I am just back from a weekend in London. It really is the most remarkable city full of energy diversity and history. To fully embrace all that London can offer, vast amounts of walking are required. Even with my two small children, the distance walked can be considerable.
You realise how much you’ve walked when you come to sit down and what a relief that is. The great advantage of walking is most of us can do it to a greater or lesser degree, whatever the weather and however we feel because we can pace ourselves to match our health, location and state of mind.
However, there is a small ‘but’ I would like to set amongst the Trafalgar Square pigeons.
Despite considerable coverage, walking, in my opinion, is not the panacea of all ills. I have known countless people who have been told by all manner of medical professions, that all they need to do to help themselves with their health is to just keep walking. Simple as that.
Being a simple soul myself, I fly the flag for keeping life simple but there’s simple and there’s incomplete. Considering most of the adult population walk every day (granted not on a military scale) why then when people try to up the ante and increase distance, incline or effort, do so many people run (if only, I hear you sigh) into aches and pains, pulls and annoyances. If walking walking walking is the answer, why are there so many problems for so many people when they set their mind to it and start walking walking walking?
The answer my friends
All of us are stronger/weaker, balanced/off balanced, bendier/stiffer more on one side of our bodies relative to the other. If your body has accommodated to this in your normal pace of life, you may not be aware of any discrepancies. However when you start to gather pace or distance by walking more, these hidden anomalies can decide to start shouting out loud while dancing the Cancan in amongst your muscles and joints. Rude yes, unsurprising no.
So what’s to be done?
A little thought and a little preparation can go a long way on your walking, walking,walking journey.
Summed up, it takes the shape of a few pertinent stretches, some balance training and a spot of foot, ankle and leg strengthening activities. Doing these can help you identify where your hidden gremlins hang out and contributes to building up your reserves of strength, flexibility and balance.
Moving about and attempting the odd stretch does not constitute being ready for walking walking walking. All effective exercise requires movement but not all movement is effective exercise. My stickmen and I suggest the following;
Practicing this, if only for a few steps at a time will create greater strength and stability in your feet and ankles which offers better stability for your legs.
Keep your bottom and your back on the wall
Only bend your knees in a pain-free range.
You may think this is a little silly and yes it might be a bit out of context, but when you slip or miss your footing on a walk, then standing on one leg waving your body and limbs about to regain your balance is exactly what you do, silly or not.
If he could talk I think he’d be saying ‘Ta-dah!’
Stretch out your calves
Keep your back knee straight and lean onto your hands
Squeeze your bottom.
Stretch your hamstrings (the back of your thigh)
Place your heel on a low step and straighten your knee
Stick your bottom out.
Stretch out your quadriceps (at the front of your thighs)
Hold your ankle and stand straight, squeezing your bottom
Keep your legs together.
A quick but mindful moment of preparation takes little effort but could pay dividends in the long term. So go forth and walk my friends and see just how far it takes you.