Learning how to walk? Doesn’t it come naturally? Well, people who are just beginning a walking fitness program may be surprised to find that it is not as easy as it seems. Improper technique can lead to pain and injury.
Done vigorously enough and often enough, walking is a great way to exercise — and it is fun. You can ensure that you will be safely on the road for many years to come by wearing good shoes and maintaining a regular routine that includes warming up, cooling down and stretching.
The Three Elements of Walking
Another important part of the package is learning the basics of proper technique.
1. Posture — Hold your head up and back straight. Looking straight ahead will help keep your head erect (and alert you to possible road hazards.) Pull your belly in and if necessary, tighten your buttocks to keep your back from arching.
2. Arm Motions — Relax your shoulders, letting your arms swing in a natural rhythm with your stride. Bend your elbows comfortably at an angle not greater than 90 degrees (a right angle). Hold your arms close to your body so that your elbows do not splay out horizontally. If your arms become sore, let them drop down to your sides for a short while, and then bend them again. Your muscle strength will gradually improve.
3. Stride — Find a stride length that is comfortable for you and fits naturally with your height and proportions. A very long stride will not create a faster or more efficient workout, unless you are very tall.
Place your feet apart at about the width of your hips. Point your toes forward. The actual walking motion begins at the hips, when the abdominal and hip flexors muscles (at the top of your thighs) rotate the hip to lift the leg and move it forward.
Let your heel touch ground first. The foot then rolls forward, bearing your body weight toward the toe. The next step begins with the end of the previous one as you push off with the ball of your foot and the toes.
Hang in There. You’ll Get It!
This may all feel a bit awkward at first, as you focus on all these different components. But stick with it and soon it will become easy and natural.