Getting involved in wheelchair racing can be fun and exciting. The first thing to do is try to go to a camp or hook up with someone else who races and try their racer. It can be a little expensive in the beginning, so you want to try it first to make sure it is something you will enjoy. When someone is just starting to race, we always suggest they buy a used chair first. There are only a few companies that build racers. Some will also take your racer back in as a trade in when you decide to upgrade to a new chair. Your other option is to buy a chair from another racer. Most people who have raced a while have some extra chairs they would like to sell.
Pushing a racing chair is a totally different stroke than pushing your everyday chair. With a racer, you do not grab the hand rims, you hit the rims with more of a fist stroke. For this reason you must wear gloves. There is only one type of racing glove that are specifically made for racing and to the size of your hand.
Once you have a chair and a set of gloves you are set to begin pushing! We always start people on a track first. Most all high schools and colleges have a track you can use. Tracks are 400 meters long (this is a quarter of a mile). Tracks are good because they are flat, at least six lanes wide, and no cars to run into (or to run into you). Two things that take the most work is steering the chair and getting down a good stroke. The gloves kind of force you to use a proper stroke, so that helps and the steering will come with time in the chair. Don't get frustrated.
Before you workout you always want to "warm up" by pushing slowly. Then stretch or have someone give you a good arm stretch. Then push a couple more laps to be totally ready. After you workout be sure to push some slow "cool down" laps and stretch to avoid an injuries.
After you get used to your chair, the stroke, and the steering pick out some local races to do. Most all towns have 5k (3.1 mile) races; contact the race director, and see if they previously have included wheelchairs in their race. If they have, just join in with that group. If not, you may be the first. A race will normally start the wheelchairs 2-3 minutes before the foot runners. This makes sure that by the time the runners catch you (if they do!), they will be spread out.
Run The Planet thanks GatorSport for the permission to reprint the article "Wheelchair racing training tips".