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Tips for a Healthier Walk

As you know campers, we strongly encourage moderate cardio exercises in your days off from boot camp. And for those of you who aren’t runners… what is better than a healthy walk? We encourage you to embrace walking and do not dismiss the many health benefits you can get from adding walking to your weekly routine.

However, walking does take some work. It isn’t just getting outside, pounding the pavement, and keeping an eye out for potholes. You still need proper form, stretching, and routes. And-the more you walk, the  more you develop irregularities that can lead to injuries.

Here are the most common mistakes that walkers make:

Mistake 1: Poor Posture

Walkers put themselves at risk of injury simply by not walking erect. The posture problems most commonly found in walkers are walking bent over with the head down, or the other extreme: walking while leaning back. These two postures will set you up for injury. By leaning to far forward or backwards you are placing your body off-balance while adding additional stress to your lower back. In return, you garner extra strains and pain!

What to do:  Don’t look down, or up! In order to straighten up, hold your head high, so that your neck and the rest of your spine form a straight line. Keep your chin up and look well ahead of you (10 to 30 feet). Relax your shoulders and keep your stomach tucked. (Yes, tucked. You will strengthen your core!) To keep yourself in check, take a big breath about every 5 minutes or so and exhale slowly. When your shoulders drop… that is the position you want to be in.

Also, keep your alignment in mind.  As you step forward with your right foot, for example, check that your right ankle, knee, hip, and shoulder are in a stack. Do the same for your left foot.

Mistake 2: Your Style Is Sloppy.

Swinging arms, huge strides, stomping feet? Yup, you have committed a moving violation. These are the types of errors in walking form that not only can slow you down but can also set you up for injuries such as shin splints.

What to do:  Keep your arms in line by your side. They can swing back and forth in a controlled movement, but they should not FLAP or shoot up and take jabs at your chin.  When your arms wing out to the sides or jab upwards, you are wasting energy that could be propelling your body forward. You throw your body off-balance and this slows your progress down.

Keep your arms bent 90 degrees, and place your elbows close to your sides, so they drive back, not outward. Envision a shelf extending out from your sternum, or breastbone, and keep your hands from shooting above it.

Take a measured step. Truth is, taking too long a stride actually slows you down, because a heel extended too far in front of your body doesn’t generate any forward propulsion. And when your foot is stretched out in front of you, it’s acting like a brake; you can’t easily roll from heel to toe, as you should, to generate the forward power.

So how do you figure out how long your stride should be? Stand up straight, and extend one foot a few inches in front of you with your heel not quite touching the ground. Then start to fall forward slowly; your extended heel will hit the ground and stop you. That’s where your front foot should be during your stride. Don’t focus on where your back leg is during this test. Remember when you’re actually walking, your back leg will be farther back.

Listen to your footfall. Is it loud enough to scare your dog? If so, you need to lighten up. When you step forward, your heel should strike the ground gently before your foot rolls forward and allows you to push off from your toes. You’re stressing your feet and legs needlessly if you come down too hard.

Mistake 3: You’ve Got the Wrong Gear.

Toting hand weights on your walks? Drop ’em! Carry water. Weights will keep you from your peak performance, but water will only enhance it.

What to do: Lose the weights. Contrary to popular belief, walking with hand weights doesn’t necessarily make for a more intense workout than walking empty-handed. Some studies, in fact, show that walkers slow their pace when carrying hand weights and risk shoulder and forearm injuries in the process.

The best and safest way to add weight to boost your calorie burn and the bone-building effects of walking is to carry a weighted backpack, or wear a weighted vest. Save your weight training for boot camp days!

Walk with water. If you plan on walking for more than 15 minutes, bring water.  Drink 1/2 cup at least every half hour.

Mistake 4: You Go Out Fast and Stop Suddenly.

Every walker’s guilty of this mistake from time to time: the “I’m SO BUSY. I don’t have time for a warmup or cool down.”

Be careful. Yes, you can save time by diving right into and out of a workout. However, this will not serve you well over time. Risk of injury aside, starting your walk suddenly at a breakneck pace will only increase the odds that you will wear out before you have covered much ground. It will also leave you sore and vulnerable to a whole slew of injuries.

Skipping the all-important cooldown and stretching phase also can have drawbacks. It can leave you light-headed as well as decrease your flexibility.

What to do: Start slowly. Spend the first 5 minutes of your walk in stroll mode.. This will increase blood flow to your leg muscles and warm them up, which is important for protection from injuries.

Accelerate gradually. Once you’re warmed up, increase your pace gradually. Accelerate until you’re walking as fast as you would if you were on your way to an appointment. For a more vigorous workout, gradually increase your speed until you’re walking as fast as you would if you were 5 minutes late for that appointment. To push harder yet, imagine you’re 10 minutes late.

Cool it. Spend the last 5 to 10 minutes (or final few blocks) of your walk in stroll mode again, for a generous cool down. If you stop suddenly, all the extra blood that’s being pumped into your leg muscles can pool there, leaving you feeling dizzy and overheated. Always bring your heart rate down Campers!

Stretch it out. Follow your cooldown with basic stretches so your muscles don’t get stiff and tight, adds Bach. Be sure to stretch your hips, your hamstrings, your calves, and your shins.

Mistake 5: Your Route’s a Bore.

You’d think it’d be a no-brainer to keep walks fun and challenging, but many of us let ourselves fall into ruts. We know one route that is 5 miles so we stick to it.  Are you really that surprised that you get bored?

What to do: Change the scenery. If you’ve been walking the same loop around the local high school, drive down to the lakefront and start there instead. Try a walking tour of Milwaukee. On the weekends, head out to the Kettle Moraine. There are amazing trails right here in Wisconsin! Walking up and down moderately steep hills (a slope of about 4 to 8 percent will do) affords a substantially more strenuous workout than walking on flat terrain. And there’s nothing like challenge for giving monotony a run for its money.

Try intervals. For 30 seconds, walk as fast as you can. Then, over the next 90 seconds, slow down to your usual pace. Repeat this pattern a few times, and you’ve successfully walked intervals. Again, the more you challenge yourself, the more interested you’ll stay.

Walk longer. An occasional extended walk (more than 4 miles) adds interest and challenge to a boring routine. And limit long walks to once a week: Too much too often will leave you weary as well as injury-prone.

Contributors: http://www.prevention.com

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