Tina Peters grew up surrounded by runners and went to college on a track and field scholarship where she gained several titles. Discovering her interesting background and training knowledge over several massage sessions, I asked Tina if she would be willing to share her experience with our members. Here are her answers.
Race walking is not as commonly seen as other sports, how did you get into it?
You were four time national champion and eight time all-American in college track and field, how do you train at a high level without getting injured?
I have to give a lot of the credit to my coaches, their knowledge and experience were invaluable for a young athlete. Good communication between athlete and coach is necessary and helped to keep me healthy and fast. Maintaining flexibility, hydration, and nutrition are all important lessons I have learned from my coaches.
The athlete’s most important responsibility is to listen to their body. There are always little aches and pains that come and go when you are training, but you need to pay attention to them to make sure they don’t persist and become an injury. You have to be as diligent about your rest as you are your training. I learned this the hard way as a college athlete with classes, living in dorms, and traveling on buses for races. You have to pay attention to your level of fatigue. You can’t over train and come into your important race exhausted or come down with the flu. Rest days aren’t for the weak, they are for the smart.
You run as well, would you recommend race walking as a complement to running?
I definitely would. Race walking is lower impact on the knees than running, helps increase flexibility, and works complementary muscle groups to running. I mostly use running as cross training for race walking or as something fun to do with my friends during my off season from race walking. Race walking also makes excellent cross training for runners. In particular, race walking works your hip flexors, core, and shin muscles, and increases flexibility in the hips and knees. If you race walk regularly you will never get shin splints, a common problem for runners.
How would you recommend getting started for a newbie wannabe race walker?
The second rule is the tricky one for newbies and what you will have to focus on to be able to race walk. When your front leg first makes contact with the ground your knee has to be straight and your foot will strike heel first. The knee has to stay straight as the rest of the foot comes in contact with the ground and until the whole leg has moved under your body.
It is easiest to learn this form from another race walker, but if that isn’t possible, from videos and photos. Racewalk.com is an excellent resource for lots of photos explaining race walk form. One of the best youth race walk clubs in the country, the South Texas Walking Club, put together this instructional video: http://youtu.be/JWAwlwIV7mg.
For a couple examples of how the elite walkers look take a look at these videos: Highlights from the Men's 20km Race Walk at the London 2012 Olympics: http://youtu.be/om0KHMdO-kw, the winning time was 1:18:48, which is faster than 20 minutes per 5km the whole way. The High School Girl’s Indoor National Championships in 2014, which is a 1 mile race: http://youtu.be/Q6ufFcD55Vg.
You are currently finishing your PhD in physics, how do you maintain motivation to train with a busy schedule and icy outdoor temperatures?
Having gone from being a scholarship collegiate athlete to a graduate student training on my own has been a tough transition. When I first started my Ph.D. program I took a break from training to focus solely on academics. I ran with my friends for fun and to take a break from all the physics homework. I also studied to get certified as a race walk judge and helped out judging youth meets.
After that break I was recharged and excited to start training again, but it was harder to maintain motivation to train without my teammates, a fixed practice schedule, and less access to facilities. I’ve had to find more of my motivation inside myself and adapt my training habits to fit less than ideal conditions.