Wheelchair racing is a complex sport with a lot of moving parts. Whether your goal is to compete at the Paralympic Games or live an active lifestyle, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds of this sport, so here are five training tips to keep you working toward your ultimate goal.
- Remember the fundamentals. Wheelchair racing comes down to the five components of your stroke: catch, drive, release, lift and stretch, and acceleration. If you’re unfamiliar with these components, there is a link to a video showing the proper stroke mechanics at the bottom of this post. In short, if you imagine the hand ring you want to come on the ring about 1 o’clock, and release around 6-7 o’clock. No matter your goal, reminding yourself of the fundamentals is never a bad thing.
- Find a training partner. This is true of any sport, but I have found that I train much harder when I have another person with me to keep me honest. If you can find a training partner with similar goals, you can push each other to train. If you don’t have another wheelchair racer nearby, find a runner or biker! They may not be able to train alongside you, but having someone there to hold you accountable to show up in the first place is half the battle.
- Listen to your body. While training hard every day for months may sound like the fast track to your goal, you could actually be doing more harm than good. It is important to take a day each week to let your body recover from all of the training put in that week. If you had a particularly difficult two to three weeks of training, you may need to have an easy day of exercise, or rest all together. Our bodies are complex, and we have multiple systems in place to prevent injury. If you start to feel numerous warning signs that you need to take it easy, heed those warnings.
- Cross training is your friend. It’s true, nothing beats time in your racing chair. You feel great doing it, and you get an excellent cardio workout. Wheelchair racing is inherently repetitive, and that can take a toll on your mental status. Cross training is an excellent remedy to the “runner’s blues.” Whether it be hand cycling, tennis, or some other form of physical activity, hopping out of your race chair for a few sessions can revitalize your motivation to continue wheelchair racing.
- Don’t sleep on the resistance training. While we are on the subject of time out of your chair, resistance training should be a key part of your training regimen. Whether you do wheelchair racing for leisure or for competitive sport, strength training is important for health and performance. Resistance training can include heavy lifting, such as bench press, or injury prevention, such as rotator cuff exercises. No matter what type of training you are doing, it is important to incorporate resistance exercise into your routine.