Wonderful Walking November Challenge Week 1
All through November I posted on walking, and you can see day 1 - 10 here!
Welcome! And thank you for participating in the Wonderful Walking November Challenge. Every day we'll be looking at an aspect of how we can make our walking more wonderful in all kinds of ways.
Your feet are like the tires on your car.
Your feet are amazing! Here are just a few reasons why:
26 bones and 33 joints PER FOOT!
25% of the muscles in your body are below your ankles
They carry us around
So anything that amazing deserves some attention. And anything with that many joints in it is probably supposed to move. Just saying. So throughout our challenge (and then forevermore) let's add these two foot stretches into our daily routine, shall we?
First is a good thorough rolling out with a ball. Imagine the bottom of your foot is the floor of your house and you're vacuuming the whole thing - get every nook and cranny! And then flip those toes under and stretch the top of the foot. If it's painful you can sit or just ease up, big pressure not required.
Wonderful walking means your legs are ready!
So we've been waking up our feet. Fantastic! But our feet are the base of our legs, so it's time to look up the chain.
Our calves are plenty tight, I don't have to tell you. And the more yield we have here the longer we can keep the heels down when we walk. This is going to come in handy. I'm using a half roller in this pic, but you can use a rolled up towel or yoga mat.
And above that is opening the thigh muscles and hip joint, which spend most of the day sitting in flexion. To get the most wonderful walking we're going to want extension too, so try kneeling and stacking your body over the bottom knee, then moving forward without tipping the pelvis or arching the back. It's a short trip, but the stretch will be there!
Let's add these to the mix to prepare our bodies for the best walking ever!
Your hips are strong and capable.
Our hips are essential to wonderful walking! Those strong gluteus (butt!) muscles extend the hip joint to propel us forward. But the lateral hips can also help by holding our pelvis steady on one leg while the swinging leg clears the ground without having to overuse our knees. And these strong side hips stabilize the lower back as well, so we want them awake and alert! Let's get those lateral hips helping:
Straight legs (no bending the knees)
Shift your weight into your heels
Press down into one straight leg (weight will shift onto this leg)
Use standing hip muscles to pull down, which lifts the opposite hip and leg into the air
Repeat a lot
Row your boat!
It is said that human walking isn't much more than a series of controlled falls! This means that we're not propelling ourselves forward, we're leaning forward and then throwing a leg out to keep from falling face first, repeat, repeat. This is often the case, though it doesn't have to be. Using all the exercises we've been practicing so far, we can move into a posterior driven gait, allowing us to use our strong glutes instead of gravity. I call it 'rowing your boat' because using my legs this way reminds me of paddling a canoe - you press down and pull back with the paddle, then switch sides.
How to do it:
Use the hip-list exercise PRESS DOWN to come onto one leg
Let the other leg stay straight
Use the standing leg, PULL back, which will move you forward
Allow the other leg to come to the ground straight
Repeat a lot
Know Your Habits
As we endeavor to make our walking more wonderful, we first have to look at the walking routine we're accustomed to. There's no judgement here, only observation. Is it inside on a treadmill or outside? Do you have a single route that you do daily without fail? Do you walk only when free time is available or the weather is nice? Is it exercise, recreational, practical? How do you measure your walks - mileage, steps, calories, heart rate? This is the time to observe how you measure success for a wonderful walk. As we go along we'll look to challenge our norms, but we first have to take stock of them!
Walking as a priority
In order to take advantage of our wonderful walking, we have to make walking a priority. And in order for walking to be a priority, we have to be aware of its value. There are many reasons to walk - health, community, environmental, political, necessity, recreational, monetary, supporting a cause, etc. What need do you have that walking can fulfill? And in order to create a lasting habit, it should be a NEED, with wants for extra flavor.
In our busy world, we make time for the things that matter, like VOTING. You did, right? Extra points if you walked there.
Walking with feet straight ahead
Many of us stand and walk like pic 1: feet pointed out away from center like 'duck feet.' Pic 2 shows my feet aligned forward. I'm aligning the outside of my foot to a straight edge to determine forward. The inside arch changes shape, so it's not a reliable indicator of which way things are pointing. Try adding this to your wonderful walk today - feet forward!
If walks were meals ...
Our body thrives with walking - it's like a superfood! But many of us schedule our exercise time as a single discrete event and then spend the remainder of the day sedentary. So what if we thought of movement - walking in this case - like eating meals? Rather than fasting all day and eating a whole bunch at once, we could spread it out into walking meals and snacks, thereby receiving constant nutrition and benefit!
On the catwalk ...
Do you walk like you're a model on the runway or like you're on a balance beam? This can be sexy, but it's not a walk that uses much hip strength. So if we want our wonderful walk to strengthen our hips, we're going to keep each foot under the hip, making two tracks instead of one. Hint: the hip list exercise from day 3 is going to help A LOT.
Treadmill or over ground? There's a difference ...
Let's face it - treadmills are convenient. And when the weather outside is frightful (like today) treadmill walking seems like a great solution. It's important to know, however, that while it may look the same, walking on a treadmill is not the same as walking over ground. In fact, it reverses your gait pattern and overuses the hip flexors while underutilizing the glutes. It also affects cadence, arm swing, and vestibular input. So if treadmill walking is the only kind you do, you may look for the opportunity to get some more of the outdoor variety. Please read more about it HERE or better yet, listen to the PODCAST from Katy Bowman while you're taking a walk!