Improving Walking Performance for Exercise
Walking is something we as humans do to get from point A to point B. Many of us are surprised to learn that walking is something that we don’t do well when it comes to using it as a real form of exercise. Walking technique becomes imperative when you switch over to using it as a way to lose weight, improve cardiovascular endurance or rehabilitate an injury. Walking will allow you to improve posture over time which will help to reduce pain, breathe deeper and slim your waistline.
The proper walking technique will allow you to walk further, faster and longer. You will find once you have improved your technique you will feel more confident and have more energy!
Walking 30 – 60 minutes a day will reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lowers high blood pressure, brings down cholesterol levels and increases the flow of blood to the brain which helps reduce the chance of Alzheimer’s.
What is the Proper Walking Technique?
Walking is a skill we learn to as babies; however what few people realize is there is more to walking than just putting one foot in front of the other.
Walking technique rules to cultivate fantastic form include:
Stand Tall! We spend much of our time in front of a computer and unless you have it set up ergonomically many people end up slouching in chairs or hunching over computer screens. This rounded back posture leads to neck and upper back pain over time and ages you before your time. Place your heels, hips, shoulders and back of the head against the wall then imagine you are a rocket and propel yourself up against the wall, elongating the spine. Bring your chin into a neutral position, lift your chest to the ceiling, and you should have a neutral hip position. Once you settle into that position and get a feeling for where you are in time and space, step away from the wall and maintain that position as you move.
Head up and eyes forward. Many people in today’s day and age of technology are walking along the sidewalk looking down at their phone while scrolling through the internet or answering emails. The problem with this is it puts a lot of pressure on the cervical spine and even worse puts you at risk to fall or get into an accident while not paying attention. You should have your neck in a neutral cervical alignment which means you should have a neutral cervical neck curve with the chin parallel to the ground. Your site line should be 10 to 20 feet in front of you.
Roll your shoulders down and back. Many people spend a lot of time with their shoulder up to their ears because of the mid afternoon slouch. We as humans should have a neck! So what you need to do is consciously roll your shoulders up then drop them down while bringing your shoulder blades together and bring your chest up towards the ceiling. Take a deep breath, and you will see how much more you can expand your lungs without them being compressed. It will also allow you to swing your arms freely by your side which is where they should be located.
Have your arms by your side with the palms facing in. Let your arms swing naturally from the shoulder joint. Think about a pendulum swinging back and forth; they should not be coming across the body which forces an unnecessary, exaggerated rotation of the thoracic spine. Keep them in time with your legs and don’t swing them higher than needed.
Don’t have your buckets pouring forward or backwards. In other words, make sure you have a neutral pelvis, don’t let your hips fall into an anterior or posterior tilt. As you elongate your spine, the abs should naturally engage if your hips are neutral. The abs won’t engage properly if you tuck your tail under or stick your butt out. This improper alignment puts you at higher risk for falls and injury.
Improve your ninja skills with light feet! People should not hear you coming a mile away. As you walk the proper foot strike gait should be heel to toe as you stride. When you hear heavy foot striking, it means that you are landing flat footed which creates that “thud”. Heel striking flat footed increases impact on your joints, which increases the risk of stress fractures, soft tissue damage and in the end, it slows you down. Keeping your stride smooth and soft will reduce your risk of injury.
Putting Together the Perfect Walking Technique
Taking walking to the next level means taking all of these tips and putting them together into motion. Structured walking exercise includes robust, quick, long strides that keep you comfortable.
The initial place to start is posture. Keep that chest lifted, shoulders back and chin neutral which will allow you to take deep smooth breaths. Elongate your spine, engage the core muscles and use your glutes and legs to help with a natural stride.
Put it all together now:
Start off by slouching then imagine you are a marionette puppet and someone is pulling your strings up above you. Feel the crown of your head come up towards the ceiling, your chin falls into a neutral position, and all of your vertebrae elongate and separate, so they are stacked on top of one another. Keep your eyes forward.
Draw your shoulders down and back. Have your legs hip width apart, toes forward. Make sure your hips are neutral, don’t tuck your tail or arch your back. Engage your core. All of these cues will all help to maintain good posture, and you will have the correct posture to start walking.
Movement Patterns for a Strong Walking Technique
Arms create power in your walk and help to burn more calories and contribute to balancing out your leg motion.
Have your elbows bent at 90 degrees with your hands in a loose fist. As you stride, your left leg steps forward and the right arm should come forward as well, while the left arm goes back and vice versa following that pattern. Keep your arms close by your side with the elbows tucked in. Keep your hands level; don’t “pump” them up and down.
Foot strikes are also imperative to a proper walking pattern. Make sure you hit the ground first with your heel then roll through the step to your toe. As you push off with your toe bring the back leg forward to strike with your opposite heel and follow through with the same pattern.
Getting the correct heel strike and push off by your rear foot is the key to being able to increase your power and speed. The other factor in speed and strength is stride length. Strengthen your stride by lengthening the back stride keeping the back leg on the ground longer and then push off with power. You won’t gain anything by striding too far forward.
Then just practice, practice, practice! The best way to get better is to put it all together and get out there to enjoy yourself. Walk with a buddy as you practice and have her keep you focused and on your stride pace. You could also have someone video your stride so you can see where you need to polish it up. As you get better with your stride; speed and endurance will naturally increase.
Still unsure? Hire a personal trainer to do a gait analysis! Working with one of Infofit’ s elite certified trainers will help you achieve your personal fitness goals in a responsible, safe and effective manner. Hiring a certified Personal Trainer through Infofit is one of the best investments you can make for your overall health and fitness.