It may be one of the most underestimated methods to good health and fitness, if you do it efficiently. But too many of us developed certain habits years ago that, without knowing it, prevent us from getting the most out of a good walk. This series points out very common, but subtle, mistakes we make every step we take; demonstrates how to fix them and shows us drills we can use everywhere from the grocery store to your favorite hiking trail.
Walk this way….
Walking in balance is a glide not a ‘heel strike’ as many think it is. It’s a real balancing act when you learn how to do it well, so don’t be discouraged if you feel a bit off and in an odd position in the beginning. It’s a new way of powering forward. The acceleration comes from the “push off “from the back leg not the heel strike of the front leg and foot. The heel lands with ease because the focus of the stride is coming from the back leg.
So the trick to getting this easy stride is how the hips/pelvis are positioned. Once you set your hips right the feet land with much greater ease. I have added some drills that will help you regain this feel and shift the old military stride ( that most folks think is correct)to a easy efficient glide! You be the judge!
Counting Steps is a drill I use that can help “force” your legs and feet to glide or walk with greater effeminacy. So the goal is to use fewer steps when walking from point A to point B. The secret is in the set up of the hips/pelvis. There will be a slight lean in your trunk/torso forward especially in the beginning. Don’t slump, keep spine straight so that you can feel the work coming from your buttock and hips. This leaning posture will limit your ability to reach with your front leg and it will make it easier to push off with your back leg and foot. That’s the goal, less steps equals more efferent walking stride. If you feel that you are reaching with the front leg to get less steps that's wrong and you will notice that your trunk is leaning back or is too upright and your hips are more forward. Also listen to your steps as you walk around your house. If you hear your heel strike hard then you are not pushing off with the back leg and your hips are too far forward. Shift the hips and the stride will feel smoother and quieter.
Learn to Turn: When playing sports we know to turn from our hips because that is where the power comes from. When we walk the habit is to turn our head first because we are usually “in our heads” and not in our body, but that can change. Learn a simple but powerful movement to keep you centered and less likely to strain your back as well.
Butt up the Wall is the movement that teaches you to bend, centers your spine, stretches your hamstrings (which is the same things as activating your hamstrings) and that in turn helps you walk better. Do this movement slowly a few times so you can really feel how it connects to a better walking stride.
Bend and Balance is like a “one legged butt up the wall” in many ways. It starts the same but you don’t need the wall. This posture also breaks down walking to a level that will help you feel a sense of stability and connection to your whole body. To walk efficiently is more about balance and weight shift from one leg bone to another. When walking the less work the better so this posture gives you that ability to center and glide. Practice slowly so you can feel how your buttock and the back of your legs are an important part of the movement.