Guest Author - Elizabeth Brennan
You may think that because walking is a natural activity that there is no right and wrong way to walk or that you need to do no preparation before you walk. You will benefit far more from your walk if you pay attention to these ten factors
1. Correct Posture: When you walk keep your head up, chin parallel to the ground and read the track straight ahead. By doing this you will avoid back, shoulder and neck ache and also be alert to any dangers or inconveniences such as fallen branches, cracked pavements or uneven terrain, which may lie ahead.
2. Clothing: A common walking problem is wearing too little or too much clothing to suit weather conditions. The solution to this problem is to dress in layers. That way you can take off or put on as the situation demands. The first layer next to your skin should be a wicking layer which draws the sweat and moisture away from your body and keeps it cool. The second layer should be an insulating layer to keep you warm and the third layer windproof and waterproof .With these three essential layers you are prepared for all weather. If you walk at dusk or early morning wear a high visibility vest and wear a hat hail, rain or shine.
3.Hydration: Being properly hydrated before, during and after your walk is essential. Drink a glass of water every hour before your walk, drink during your walk when you feel thirsty and drink afterwards. Avoid caffeine as it de-hydrates and will cause you to seek comfort stops on the way. If you have been on a long walk drink a sports drink afterwards to replace salts lost during the walk.
4. Use your arms:
If you leave your arms hanging straight down by your side with no movement it will slow you down and also result in swelling hands. Use your arms to balance your foot movements. Hold them at an angle of 90° at your elbows and swing them evenly forwards and backwards opposite your leg movements
5. Leaning: When you walk hold your head up high, shoulders and neck relaxed. Leaning forward or back as you walk will result in back ache and neck or shoulder strain and will slow you down.
6. Chicken winging: This is a term used to describe wide exaggerated arm movements, swinging them from side to side and crossing them high up at chin level in front of your body. This is unnecessary and will hinder your walk rather than enhance it. Keep your elbows close to your body and swing your arms no higher than your breasts with your fists lightly clenched.
7. Flapping, slapping feet: This happens when your feet land flat on the ground without having rolled over and pushed through from the back heel. Most likely cause is inflexible shoes or boots. Analyse your step. If you cannot roll forward, bending your foot and push off try a more flexible shoe.
8. Over - striding:
If we want to walk faster our natural reaction is to lengthen our stride. This is a mistake as this puts unnecessary pressure on muscles, causes fatigue and will give you shin splints. If you want to walk faster take more short steps. Always roll off from the back heel and push through, this gives you your momentum.
9. Wear proper shoes
Your shoes should be flexible so they bend when you roll through on your step but they must also give your feet and ankles support. Make sure they are the right size as feet swell during walking and if the shoes are too tight blisters and chafing will occur. Wear a size larger than your dress shoes if you walk for more than 30 minutes every day and remember shoes deteriorate over time so replace your shoes after approximately 500 miles of walking. Take the advice of trained and experienced staff in your sports store when buying shoes.
10. Doing too much:
If you find your walking is becoming a chore or you find it difficult to motivate yourself, take a rest. Factor a rest day regularly into your walking schedule or change your activity perhaps one day a week. Go swimming or cycling instead of walking