Several months ago, I introduced my monthly fitness challenge, explaining my "inspiration" and why I think it's so important to do strength work ESPECIALLY as we age. (You can read all about that here.)
How are you doing? By now, I hope you're having some success with my challenges. Keep up the good work. Every day! (And if you haven't started yet? Well. You can begin today!)
Here's this month's Fitness Challenge:
Challenge #7 -- Pay attention to how you walk. (With every step.)
Many years ago I developed a nasty tendinitis in my right ankle. Several weeks of rest (which I hated) followed by a couple of months of physical therapy eventually solved the problem. After a lot of PT-sleuthing, my underlying issue turned out to be . . . my "foot strike," which is part of my overall "walking gait." That experience showed me how important it is to pay attention to HOW we take our steps; that HOW we walk is critical to maintaining healthy movement for the long term. (My culprit? My big toe!)
Now that the weather is getting more reliably "nice," I know that a lot of you are turning to more steps, with renewed walks/longer walks outside. It's time to pay attention to just how you're taking those steps . . . so you can keep moving without injury or discomfort.
This month's challenge is a simple one: whenever you're walking (just around the house - or out for a fitness walk), pay attention to HOW you're walking.
Harvard Health makes these suggestions for proper posture while you're walking:
- Keep your eyes up - don't look at the ground.
- Your shoulders should be back, down, and relaxed.
- Swing your arms gently from the shoulders -- not the elbows.
- Maintain a natural pelvis (which means . . . abs tight, don't tuck your tailbone - but don't arch your back/stick your butt out either).
- Step lightly, with a rolling heel-to-toe gait.
Let's talk a bit more about that "rolling heel-to-toe gait." As I learned in PT, we need to pay close attention to our "foot strike" when walking. To maintain a proper foot strike, each step should:
- begin with the heel landing square on the floor
- then rolling onto the entire ball of our foot (heel should begin to slightly lift and toes should be flexed)
- and then shifting to each toe (starting with the pinky toe), hitting the floor and then lifting up off the ground as we complete the step
I know that sounds like a lot to think about for each step (and it is), but it's easier and makes more sense if you try it barefoot and walk slowly at first. (My big problem was step three. I wasn't engaging my big toe - and it made a huge difference once I learned to "involve" it.) (I am always so impressed with physical therapists and how they can get to the root of problems. I thought I had an ankle problem - and I did - but it was caused by the way I used my big toe!)
Once you've got the foot strike mastered, you need to put that in the larger context of proper "walking gait." When you walk, you should be walking squarely on your feet, with your toes facing forward to keep your ankles in a neutral position. If your feet seem to make a V-shape (toes out) or an upside-down V-shape (heels out), you're straining tendons and tissues along the sides of the ankle and in the heel. Your feet should be shoulder distance apart, and your stride should be comfortable and smooth.
Who knew walking was so complicated!
Pay attention to how you walk.
Make adjustments if you need to.
And keep moving!
Previous Get Strong Monthly Fitness Challenges: