Get Strong: Your Monthly Fitness Challenge April 2022
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:
Challenge #6 -- Get your feet off the ground! (And make it an everyday practice.)
Challenge #5: Get down on the floor. And then get back up again! (And make it an everyday practice.)
Challenge #4: Identify your core, learn how to engage it, and . . . do your Kegel exercises every day!
Challenge #3: Increase your physical activity every day.
Challenge #2: Stretch your hamstrings, activate those glutes . . . and spare your back just by changing the way you bend over.
Challenge #1: Strengthen Your Lower Body by Doing Body Weight Squats . . . All Day Long
This is great advice and right up there with keeping proper balance. I tend to roll my right foot out and I try to be mindful of it when I'm standing so that I'm putting weight on the whole foot and not just the outside edge. It's hard to think about something you do automatically, though!
Posted by: Carole | 04/15/2022 at 08:41 AM
This is very timely! I've been walking more, and my ankles, knees, hips, and back just ache. This does sound like a lot to pay attention to, but I'm certainly going to try. Paying attention and walking correctly is a lot better than hobbling around and hurting!
Posted by: Bonny | 04/15/2022 at 09:17 AM
I have been working on the looking up part after reading about the importance of letting the light hit our eyes for balancing our circadian rhythms. When I was running, I learned to pay attention to my foot strike. These are really good bits of advice. Thanks
Posted by: Juliann | 04/15/2022 at 10:02 AM
Now I'll have to check out how I walk. I guess I do okay, but I really don't know about my toes. Hmmmmmmmm.
Posted by: Dee | 04/15/2022 at 10:03 AM
So interesting! My feet make a V shape, which, I'm told, stems from back issues -- inherited, too, because my dad's entire family has that trait (and notorious back issues). I'm going to go slow and pay attention, and maybe it will help!
Posted by: Vicki | 04/15/2022 at 10:03 AM
Like Carole, my feet/ankles roll too. I'll work on visualizing the toe strikes!
Posted by: kim in oregon | 04/15/2022 at 01:37 PM
It feels appropriate that I did not see this post until this morning because I did something to hurt my ankle yesterday, I think while I was walking, and need to focus precisely what you've addressed here. I think I am doing an okay job at walking "correctly," but my ankles have a tendency to flip out on me. Yesterday, I kind of fell off a curb, I think because I wasn't looking down as I stepped off and the frames of my sunglasses created a blind spot in my peripheral vision. I'm a bit of a klutz and have done things like this all my life, but as I get older, I'm more concerned that these previously minor injuries will do more lasting damage. You can bet that I'm going to very focused on how I'm walking the next time I get out there!
Posted by: Sarah | 04/16/2022 at 09:57 AM