The saying goes that one needs to walk before you can run, but some avid walkers might disagree. For these speedy wayfarers, walking is just as good as running, if not better.
At Run/Walk For Life, we consider walking a great way of staying fit, and our power walkers are just as important as the runners. If you’re just taking the first steps to walking greatness, check out these pro tips for beginners.
Most people have a good understanding of how to put one foot in front of the other, but if you really want to benefit from a walking regime, you should have a good exercise plan. At Run/Walk For Life, we offer a structured plan, which gradually helps you to get quicker as time goes along. Ask any RWFL member – precious few things make them as happy as graduating from the course to the road. If you aren’t part of an organised group like RWFL, you should take care to time your walks and gradually increase the distance and speed of your walks within a set time limit. A pedometer is a great way to keep track of your progress.
Fill your own shoes
The value of a good shoe to walk in cannot be overstated. No one shoe is a perfect fit for everyone, and before investing in an expensive pair of shoes that might not suit you, have your stride analysed at a shoe store or by someone who knows what they’re talking about. If you overpronate (if your ankle tends to roll inward and downward with each step) you might do well to look for motion-control shoes, but if you have a more neutral gait, lightweight neutral shoes might be best for you. Not wearing the right shoes could lead to injury, so pay attention to what your foot feels like in a particular shoe, and change it if need be.
Even if you are just going for a walk, stretching beforehand remains of paramount importance. A quick five-minute stretch routine is enough to warm up your muscles before you go on the road, trail or track. Don’t forget to stretch again after going for your walk. Doing stretches before or after any type of exercise is one of the simplest ways to ensure that you stay injury-free.
Water doesn’t just quench your thirst – it also helps to regulate your body temperature and keeps your joints lubricated. Staying hydrated during a walk is as simple as filling a bottle with water and taking small sips as you go along. Remember: once you start feeling thirsty, your body is already dehydrated, which means that you can’t count on peak performance.
Maintain the right posture
You won’t believe the difference good form can make as far as your overall performance goes. Pay attention to your posture while you’re walking, and keep the following tips in mind.
- Keep your chin up, your eyes looking straight in front of you, your chest lifted and your shoulders relaxed.
- Keep your arms at your side, bent at 90-degree angles. Swing your arms from back to front as you walk, without crossing them.
- Smaller, quicker steps are the best way to keep your speed up – bigger strides slow you down.
- When walking, roll your feet from heel to toe, and push away with your toes for an explosive take-off with each step.
- Tighten your abs and butt (TAB) while you’re walking to maintain a posture that sees you flatten your back and tilt your pelvis slightly.
- Try not to stomp too much while walking, but rather aim for a gliding movement.
Walking is a great, simple and enjoyable way to stay fit. In fact, research has shown that every hour of exercise you undertake adds about two hours to your life expectancy. If that isn’t a good reason to finally take the big step and get out your walking shoes, we don’t know what is!