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Walk This Way

By October 16, 2023Pilates In Holland

It’s fall, an ideal season to get out for some awe walks, even if you’re a summer lover like me. And though I’ve talked a lot about the benefits of nature and walking for physical and mental (whole-body!) health, I haven’t focused on the mechanics or best practices of walking itself, so let’s dig in.

Many muscles are involved in coordinated walking. We’ll start from the top down, beginning, of course, with our brain.

Let’s get our brain in gear by stimulating the cerebellum. The cerebellum is all about the ABCs of movement: acuity, balance, and coordination. This short warm-up will get your walk off to a smooth start. Place hands at 90 degrees to each other, palms up. Flip the top palm at a pace that feels good for you until it feels comfortable and solid. Then switch the palm that’s on top and do the other hand. You will probably notice that one is not as fast or coordinated as the other; that’s totally normal!

You want to start walking with good posture. Stand tall, like someone is pulling you up by a string at the crown of your head. Keep your eyes forward, not down, your chin level with the ground, and your ears above your shoulders. This doesn’t mean to stay stiff and not look around, just to be mindful not to walk in the slouched, head forward position we so often find ourselves in, especially in front of a screen.

Have you ever noticed when you walk, your shoulders can creep up to your ears? Try doing a shoulder shrug to release the tension and then keep them low and relaxed. Let your arms swing freely from your shoulders. Abs should be held in lightly for good posture and to support your lower back, but keep your pelvis neutral, not tucked under or overarched with your hips level

We’ve talked about the dangers of a unibutt, but I’ve actually seen it out in the wild, especially in older women. It’s often a problem of underdeveloped or weak glute muscles, primarily the gluteus medius that’s the culprit in dead butt syndrome. Make sure your glutes are active while you walk by engaging them when the front heel hits the ground, all the way through to the toe push-off at the end of the stride. If you can’t get them to turn on, try tapping them as you walk.

Legs & Feet
You want to make sure your heel is hitting the ground first, not your toes or a flat foot (this may not be true for runners). If your foot is slapping the ground, your shoe may be too stiff. And when you roll through to your toes, spread the pressure between all the toes, not the inside or outside toes. It’s also good to keep a soft knee, not locked, as your heel strikes the ground, to alleviate any stress on the ankle, knee, hip, & back. Finish by pushing off the toes of the back foot.

If you want to cover more ground, increase the number of steps you take, not your stride length. Overstriding can strain your muscles and joints causing pain in the arches of your feet, and your knees, hips, and heels.

I know it sounds silly… we all walk, do I really need to pay attention to this? The answer is probably yes. We can get into bad habits that just stick with us throughout our lives and can lead to all sorts of aches and pains. Taking the time to assess our walking posture and gait and making adjustments can lead to more pleasant, pain-free walks for years to come.


Author Renee

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