Practicing and becoming comfortable with
your form should be your first objective. As you practice your technique, break
each component down to an individual motion and focus on one at a time. Then
put it all together.
It is up to you to select the portions
of the walking stride that feel most comfortable and practice putting each
piece into place to build the muscle memory that will help you achieve the
consistency you will need.
Each of us are individuals, and not all
of us can or will want to perfect this technique in its entirety. It will be
most productive if you select the pieces that you are most comfortable with. Go
at your own pace.
Stand tall, walk tall
foundation of a good basic stride is posture. The spine should be elongated by
standing straight -- not in a rigid military position, merely straight, tall,
and relaxed. You should be able to draw a straight line from your ear down to
your shoulder, to your hip, knee and ankle
A common problem to look for here is an
unnatural arch in the lower back. Commonly known as a "sway back," this
incorrect posture can create great discomfort, especially when walking long
To eliminate this problem, practice
tucking your buttocks under your body, putting the pelvis area in a more
neutral position. To accomplish this, pull in your abdominal muscles, and at
the same time squeeze your buns.
The head should be
level, eyes looking forward, and the chin parallel to the ground. A protruding
chin or tilting the head down to look at the ground are common mistakes.
If the head is allowed to tilt forward,
excess strain is put on the neck and shoulders, which can lead to undue
fatigue. Focus on looking forward to about 12 to 20 feet in front of you. If
you need to look closer to where you are stepping, lower your eyes, not your
shoulders should be relaxed, not drawn up toward the ears. Arms should swing
naturally with each step, and should be bent at the elbow at a 90-degree angle.
This is important.
Straight arms on long walks lead to
problems with swelling, tingling, and numbness of the fingers or hands. Bending
them will not only eliminate this problem, it will also help you gain
upper-body strength and tone your deltoids, biceps and triceps.
For many walkers, weight loss is a goal.
By bending the arms, you will also burn 5% - 10% more calories. One more great
reason to keep the arms bent and moving in an athletic motion is that you will
immediately be able to pick up your pace for greater periods of time.
The bent arms should swing comfortable
and naturally at about waist level. Your hands should be relaxed and loosely
closed. Any excess tension in the arms or hands should be avoided -- it wastes
The elbows should be close to the torso,
with the hands going no higher than the center of the chest on the forward
swing, or past the back of the hip on the back swing. Again, more motion than
this is wasted energy.
If you are new to this technique, you
might initially find your arms getting fatigued. When practicing, keep your
arms bent for 5 - 10 minutes, then lower them to recover. As soon as you feel
rested, raise them again.
As part of your training, you might
consider doing some upper-body weight work (not while you are walking) to
increase your endurance. Specific exercises are suggested later.
Below the belt
the lower half of the body in this technique is the most difficult to describe,
and for many walkers, the most difficult to achieve.
This is usually due to the inflexibility
of the hips. Flexibility can be improved by consistently stretching the hip
flexors and lower back, and for most people, simply doing the technique will
help them considerably.
People new to this should go slow and
practice. The time spent in learning and becoming comfortable with it will be
rewarded with more efficient movement.
In your lower body, the walking
technique begins by using the abdominal muscles and hip flexors to rotate the
hip forward and lead the leg in its forward motion. As the leg swings forward
and straightens, the body will land on the heel.
The ankle should be flexed, with toes
pointed upward at about a 45-degree angle from the ground. The foot placement
should be in front of the body, as if almost walking along a straight line.
Keep in mind that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
As the body's weight passes over the leading leg, the foot should roll forward
and push off from the toes to begin the next step. A strong push will give you
more momentum and power.
That's the basic technique. As you
practice it and increase your hip flexibility, you will naturally develop a
slightly longer stride.
A word of caution: It is
counterproductive and potentially harmful to your back if you try to increase
the length of your stride by taking longer unnatural steps. Speed and
efficiency in walking are generated by hip flexibility and quicker, not longer,
THAT'S IT! At first, this technique may
seem complicated; but actually it is a natural motion where the whole body
works in unison. Because of its low-impact nature, the head does not bob up and
down. When done correctly, it is a very fluid movement that is easier on the
By using this time-tested and proven
technique of walking, you can become more efficient in your stride and
confident in your ability to achieve your goals.
Jo Ann Taylor is the co-founder and
owner of The Walking
Connection, one of the most highly rated walking, hiking and lifestyle
related Web sites on the Internet with registered members in more than 40
countries. As a competitive racewalker, Jo Ann was a top 5 overall finisher in
the Portland Marathon and led teams in the Portland, Anchorage, Catalina and
Maui Marathons. As a sought-after lifestyle motivational speaker and fitness
walking instructor, she has positively influenced the lives of thousands of
people. As the Active Adventure Tour Director for her company, Jo Ann leads
walking and hiking trips to destinations around the world.