Competitors at the 2016 IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
Series

Way of the walk: training

In the final part of our ‘Way of the walk’ series we chew the fat with our race walking legends, Jane Saville, Robert Korzeniowski and Jefferson Perez to find out their training secrets.

 

Explain a little of your training strategy?

Jane Saville: I adopted high mileage under my coach (Ron Weigel, the 1983 world 50km race walks champion) from 1998 to 2002. He was instrumental in taking a number of the Australian athletes including Nathan Deakes (the 2007 world 50km walking champion) and I to the next level. After Ron started coaching me he changed my outlook and perspective and turned us from national standard athletes into athletes who could perform on the biggest stage. I recall training in Mexico in 2000, when I did 236km, which was the highest weekly mileage of my career.

After Ron went back to Germany my husband, Matt White, started coaching me in 2003. In this period, I changed my training to incorporate more cross training, including cycling and swimming into my training programme. Matt tried to introduce more quality into my training. He tried to bash the long-distance mentality out of me.

Jefferson Perez: I never did huge mileage like some of the Europeans or Mexicans. The maximum I trained was 160km a week down to a minimum of between 70-80km. I generally did two different types of training. After breakfast, on a long-distance day, I would go for a 25-28km walk, followed by a swim and lunch. I would then try to relax my mind for a couple of hours before I would do exercises and stretching on an afternoon. On the evening, I might meet with my coach or medical support team. I would often eat dinner at 8pm and be in bed before 10pm. After a high-intensity session on a morning I would try and take a nap on an afternoon before going for a very easy 6-8km walk on an evening following by some stretching and maybe a massage.

 

Any advice in the final few days leading up to a competition?

Robert Korzeniowski: In the final few days before a competition it is important to recharge your batteries for extra energy. I would also look to eliminate any negative thoughts and remind myself that the reason why we train is to compete. It should not be seen as a sacrifice. An athlete also needs to manage their own world in the final few days. So, I would take time out to listen to music and watch a movie in order to be mentally fresh for race day.

 

Was technique a big part of training?

JS: I should have perhaps done more. I was very good at racking up the mileage and carrying out the strength and conditioning work but I should have devoted more time to technique.

 

What would be your top training tip?

JS: My starting point for any young race walker would be to tell them to work on their technique. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how strong you are because if you don’t have a good technique this can cost you the race. A good technique can help an athlete enjoy a long career in the sport.

JP: For me, the most important piece of advice is nutrition. To be a good race walker you need to have a proper understanding of food and nutrition. The second thing is technique, although you do need to cultivate your own style. Thirdly, I would say focus on the physical side like training and recovery.

RK: A race walker trains well and expresses himself best when he has a full understanding of every area of the event from gym training to both long-distance training and speed training. A full combination of these factors will create the perfect race walker.

 

What is the coolest thing about being a race walker?

RK: The diversity and accessibility of the sport is so impressive. It doesn’t matter your age, geography or financial status, anyone can walk. The oldest athlete I have trained is 101 years old, which is amazing. The sport can be identified from the woman practising walking at her fitness club to an explorer walking the North or South Poles. The fact walking is so common makes it very exciting.

Steve Landells for the IAAF