It’s important to follow sensible guidelines to prevent injury when doing any kind of sport – even for walking. Here are some tips to help your stay mobile so you can keep up your walking program:-
- Always warm up gradually if you want to get the maximum benefit from your workout. 5 minutes at a slower pace will help your muscles to acclimatize to exercise. Gradually increase the pace to the speed you want to aim for towards the end of your warm up period.
- Don’t push yourself to go further or faster than you are capable of. Trying to do too much too soon is a major cause of injury. Of course, you need to push yourself a little to increase your fitness level but don’t “go for the burn” – it just isn’t necessary.
- Wear good quality shoes which provide shock absorption and support. Get them properly fitted by a specialist shoe store, if you are buying new shoes for walking.
- Cool down gradually after your walk so that your heart rate reduces gradually
- Stretch after walking. Stretch the Achilles tendon, hamstring, and quadriceps areas and hold the positions. Don’t Bounce. See below for details of these stretches
Stretches for Walking
It’s best that you do not stretch before walking as muscles may be cold at that point and prone to injury. Warm up by walking at a slow to moderate pace for 5 minutes gradually speeding up at the start of any fitness walking session.
It IS useful to stretch AFTER walking if you have pushed yourself at all in your workout. This will help maintain flexibility and prevent any soreness you might experience the day after your fitness walk.
Stretching is great for the whole body and you can get great benefits by following a whole program to improve your flexibility but for walking the main stretches you need to concern yourself with are those for the Achilles tendon, quadriceps and hamstrings.
The Achilles tendon, is quite easily damaged if you do a lot of sprinting or jumping but it can also tighten up and reduce calf and foot flexibility after a long walk, particularly on rough terrain or hills. The tendon runs along the back of your lower leg connecting the calf muscles to the back of the heel.
For simple standing stretch to flex the Achilles tendon, stand about an arm’s length from a wall and lean forward placing both hands on the wall shoulder width apart. Extend one foot behind you with your heel on the ground and your knee bent. Slowly lean further in towards the wall and bend the knee until you feel a slight stretch in the back of the ankle just above the heel. Hold for 30 seconds then stretch the other side.
The hamstrings runs along the back of your thighs. To stretch the hamstring, stand with your right foot raised onto a chair or other stable object, parallel to the ground. Stretch your arms to touch your toes. Hold for 20 seconds then switch legs. If you are inside, you can stretch both hamstrings in one go by sitting with your legs stretched out in front of you and reaching out with arms outstretched towards your feet.
The quadriceps are the muscles that run along the front of the thighs. To help the quadriceps remain flexible, stretch as follows after walking. Keep your back straight and hold onto a stable object or wall for balance using your left hand. Bend the right leg behind you grasping the foot in the right hand at the ankle. Pull the foot gently towards the buttock to feel the stretch in the front of the thigh. Hold for 10 seconds. Then swap sides. Repeat 2 or 3 times for each leg. If your balance is good, you may be able to do the exercise without support as in the image above but don’t try this unless you know you are able to do it without falling over!