You may have noticed the #100daysofwalking campaign– it started on 1st January and motivates people to walk every day for 100 days and thus improve their mental and physical well-being. While a fantastic initiative, especially as it helps people get through the dark month of January, I aim for #365daysofwalking myself! Even on bad days, I almost always force myself outside for even a brief walk. No such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. Too dark, go walk in your nearest town. I average about 3 miles a day, but on those darkest, coldest, wettest days, it might be only 0.5 miles. I’d like to build up my walking, but I know a little regularly is better than none!
Feeling the fresh air, observing nature and the skies, along with listening to outdoor sounds are my favourite things about walking. A good walk undoubtedly clears the head and helps you sleep better. The more you walk, the more you feel like walking. The more you walk, the stronger you become. Good for cardiovascular health and for your bones and your mood. Plus it’s free!
At first, it takes a bit to find your stride or comfortable pace. I call this finding the rhythm of your walk. There can be an urge to rush and get the walk ‘over’ for the sake of it, but I really recommend walking mindfully with awareness of your body as you go. Quietly applying the pilates principles to your walk – working on alignment and good gait – is easy to do and totally changes the walking experience.
- Firstly, comfortable walking shoes with space inside for your toes are vital. Your toes should be in line with your heel as you step forward (not pointing outwards), so you have good tracking of your knees. Aim to land on your heel and roll over your foot, pushing off through the big toe and all toes as you transfer weight to other foot. Become aware of each foot’s rolling movement in turn.
- Find a connection to your pelvic floor muscle (a slight lift) and have your torso upright over a neutral pelvis. This is easier if you are not rushing your walk and leaning forward or hanging back!), but relaxed and centred. Aim for about 15% lift of pelvic floor muscle which pulls in low abdominals closer to the spine. This gentle activation of the core muscles makes you feel stronger and centred as you move your legs from a stable, neutral pelvis. Feel your inner thighs as you move your legs. You should also have some activation of your gluteal muscles.
- Lengthen up from the waist. Lift your heart while having sense of your ribs being flat to the front body (not flaring). Have a sense of connection from ribs to pelvis.
- Check in your head and shoulders! Your skull should ideally be balanced on top of your cervical spine, not forward so that your upper back and neck muscles are straining to hold it there. Retract your skull a bit as you organise your neck and shoulders to feel relaxed; lift sternum and imagine your head is a helium balloon floating upwards with minimum effort, your ears over your shoulders and reaching up to the sky. Chin parallel to ground, eyes looking straight ahead.
- The arms should be hanging down from well-placed scapulae – ie not rounded forward. Your arms should swing forward and back with palms facing inwards (your thumb to the front and your little finger to the back). As you step forward with, say the left foot the right arm should swing forward and as you lead with right leg, the left arm comes forward.
Try these adjustments next time you go walking, slowing down a bit to feel lifted and centred, and once you’ve got it, build your pace. Let me know if this works for you!