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11

Walk Better: 7 Steps to Great Gait

 
hike at Rancho la Puerta, walk, walkers

Go for a walk

Going for a walk will almost always benefit you – anytime, anywhere.  However, do you walk and stand in ways that age or support you? Find out what’s going on behind your back. And in front of it!

This post will walk you through ways to analyze your gait to help you:

  • Reveal surprises, movement patterns, and walking habits you never knew you had;
  • Discover imbalances in your stance or stride that may be aging you;
  • Be alerted to at least 5 factors you’ve probably never thought about, but that impact every step you take;
  • Improve your mood, energy, and overall fitness via better posture and stride;
Gait workshop at Rancho la Puerta spa by Kymberly Williams-Evans

Kymberly offers pro tips about gait at her Rancho la Puerta presentation

1. Pace. Comfort. Stride

Walk across the room, turning at the wall and repeating the walk for several rounds. How quickly do you go? How comfortable are you, especially at the knees, lower back and neck? How small or big is your stride? Notice whether or not you have to touch the wall to turn, make a wide circle, or pivot quickly. Pay attention to your balance. Be aware of your stride length, especially if it’s small, which means you don’t trust your balance, though you are actually at MORE risk of falling with a shortened stride.

2. Arm Swing

Go watch SpongeBob Squarepants and take a look at how he propels himself forward. See those flapping arms? Nothing going on from shoulder to elbow, but lots of movement from elbow to hands. If this is you, we bet your elbows hurt after a long walk. Same thing if you’re a wrist flapper. Ideally, you want a long arm that reaches out in front of you. And… you want the arm in back to be reaching behind just as far. At the top of your arm swing, you should have a triangle formed from both hands and the shoulder. In other words, what goes on behind you is as important as what’s happening in front.

hiking at Rancho la Puerta spa

Use your arms and legs in opposition

3. Look and Listen to Your Walk

What do you see when you focus? What do you hear? What is powering your forward movement? It’s possible you favor one side, especially if you’ve had any kind of leg injury. If you can get someone to listen as you walk (without looking at you), a limp or compensation just might reveal itself. So often we are asked why the left leg (for example) hurts when it was the right leg that had the injury. The answer is that the left leg is overtired from being overused due to overcompensation. So get over it!

4. Pulling from Hamstrings vs Pushing from Glutes

Use power muscles to power your stride. Are you using your front or back leg to propel? If you want a shapely booty, push from the glutes. As we mention in our post “Why is My Body in Pain After Running and Walking,” running and walking require different muscle emphasis. Pulling from the hamstrings on the front leg will just make them hurt, and might also cause pain behind the knee. Besides, who doesn’t want a shapelier tush?

Imbalances in your stance or stride may be aging you #Babyboomers #Walk #Gait Click To Tweet
walk well

Feet, keep walkin’

5. Slow Mo’ Walk

Slow your walk way down and observe what happens throughout your body. Does your head bob forward or side to side? Maybe your walk improves. Maybe it falls to pieces. Notice if your arms keep moving or freeze in place. Especially note whether you start to move homolaterally (same arm and leg go forward rather than opposing arm and leg). Do you feel less or more stable?

6. Head and Chin Check: Walking Posture Matters

If your head is forward and down, that’s where you are headed (hahaha. so punny). Your head needs to be above your body, not in front of it. Not only does “text neck” increase your risk of migraines and back strain, it also increases your risk of falling. Ever notice those people who are hunched over with their faces actually looking at the ground? See how their elbows are back behind them for balance? They didn’t get that way overnight. To check if that hunchback will be you, do the chin check. Stand in neutral position (read “Finding Neutral Spine” for a full explanation). Put a finger to your chin. Hold your finger in place. Retract head 2-3 times. Mark any gap. A big gap means you are a forward head thruster. A small gap means you win free neutral spine for life!

Use power muscles to power your stride. Do you propel from your front or back leg? #gait… Click To Tweet

7. Zip Trick

Remember how we mentioned 5 tips ago that what goes on behind you is as important as what’s in front? Almost everyone knows the posture zip trick for the front, but do you finish that zzzzzzip by going down the back? Once again, you’re in luck, as we wrote a post (with video !!!) about the zip trick as part of our posture series.
Time to zip up this post. We hope you feel giddy about your gait as you get around the block today and every day.

You now know HOW to walk more effectively. Wonder though, what other benefits a refreshing walk will bring you? Go to Living Longer via Walking to bolster your motivation, reasons to get out and about, and your LIFE!

Living Longer via Walking: Who Wants In?

ACTION: Subscribe if you haven’t already and receive your free booklet “Fitness Myths that Weaken Your Abs.”

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

5

Sightseeing Counts as Exercise

On a whim, I decided to take my son and a friend to Los Angeles for the day to do some sightseeing. It’s a 90-mile drive, which means about 4 hours in the car for the round trip (traffic willing), which is about the same amount of time I’ve spent sitting on a sightseeing tour bus when we go halfway around the world.

Venice Beach Canal BoatWhen I think of international sightseeing bus excursions, I usually focus on all the time spent sitting on the bus, which I equate with enforced passive activity (an oxymoron if ever there was one). Yet yesterday’s local excursion helped me realize that sightseeing can really mean quite a bit of walking, which is definitely exercise.

Farmers Market Los Angeles

The Grove by Farmers MarketOnce in Los Angeles, we first drove east toward downtown to visit Farmers Market, then we took Venice Blvd. west all the way to Venice Beach. We spent two hours at Farmers Market and The Grove (my son seems to like this place that feels like a combination of upscale shopping and Universal Studios), then another 2-3 hours walking on the boardwalk and pier at Venice Beach.

Canal in Venice, Los AngelesWhen you're sightseeing, it's easy to log more steps than you expected. #FitFluential Click To Tweet

By the time we got back in the car to head home, I had logged about 6 miles on my Charity Miles app, a fantastic FREE app that logs your walk, run or bike ride, then donates money to the charity of your choice (from their extensive list) based on the number of miles you completed. Win Win Win.

Crowd and building at Venice BeachThe next time you go on a sightseeing junket, near OR far, download the app or check your fitness tracker to see how much you’ve walked. If you’re like me, and feel like all you did was sit all day, you may be surprised. Six miles definitely counts as exercise. And my feet were ready for the car at about 5.5 miles, so that’s another sign that I was moving and logging those steps. Though next time maybe I should pay one of those strapping fellows who work out at Muscle Beach to carry me that last half mile.

View from Venice PierWhen did you last surprise yourself by discovering you had “accidentally” exercised more than you had expected?

When did you get a surprise when you last went traveling? Read about one of our unusual experiences. We survived. Barely: Hiking with the Leeches

Alexandra Williams, MA