Six tips to enhance the walking experience

From warm-up to rhythm to breathing to cool-down, athletics coaches offer a variety of tips to help you set off on your walk or improve your style of walking.

So, now that you have decided to start walking for fitness, here are a few tips which athletics coaches offer their trainees and which you may find useful on the journey.

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Warm-up: It is a useful way to check how your body feels to ensure that walking is an easy, effective and enjoyable exercise. Some stretching exercises will help you listen to your body (and coaches believe that your body always calls it right and tells you the truth). These exercises must help loosen up the body and not strain it. Warm-up helps prevent injuries and helps relieve tight muscles – and that will put less pressure on your heart. You can start by walking briskly on the spot, bringing your knees high and swinging arms back and forth. You can then perform a set of stretching exercises to ensure that all muscle sets are relaxed and help you find a good rhythm when walking.

Rhythm: The key to finding the right rhythm for your walk is to set a good pace with the longest and most comfortable stride possible, the arms swinging naturally to balance your feet movement. The arms must move at the same speed as the legs while the shoulders must move to balance the hip movement.

Centre: You can use road marking (of course, only when there is no traffic) but you can do better by imagining a straight line going down the road ahead. Place your feet on either side of this imaginary line, toes pointing ahead and start walking parallel to this line.

Feet movement: Make sure that your feet land right. The heel-to-toe method is widely recommended. The heel of your leading foot should touch the ground just before the ball of the foot and the toes. When the heel touches the ground, lock the ankle and shift your weight forward with the knee bent and using the toes to push on the next step.

Breathing: When you build up pace, breathing should deepen naturally. Inhale and exhale rhythmically. Try breathing from the abdomen rather than from the chest area, for this will help draw more air. Such deep, rhythmic breathing can help revitalise you, letting your muscles relax and clear the mind.

Cool-down: Its importance, like the warm-up, cannot be over-emphasised. Do not just stop walking. Reduce your pace gently over a few minutes towards the end of your walk. This will help avoid post-exercise stiffness and sore muscles as well as bring your heart rate back to normal levels. Once the walk is complete, spend time doing some gentle stretching exercises.

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