07 June, 2008

walk for good health

Marathon such as those run in London, New York and Berlin grow in size every year, a good indication of how popular running has become. This adaptable sport can take you outdoors, although many people don’t get further than the treadmill at the gym. It’s important for beginners to start slowly, concentrate first on good technique and then to build up the length and intensity of runs. The only equipment you need to invest in is a pair of good walking shoes.
I see many fast walkers who are hindered by poor technique. Some are unable to walk fast enough, so don’t get a good workout; others push themselves to walk faster, but put the body under unnecessary strain as a result. Check your posture and aim to keep the body aligned at all times.
Neck & shoulders
One of the most common mistakes when walking is tensing neck & shoulders. Relax your neck & shoulder muscles. Walk with your chin up and look forwards rather than down.
Your arm movements balance your leg movements. Hold the arms at 90-degree angle as you walk, with forearms relaxed and hands cupped, not tensed into fists. Big arm movements will do nothing but waste your energy and exhaust you.
The torso
The torso provides the strong base for the legs to work fast; it moves very little as you walk. Keep the abdominals tight & body upright or angled just slightly forwards. Try not to lean far backwards or forwards as you walk because this puts extra pressure on the hips and spine. Breathe deeply.
Hips and bottom
The hips act as stabilizers, but the glutes, the muscles of the bottom, are the real workhorses of fast walking because they provide the power as you walk.
Keep the hips square and facing forwards. This enables the legs to work hard and prevents you from twisting your lower back.
Legs and feet
Don’t put all your efforts into increasing your stride length; ultimately, this will slow you down. Keep your stride length short so the body is not forced to rotate through the hips. As you step forwards, the heel should plant down on the ground first and the body weight should then roll through. Keep your feet as relaxed as possible as you walk. This helps prevent tightness developing in the shins. If your feet don’t naturally point forwards, this may feel awkward, but persevere and make an effort to maintain the alignment.
Choosing the correct footwear

When you walk your feet are in constant contact with the ground. Therefore, it is essential that the feet have a solid landing base, are properly supported and are adequately protected at every point in your stride.
This is especially important if you pronate or supinate. The best way to work out if you have a tendency towards either of these is to look at an old pair of shoes. If you tend always to wear out the inside sole of your shoes, then you are almost certainly a pronator- your foot rolls inwards when you walk. Choose a pair of shoes that support the inner side of the foot & prevent this rolling effect. If on the other hand, you find that you always wear out the outer side of the soles of your shoes, you are more likely to be a supinator. This means that your foot has a tendency to roll outwards when you walk. Choose shoes that provide good support on the outer side of foot, and also make sure that the soles are quite wide so that there is less chance of general roll through the foot. Also your shoe should have good cushioning on the heel to support the heel on landing. They should be flexible to accommodate the natural bend of the foot, so the movement through the walking action is easy. They should have good ankle and arch support and should be light so that legs do not bear too much extra weight, which can cause calf or other muscle pain when you walk.
Important stretches
After walking take time to stretch out all the major muscles that have been worked: the glutes, calves, quadriceps, shins, hip flexors and lower back. This can help to prevent subsequent uncomfortable muscle ache.
Walking programs
To achieve the best results from fast walking, try to vary the pace and intensity of your walk. Start with brisk walk, progress to slow jog, then run & finally sprint. But never ever compromise on the technique & posture. When you run, try not to bounce too much. You should feel the glutes powering the leg at the end of the running action. If you cannot feel your glutes working, your technique is incorrect. Doing this you will not only tone & strengthen the major muscles but will build up good cardiovascular endurance too.

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