This, we all know: Walking is a wonderful way to exercise. It calms your mind, juices your joints, and makes you stronger so you can last longer. If all of us began our day with a 30-minute romp around the neighborhood, enjoying the fresh air, breathing in, breathing out, saying hello to the birds, air-kissing the flowers, our world would be a better place. At least for those 30 minutes.
Any style of walking is admirable when you’re just getting started. But there comes a time when it makes sense to pick up the pace and add some moisture to your brow, so your walk becomes your workout. Here’s how to do it:
• Give yourself a heads-up. Start walking your usual comfortable way, and after five minutes, flip on your Posture Awareness switch. Feel your body in space. Is your head jutting forward? Your chin pulled down? Are your shoulders rounded? All these misalignments can produce pain and tightness over time. You’ll feel tired more quickly because you aren’t able to breathe as well as you would if you were walking with your chin level, with your spine aligned. Be sure that your head is sitting balanced between your shoulders, not too far forward, not too far back.
• Check those shoulders. It’s very common to walk with your shoulders lifted instead of relaxed. To feel the difference, do what yogis do and assume the Banker’s Pose. Try it now. Stand up, and lift up your shoulders, toward your ears. Then slowly, with awareness, roll them up and back and feel your shoulder blades moving toward each other, on your upper back. This will create a joyous spaciousness in your chest and open up your heart. When you’re walking, or driving, or just living your life, this is a very good thing.
• Move your arms. You’ll be surprised how much more powerful your stride gets once you bring your upper body into play. Don’t tense your arms when you walk. Just allow them to swing in a relaxed and easy way in opposition to your feet. Keep your elbows tucked into your side (as opposed to flying elbows), arms bent at about 90 degrees, hands loose and tension-free. The more you pump those arms, the more energized your walking.
• Work those hips. Race walkers get a lot of forward thrust and speed from their exaggerated hip wiggle. You can, too. Think about your leg starting at your waist. As your right leg comes forward, so should your right hipbone in a loose and natural rotation. Then your left. The more hip action you add, the more power you’ll have.
• Pull in your tummy. As you walk, be aware of pulling in your abdominal muscles and your gluteals (butt muscles). Think about pressing your belly button toward your spine — and holding it there without holding your breath. Walking with this kind of body awareness and muscular effort can really help tighten those areas that tend to get loose and flabby as we age.
• Go for the roll. To cover more distance at greater speed, it’s a matter of technique, not stride length. For maximum efficiency, learn to walk heel-ball-toe style. That means you focus on landing (gently) on your heel, your toes flexed to the sky. Then roll through the foot, using your big toe to give your body a powerful push forward so that all your muscles — from your lower calves to your glutes — are awake and engaged.
Walking in the ways I’m describing definitely makes for a better workout; but please, be careful not to overdo it. Step up your pace gradually. And expect a little muscle soreness — especially in your shins once you start doing that rolling step, ending with your toes flexed. Welcome it, and drink some extra water.
And finally, it’s a worthy goal to turn your walk into a workout, but don’t push so hard you forget it’s supposed to be fun. Walk with a friend; listen to a book or your favorite band; challenge yourself with occasional sprints; focus on your breath.
And when you’ve finished your walk, take a minute to soak up all the good feelings you’ve just generated. Close your eyes. Put your hand over your heart. This is what joy feels like.
Source: Herald Tribune
May 20, 2013
By Marilynn Preston