5 Key Elements of Good Walking Technique
No one will argue the fact that we as a culture are facing the biggest health crisis in history. Lifestyle diseases are on the upswing. Obesity is rampant, as are heart disease and diabetes. In response to this crises, walking has been studied and shown to be a great antidote to all of these. Walking is by far the most common and most accessible form of exercise available today. But for all the recent upsurge in interest for walking, there is surprisingly very little instruction available on how to walk properly. Unfortunately, many people who need to get onto a walking program do so with poor technique which can result in sore backs, hips, hamstrings, ankles and knees.
At one time, we all knew how to walk with excellent technique, but before very long we lose that technique, and our bodies become misaligned and imbalanced. But there is hope, because Chi Walking has created a 5-step process to learn to walk with excellent technique and prevent walking injuries. We call these the Five Mindful Steps, because it is more than a walking technique but a complete approach to walking that involves both your mind and your body.
The 5 Mindful Steps
Get Aligned: The efficiency of your walking is directly proportional to the quality of your posture. In Chi Walking we begin by making a practice of maintaining the best posture possible, not just when walking, but in all activities. Taking a moment to get aligned in your body and aligned with your goals is an important first step in a mindful walking practice. When standing still, correct posture means your shoulders, hips and ankles are aligned in a straight, vertical line. You should feel this same sense of "uprightness" as you walk.
Engage your Core: The strongest part of your body, and the part that is most involved in walking, is your core. Core muscles stabilize your pelvis during movement. They hold your spine erect and balanced, and help move your legs. When your core is weak your arms and legs have to work much harder when you walk or perform other activities of daily living.
Your "core" also refers to your sense of self, with which you face the circumstances of your life. Having a strong physical core can also help you feel centered emotionally.
Create Balance: Physical balance is essential for developing efficient walking technique. And, creating balance in your life is an important aspect of healthy living. When you walk in balance, it takes less work to support your body weight and less effort to move forward. Having good balance also insures much less potential for falling.
It is also important to strive for balance in the other aspects of your life. Work, family, relationships, food, money, and exercise all need to have their place; one should not crowd all the others out. This is not easy to do, but by paying attention to each of these aspects each day, we have a much better chance of leading a centered and mindful life.
Make a Choice: We put this step after Get Aligned, Engage Your Core and Created Balance for a reason. Many of the choices we make each day are so quick and often done unconsciously, that if we are not in an aligned, balanced state, we can end up choosing poorly. Making this choice is making a commitment, to your walking, to your physical and emotional well-being, to engage in this activity mindfully and in the moment.
- Move Forward: Moving forward sounds simple and it is, if you have mindfully completed the 4 steps before it so that your forward movement has balance, purpose and direction. But all of that great prep you've done won't get you anywhere if you don't take that first step.
Practice these 5 Mindful Steps in all other aspects of your life too, and see if you find yourself much more able to cope in this fast-paced world.