hands.

5. Relax your foot slowly, rotate your ankle joint and move your foot slowly up and down without any load on the foot.

6. Message each leg for at least two minutes.

7. Don’t worry about the time you have lost, remember not every training session is a time trail.

8. stand up, have a stretch, go onto your toes and rock forwards and backwards.

9. You are ready to continue your walk without any discomfort. Start slowly.

10. Gradually increase your speed to match your target.

‘Lekker stap’



Part Eight - Coaching Tips No.8

Walking Defensively

Once you have made up your mind to start walking, it becomes necessary to walk on the roads. Once that happens, the walker becomes exposed to his greatest enemy - THE MOTOR CAR

Now with many new walkers joining the ever-increasing number of runners, the potential for tragedies only increases. Many of the tragedies, which do occur throughout the country, can be avoided. Most collisions between walkers/joggers/runners and motorcars occurred after dark and moving in the same direction as the traffic, struck when next to each other (2 or 3 abreast).

A survey revealed that only 27% of the cases, the driver was responsible for the collision and in most of the cases the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In the majority of the cases, the walker/jogger was either totally or partially responsible for the collision.

How can we reduce the risk of possible tragedies?

- Adopt a defensive attitude when walking on the road. Watch oncoming cars and listen for cars coming from behind. Be ready to jump to safety at the first indication of potential trouble.

- Select roads with very little traffic and wide shoulders.

- Always proceed facing oncoming traffic.

- Move in single file or not more than two abreast.

- Try and keep off the road at dusk or at night.

- Wear the brightest, most visible colours with reflective material attached. Use yellow, orange, red and other luminous colours. Make yourself as visible as possible to motorists.

- Be especially careful when tired and near the end of a long walk. Fatigue impairs the concentration and slows down reflexes and seems to make you feel with your head in the clouds and indestructible. A combination of factors similar to the effects of alcohol intoxication.

- One of the worst situations is the overtaking car that comes up from behind the person on his side of the road. Watch out on that only reasonable long straight stretch of road, somebody will try it right there. Have a quick look around when you sense that something is approaching too fast and too near your side.

In today’s day and age it is not only motorcars that poses a danger but also criminal elements. Keep the following in mind.

- Train within a group or with a training partner.
- Avoid ‘hotspots’ where crime and muggings occur regularly
- Be confident and aware of your surroundings.
- Carry a whistle or pepper spray with you if need be
- Hide accessories like cellphones, CD & MP3 players in pouches or pockets.

Remember think defensively and have your own safety in mind when training.

'Lekker Stap'

Jürgen Spencer


Part Nine - Coaching Tips No.9

Warm up and Warm Down

Warming up and warming down should be an integral part of any type of exercise or sport, for it’s dangerous and inefficient muscle therapy to leap immediately from reset into maximum activity.

When you are at rest your blood circulates at a low rate evenly through your body, facilitating the healthy functioning of all vital organs.

When a part of the body is called into action, a greater blood supply carrying oxygen is sent to the working parts.

Warm up is essential to signal to your body that a certain group of muscles will be in need of an increased oxygen supply.

A few minutes of slow jogging, walking, swimming or cycling before some stretching and before you work harder is usually satisfactory. Pay attention to any pain or stiffness you might feel and add an extra stretching for that area.

Joints are vulnerable because muscles, tendons and ligaments attach there. Along with the warm up movements, add movements that will ease and lubricate the joints into action.

It’s especially important to warm up before a race or competition, for cold muscles are much more likely to be injured and the extra stimulus of competition temps many people to drive too hard before the full blood flow through the muscles is established.

Gradually increase the duration so that you give each muscle a strength lasting 30 seconds or more.

The period after exercise is even more important. If you stop exercising suddenly, the body can suffer from shock and the muscles tend to shorten, with subsequent stiffness and loss of flexibility.

First reduce the exercise you are doing to a slow pace, and then use the complete range of stretching exercises. They give the important muscle groups a mild stretch before your hot shower and rest. Make a point of it and do it, your body will really enjoy the treat you are dishing up and will repay you handsomely with improved performance as you progress with your training programme.

'Lekker Stap'



Dave's Clinic - 10/01/2007

What a wonderful opportunity we the South African Race-walkers have had last month in Cape Town to be in the company of race walker and world famous race walking coach Dave Mc Govern.

A great idea by Malcolm Salida and Peter Vorster to organize this clinic/workshop and Nick Forbes for hosting our guest.

Personally I was delighted to be given the chance just to be around and to provide assistance to Dave when needed.

Dave for sure had his hands full, attending to 28 participants of all ages, juniors to masters and of different levels and standards, cramming a 5 day clinic into 2 and a half days, and being as enthusiastic at 18:00 in the evening as he was early morning.
Dave managed to have 28 enthusiastic students late in the evening, which is surely an indication of his devotion and ability to involve his students in active participation on the “Mc Govern Journey”, a well-structured and coherent learning experience for all participants.

Dave is a master in explaining the theory, demonstrating the practical in fine detail, analyzing individuals styles and techniques, giving meaningful feedback and suggesting, never forcing, remedial corrections for an identified discrepancy or weakness.
Despite a much larger than normal group of walkers, Dave never appeared to be rushed. His time management was amazing. Students felt very much relaxed and at ease, questions and concerns were dealt with professionally and at the same time with feel and sincerity.

The session on ‘Heart Rate Based Training’ impressed me immensely. From now on training sessions are becoming much more specific, structured and goal orientated, depending on time of season and the race calendar. Dave provided us with the inside of scientific training, the technical efficiency and what we can expect to get out of the different levels of training intensity. No longer are we stepping out just to do a few k’s without purpose and intent. The different levels of intensity, the benefits to the athlete of each workout were explained and covered in detail. The practical session, establishing each athletes threshold max. was fantastic, the execution ran like clockwork, giving a precise evaluation of each individuals capabilities and limitations.

Would it not be great, if we could round up a group of enthusiastic bunch of young dedicated walkers from the 15 to 18 age group, provided funds are made available?
bring Dave back to S.A. and let him do the rest. Perhaps we could start a fundraising exercise for that purpose.

I only wish that I had be able to get Dave to know a little better on the social side, in the evenings i.e. Kalk Bay, and early morning walk at Kommetjie. Unfortunately I had family commitments with overseas visitors including grandchildren. Anyhow that was my loss. The opportunity to meet Dave might arise again, as I know that he had a instant liking for South Africa and given half a chance, will not turn down a further invitation.

Have I any criticism about the clinic? Not really, perhaps on his return when coaching our hand picked 20 junior girl and boys, he could place just a little less emphasis on the “floating phase” .

'Lekker Stap'

Jürgen Spencer


A Successfull Athlete - 08/05/07

I am just recalling some of my mental preparations before the 1997 World Champs.
I think it is worth recalling, documenting and sharing with the rest of SA.

Mental Attributes and Approaches to COMPETITIONS.

' Lekker Stap'

Jurgen Spencer


Listen to your Body - 14/09/07

I am not the first and I am certainly not going to be the last to utter these words, “listen to your body”, in your endeavor to develop yourself to become a better, fitter, faster, smoother and competitive race walker. Friends, fellow walkers, that is the best advise I have up my sleeve right now.

Look who is talking you probably think or say. The old chappie (67) ten kg’s over weight, too many castles and red wine in a session, slowing down rapidly, battling to do a 10 in under 60 min. Ok, ok, you probably right. This old crock has no room to talk and his body is telling him the wrong story.Irrespective what you might say or think, I stick to my statement, because that is what my body tells me to do. “Put on some weight, relax, take it easy, don’t worry”.

Looking back, I have been blessed and my body has served me well. I have listened successfully for 22 years since starting walking at 45. Twenty-two consecutive SA’s and 44 gold in 5000m and 20km, and two in the world champs 10 years ago.
I remember my body telling me to go and walk a 21 in 1994, 18 days after a hernia operation in a time of 1:56:00. I also remember only a year ago at Youngsfield, when I arrived at 06:30, I stepped out of my car and decided in 2 seconds that I was not going to toe the starting-line. I shocked Barbara, and myself. Barbara came with me that morning, something she does not do too often. Perhaps she had a vision and knew something was not right that morning and she wanted to support me.

When your body gives you that message you ought to obey. That advise should never be under-estimated. Could that be the reason why I never had to abandon a race. Every race I have ever started, I have finished.

Four years ago I recall arriving and Rondebosch common for a 25 k race organized by Spartans, I walked up to John and Dave and said, sorry guys, not this morning. I climbed back into my car drove home, had a fantastic breakfast and felt on top of the world for the rest of that day. Did I regret pulling out? No not at all. I obeyed my body, the message that morning was “don’t walk.” Don’t be surprised when the day comes and you receive such a message before the start of a race, obey the message don’t fight it.

Before you get any ideas let me put one thing straight. One would expect “normal” people receiving such a message at five in the morning while still in bed and the alarm goes off, but we walkers are not “normal”. That scenario would not be the same. That would be sheer laziness and lack of discipline. As for myself, I have never received such a message so early.

Lekker Stap



Symmetry - 14/09/07

Symmetry = Perfection

While in Zambia I have walked many lonely k’s, mainly missing my Bellville and Spartan friends, but also often deep in thought thinking about our sport we love so much. On my last one-hour walk I decided that I should write down my thoughts and ideas, and so, here we go.
I have come to the conclusion that we walkers are unique and also rather fortunate, being able to walk (race walk) and are compared to most other sports relatively injury free.
Most of us have that odd niggle and only occasionally a more severe injury. In race walking injuries are not the norm.
We frequently say: - I have a left hamstring, right achilles, left leg cramp, right shin, left shoulder, right foot, left hip, etc. ache, niggles, problem, or whatever.

Please look at that listing again and note that they are all singular ailments or symptoms, not plural ones. It is never both hamstrings or both shoulders, after all, we do have two of each.

The conclusion I came up with is that if we could manage to get our SYMMETRY right, or at least get it in to a better state, we could all be much better walkers, faster, smoother, more elegant, more economical and more injury free.

Some background on symmetry.

The definition of symmetry is: -
Symmetry is a state of having two halves that are mirror images of each other.

There are few sports besides race-walking where symmetry plays a major role, running of course, others are swimming, cycling and paddling. You cannot excel in these sports unless your symmetry is perfect.

Look at the world champions in race- walking; running etc. they all look like poetry in motion. It is symmetry that makes them look like that. The right leg, arm, foot, hand action must be a mirror image of the actions being performed by the left.

Let us have a look at other sports. We can all remember Steffie Graf (best legs in the tennis world). Few people have seen Steffie’s upper body in a tight T-shirt or swim wear. She had a very masculine and big right shoulder and upper arm. Her left side in comparison was rather week and feminine. She was encouraged to train several hours each day playing with the racket in her left hand in order to obtain a better balance.

Soccer players, especially goalkeepers are forced to be able to kick with both feet not to expose their week side when clearing the ball from a dangerous situation.

It is unfortunate that 99% of humans have not got that vital asset of symmetry in order to excel. We all have our “favorite side”, our kicking foot, throwing arm, standing leg and even a sleeping side. The way we sit, relax, stand, watch tv, cross our legs, all affect our posture and consequently our symmetry. (or lack of it).

Back to walking. A perfect walking technique includes having a low follow through action. On a road such as main road, walking from Simon Town to Cape Town (must walk on the right) with the dreadful and at times extreme camber, will not allow you apply your normal symmetry ( however little there is of it). After scoffing the road several times with your left foot, you make an automatic allowance for the road and adjust your follow through with your left leg, forcing you to maintain a unbalanced rhythm. After a strenuous 36 km you wonder why for a week or so, your one hip, hamstring etc. is telling you that it has been abused.
What can we do in our aim to attain better symmetry??
I have a few ideas and I gladly share them with you.

1. See a Chiropractor (not a bone crusher). He makes you lie down straight, relax and he will tell 9 out of 10 people that they have one leg longer or shorter than the other. He will straighten you up and make both legs the same length within 5 minutes. The problem is that the anomaly will return within a week unless you get to work on your posture. Stand straight, equal weight on both feet, don’t cross your legs, sit straight, not on one cheek etc. etc.

2. Take a water bottle, one third full, (not to heavy) walk with the bottle in right hand, listen to the noise the water makes, the splashing around, the chugging, get familiar with the sound for a period of a minute or two. Now do the same with the bottle in your left hand, (ensure you maintain the same speed) compare the two sounds. I guarantee that the sounds are not the same. Symmetry of arm action would produce identical sounds/noises. Make an attempt to reach equilibrium. Make adjustments to your arm action until you reach equal powerful strokes from both sides. Think of the driving arms of a powerful steam engine of yester year.

3. Stride length symmetry can be checked using water (hose pipe), or talcum powder. Get your speed up around 80-90%, then walk through a wet or white patch, continue for 3 or 4 further steps and slow down, stop. Measure with a tape measure your footprints exactly and very precise from toe to heel and heel to toe, right and left. For correction, over stride by several centimeters with the leg giving you the shorter reading. Do this over striding exercise for 100 or 200m during every training session and re-check your stride symmetry after four weeks. You will be surprised by the result.

4. To achieve that magic symmetry is virtually impossible. We can however attempt to minimize the in-balances we are born with and after all they are natural. Simulate a throwing action, using a 1kg dumbbell with your non-throwing arm, do 10 repeats. Go for a 5km walk, 750g in our strong hand, and 1000g in the weaker one. Use a 500g anklet on your weaker leg during a training session. In general think about the magic of symmetry and improvise wherever you can. The definition of the word symmetry I find so fascinating and I am going to repeat it to sign off with.

Symmetry, a state of having two halves that are mirror images of each other.

Perhaps more on the subject of symmetry in a couple of weeks. In the meantime

Enjoy your walking and

Lekker stap





10/01/2007 Dave's Clinic
08/03/2007 A Successfull Athlete...
14/09/2007 Listen to your Body
14/09/2007 Symmetry