Walking 5 miles a day is indeed simplicity at its zenith. No need to carry a trunk full of supplies, lubricate wheels and chains, strap gear to the car roof and to our bodies, or fill knapsacks with tools. So when walking leaders start talking about technique, it may seem like nothing but a way to complicate the easiest of activities. Suddenly, you’re thinking so hard about which way your arms and feet are going that you forget to look around and smell the flowers.
Why bother? You ask yourself. And you go back to galumphing along, arms dangling at sides, at whatever pace suits your fancy.
Advantages of Walking
Nothing wrong with a relaxing little saunter now and then. Certainly, it does our minds a lot of good. But maybe you ought to reconsider a dose of technique to turn that walk into a real stand-alone workout or a better cross-training tool. The trick is to take small doses of technique at a time, otherwise you’ll indeed end up concentrating so hard on all the parts that you’ll lose the enjoyment of walking — and might end up resembling the grace of Godzilla’s gait.
Techniques for Walking
Amazingly enough, adding a little technique to your stride will help you feel as if you’re floating along, instead of grinding and pushing yourself forward. You’ll get faster, use more muscle, burn more calories, but it’ll feel easier. Honest.
Start here. If you don’t already bend the arms at the elbow, try it. There’s a good reason for doing it, and it’s not just to look funny. A bent arm becomes a shorter lever and therefore completes the forward and backward swing faster. When your arms swing faster, your feet will automatically move faster because arms and feet have to move in unison. This is the Best way for walking five miles a day.
Try this: Standing in place, swing your arms as fast as you can while they hang straight. Now bend them at the elbow, and do the same. That’s the feeling.
Next…. Usually, people take longer steps when they try to walk faster, turning their stride into a Groucho-Marx lookalike with bouncing head and body. Think about it: Going up and down means you can’t move forward as efficiently since you’re wasting energy on the bob. Think gliding, fashion-model grace as you move forward, which will probably mean shorter steps than you’re used to. Head, hair, scarves and hats shouldn’t flop.
Now that you’ve eliminated bouncing steps, you’ll have to move your feet faster to keep up with your arms.
Don’t try to conquer both the arms and the stride in one 45-minute walk. Concentrate just on the arms one day, then just on the legs one day. Once you’re comfortable with the two separately, add them together.
Adding Form And Style for Walking 5 miles a day
Adding a sprinkle of technique to your walk is what can give it some exercise “oomph.”
Tips for Walking
We introduced the first two parts of walking’s uncomplicated technique in Part 1 — bending your arms at the elbows to a 90-degree angle, and avoiding strides that are too long while still moving your feet quickly.
This time we’ll add two final areas of style to focus on. All four pieces add up to transform walking into an activity that can go as fast or as slow as you want while still reaping health benefits, looking smooth and graceful, and having fun too. And it doesn’t hurt to look slick too.
The next two pieces — pushoff and hip roll — are perhaps the most difficult to understand and to incorporate into your walking. With practice, however, they will allow you to use the muscles you want to strengthen, as well as power you up and down hills when you venture off-road.
The pushoff actually starts at the front of the stride when you strike on your heel with toes lifted high. That allows the ankle to move through its full range of motion as it comes underneath you, then moves behind you in the stride.
At that point, the foot doesn’t just pick up and sloosh forward again, though. The leg lengthens behind you. You should feel as if your toes are the last thing to leave the ground. You should feel the ball of your foot pushing into the ground, causing a reaction that helps propel you forward.
Try this: Stand in a lunge facing a wall, with one leg (knee straight) extended behind you. Toes are pointed straight ahead. Leaving your rear leg straight, roll up onto the ball of that foot and push into the ground with it. Feel as if you’re trying to move the wall that’s supporting you. That’s basically how every stride should feel.
Use this pushoff when rolling along flats or hiking hills, and be guaranteed your buttocks and hamstrings will know it the next day.
The hip movement is next. We aren’t asking for the exaggerated race walker’s hip roll — at least not until we talk more in depth about that sport in other columns. For basic power walking, think of walking from your waist, allowing each hip bone to extend forward with its respective leg. You’ll feel a slight rotation in your lower back. This allows the leg to swing more freely, while each stride can cover more ground. The more ground you cover, the quicker you go. Simple.
Arms, stride length, pushoff and hips — four pieces that will take your walking beyond what you’ve dreamed possible.
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