Walking is such a basic activity one could assume there is no need to talk about technique. It doesn’t have the cachet of running, and all of the intricacies surrounding it. Or does it?
In actual fact, and especially if walking is really a central part of your life, technique, or walking form, is important. With good walking technique you’ll be able to walk further, faster and for longer.
“A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.” – Morihei Ueshiba
Proper walking posture comes down to one thing: staying upright, not slumping forward or back. Let’s look at the ABCs of good walking posture more closely, starting from bottom up.
Footsteps: When you are walking, try to avoid making your stride too long as this will tire your muscles more quickly. Instead, try to increase your cadence; meaning, taking more smaller steps. This is more efficient. As you walk, try to roll your foot down, from the heel to the toes. This improves stability.
Pelvis: As you walk tilt your pelvis forward a little. This subtle forward means gravity is carrying you forward, improving efficiency.
Core: Core strength is a big topic and is essential for every sport. To improve your core engagement while walking, once every minute, and as you exhale, gently draw in and up the muscles from above the pubic bone all the way to the navel and hold like that for 10 seconds. Developing core engagement supports the spine and reduces the load on the back muscles.
Sternum: Good posture starts with the sternum. As you walk, lift your sternum up. This will lift your spine. It’s amazing how this little adjustment also makes us feel more positive. Bad posture is associated with low mood.
Shoulders: Lift your shoulders up, then roll then back and drop them so they are completely relaxed. Keep checking your shoulders as you walk to make sure they are relaxed. It’s habitual, especially for office workers sitting at desks all day, for shoulders to hold a lot of tension.
Arms: As you walk, pump or swing your arms, keeping the elbows bent. Try to swing the opposite arm and leg. This will help you get into a good walking rhythm and use more of your body.
Head: Imagine a string at the crown of your head is lifting your head up ever so slightly. This will help to keep your neck long. Keep your chin up, level with the ground, and focus your gaze about 10 m out in front of you. Try to relax your jaw as you walk. To help with this, try parting your lips to release the jaw.
“Be aware of your breathing as often as you are able, whenever you remember. Do that for one year and it will be powerfully transformative. And it’s free.” – Eckhart Tolle
Just as we have an habitual posture, we also have habitual breathing patterns. Many of us of shallow breathe, reducing the supply of oxygen to the body. Walking in the outdoors is a perfect opportunity to begin improving our breathing patterns.
On every walk spend five or 10 minutes focused on your breathing. Here’s how:
- As you begin to inhale allow the belly to relax and expand out and down.
- Then, as you continue to inhale, stop the expansion of the belly by pulling in slightly, and then begin to breathe up into the mid chest, and then upper chest, lifting the clavicles up and out.
- Begin your exhalation in the upper chest, allowing it to drop slightly, then the mid chest, then the belly. Towards the end of the exhalation, gently pull in the belly in and up.
Try this standing a couple of times until you get the feeling for it, and then apply it walking.
This week walk 48 km. To break it down, you could do three seven kilometer walks and two 10 km walks.
Josh Gale – Kiwi journalist tracking adventures great and small