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Taking It In Stride

by: Tania Gustafson

This great weather we are having here in Kelowna lately has begun to bring more people outside.  There are more kids in the playground at the end of my street, more people out walking their dogs, power walking with a friend or out for a run than I've seen in a long time.  It's a good sign.  In my books it not only means that winter is over, but that more people will be getting daily exercise, and that's always a good thing.

Since a great many people use walking as their form of cardio each week, either occasionally or exclusively, I thought I would offer a few tips to help maximize the benefit each time you lace up those runners.  Of course there are the standard tips; wear comfortable, good fitting shoes, remember to bring water, especially in the summer heat, etc., but here's one you may not have thought about - your stride.  Did you know the way you walk can actually increase the benefits you would already be getting?  Let me explain.

When setting out for the walk, before you take that first step out of the driveway, check your posture.  Activate your core (think of pulling your belly button in towards your spine), stand tall, growing out through the crown of the head and roll those shoulders back "putting them in your back pockets".  Now begin walking and maintain this posture without holding your breath. On paper it doesn't seem like much, but in practice, trust me, you will notice a difference.  If maintaining this position, without holding your break mind you, while walking doesn't challenge you, add a hill in to your walk.  The trick here is that as you go uphill, try to keep your body standing tall without leaning or folding forward.  This makes the core work just that much harder and can actually be more difficult than it sounds.  When this becomes standard practice, changing your stride also activates more muscles and will add yet another avenue for progression.  Beginning at the heel, rolling through the food and pushing off through the toes, lengthening/shortening your stride or increasing/decreasing the speed of your stride while walking will all add a different dimension of fitness to your walk.

So, next time you decide to head out for a walk, take a minute to adjust your posture, plan a route, perhaps with a hill, and try choosing a different stride.  I guarantee you will notice a difference in your energy and perhaps find a few muscles you didn't know could be activated just by taking it in stride.

Here's to your health,

Tania Gustafson
Nutritionist & Fitness Coach (IBNFC)

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