Many of us like to walk for exercise. I love going outside in the fresh air to get my cardio workout. I I've been walking a lot on my treadmill lately with the cold temps, and without my 75 pound lab dragging me down the street, I'm able to focus more on my body while I'm walking.
I think any walk you take is a good walk, but what if you are wanting to get more out of that walk? If you are looking for a way to take your walk up a notch, this blog will tell you how. I'm going to start at your head and work all the way down to your feet, and I will give you tips on how to take your walk from a liesurely stroll to an effective calorie burning workout.
First, if you really want to get the most out of any exercise, you should focus on what you are doing. Don't think about what you are going to do when you get home, your grocery list, or anything else. Think about that moment, what you are doing, and what muscles you are using. You should connect your mind to your body! It will really make a difference. With that said, here are the parts of your body you should be thinking about and what they should be doing.
Starting with your head, you should be looking straight ahead while you walk. Your head should not be looking down at the ground or your neck will ache before you get home!
Next, your shoulders should be relaxed and down. Many of us have a tendancy to get our shoulders up by our ears without even realizing it. This creates a lot of unnecessary tension in your neck and shoulders. Pull your shoulders down away from your ears. This lengthens your neck and stabilizes your shoulders. Your shoulders should also be back and not rounded forward. It's common for people to round their shoulders forward. This creates a tightness in your chest, and it stretches the muscles in your back. Counterbalance this by opening up your chest and bringing your shoulders back in alignment.
Your arms should be swinging at your sides. If you bend your elbows, the blood will be less likely to pool in your hands. Also, you can use your arm swing to help propel you forward. Drive one elbow back while you swing the opposite fist forward, then switch. This movement in your arms actually helps you move forward. Don't let your arms swing from side to side. Think about it - you are trying to move forward, not sideways. If your body is the center of a clock, your elbows will swing back to about 4 & 8 o'clock, while your fists swing forward toward 12 o'clock.
Your abdominal muscles should be pulling in - yes, the whole time. You should have that sensation of zipping up tight jeans, but don't hold your breath! Just contract your abs and try to keep them contracted while you walk. This will help protect your lower back. If your abs are not contracted, then your lower back muscles will tighten and this creates low back pain.
When your foot strikes the ground, it should be your heel first then you roll through the rest of your foot. If you have a tendancy to get shin splints, focus more on the push off when the ball of your foot is behind you. Try to take quick small steps.
If you can practice encorporating all of these steps, you will find you feel lighter on your feet and can walk faster. Walking faster means traveling more distance in a shorter time period, and that means burning more calories! If you can't keep up the fast pace, try intervals. Push yourself to walk fast for one minute, and then walk a little slower for the next minute and so forth.
So go out there and give it a try!