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Yes, I know that walking sounds really simple. You put one foot in front of the other and away you go. We learn it as babies, and then we are off and walking… even running.
However, if you are walking to help stay fit, or perhaps to help with weight loss, then there are certain things to avoid.
Mistake No 1 – Having The Wrong Footwear
Your feet are very important, and they need to be comfortable, kept dry, and feel supported. Walking shoes are not that expensive, and there are different brands to help support those of us who like to walk.
If you plan on walking on a regular basis, then the initial investment in good footwear will make a huge difference.
Shoes are ideal for normal type walking, but for hiking we would recommend a good pair of boots. Normal shoes and trainers are fine for day to day use.
Shoes, boots and sandals that have been designed for walkers are all about helping us walk properly and efficiently.
Mistake No 2 – Avoiding the Big Stride
When people go for a walk to increase fitness, or lose some weight, something very strange can happen.
Suddenly they feel compelled to put in an extra effort, and one way they believe they can achieve that, is to slightly increase the length of their normal stride.
Other than cover the ground a little more, there is little or no benefit in doing that. It is the most common cause of injury as people not used to walking, can stretch the hamstring muscle in their leg.
This lengthening of the stride can also cause stabbing pains in the shins. Apart from all of that, it actually looks rather odd.
It is much better to use your normal length of stride and simply try to walk faster. To walk faster can easily be achieved by improving the way you push off, when taking a normal stride.
Mistake No 3 – Not Measuring Your Improvement
People start walking for a number of reasons which could be the enjoyment of getting out in the fresh air, staying fit, and even to help lose a bit of weight.
For those who are just walking because they enjoy it, then they need little or no motivation to do that.
For those doing it for improved fitness, or to lose a few pounds, then measuring the improvements is a great motivator.
A cheap way of doing that is a simple pedometer. They are not expensive, and they allow you to track distance, time taken, calories lost etc.
When you start to see the improvements, almost all people will then be encouraged to stick at it for a longer time. There are any number of pedometers to pick from in the market today.
Mistake No 4 – Getting Sore Feet & Legs
Many people walk with a ‘heavy foot’. Often you may hear this referred to, as a flat footed walk. On the opposite side of this, you get people who drag or slide their feet.
Both of those methods only ensure one outcome, which will be sore feet, blisters, and most likely pains in the lower part of the legs, at both the front and the back.
The main symptom of flat footed walking is called ‘shin splints’ and it can be painful.
When walking, make sure the heel touches the ground first, and then the foot should roll through to the toes before lifting.
If you own walking shoes, they have the right design to help make the foot roll in this manner. If that is a new experience for beginners, it may feel strange.
That is normal, and any pains or aches will disappear in a few days. The foot should not be lifted and slapped down onto the ground. Just remember, heel first and you will quickly master a great walking technique.
Mistake No 5 – Leaning Forwards Too Much
If you ever have time to study the way people walk, you will be quite surprised at the number of different postures people have.
A very common mistake people have when walking, is leaning forward too much. Likewise, some people actually lean back too much, though that is much more rare.
There is an assumption that if you want to walk faster, or get somewhere in a hurry, that by sticking your head out and leaning forward, you will get there quicker.
It is also something that is developed early in life, and almost becomes the norm.
Here is a video of how to walk properly in terms of form and technique.
Mistake No 6 – Not Using Your Arms
I am always amazed at the number of people who walk without using their arms to help the process.
Now I do understand that if you are just out for a stroll, that using your arms is not that important. In fact many men walk around with their hands in their pockets all the time. (well one hand anyway)
If you are walking though, for a specific purpose, then by using your arms, you can make a huge difference to the amount of distance that you can cover, and the speed at which you can do that.
Many people wonder what arms have to do with walking, and the answer is, they have a lot to do with a good walking stride.
Moving your arms is a very natural thing to do when walking. It helps with balance and makes walking easier. Try walking with your arms very stiff by your side, and you will notice that almost instantly you will slow down.
Have you ever noticed that when you walk, your hands can swell? This happens most often in warm weather, such as when you are on a summer vacation.
That is because people sweat, and through sweating, you lose salt, and as such your body loses its natural balance of electrolytes.
Drinking water can help with that. Keeping the arms moving, and bending them, can also help with the blood flow.
This is not just about wildly flapping your arms around though, as that is just a waste of energy.
Focus on bending the elbows, and keep them close to your body. When you bring them up, don’t bring them any higher than the chest. It is all about using your arms for the best effect.
Mistake No 7 – The Wrong Clothing
The biggest mistake that I notice when out walking, is the number of people who wear dark clothing in the evenings near dusk, or even at night.
I am not suggesting wearing anything luminous, but some type of reflective clothing will keep you much safer.
Other mistakes I see is not wearing a hat in either bright sunshine or when it is bitterly cold. Gloves are also a great idea in cold weather. I have already mentioned shoes, and having the right ones is also very important.
All you need to do is add a little planning, and work out some clothes that are good to walk in. To keep warm, it is best to wear a number of layers.
Clothing that wicks away sweat is the best to wear closest to the skin, and these are made of materials like polypropylene.
After that, you should wear some form of insulated clothing, and the outer layer should be a wind proof or waterproof jacket.
Mistake No 8 – The Wrong Head Position
Many people walk with their head hanging very low. That is something you should try to avoid.
People do this all the time, and they end up with rounded shoulders, and back problems. Now, we do need to see where we are going, but we also need to be able to hold our head up.
The golden rule is that your chin should be parallel to the ground. In terms of seeing where you are going, the ideal focus should be around 10-20 feet ahead.
In many ways, it is like walking with pride. For most people, it only requires a small change to make a huge difference.
This small change will also lead to a great improvement in your overall posture.
Mistake No 9 – Not Doing Intervals
When walking, you should try and mix the pace up if you can. It is a fact that if you can include intervals in your walking, then you can burn more calories. So what does that entail?
For example you could walk at your normal pace for 5 minutes, then walk faster for 2 minutes, and then revert back to your normal pace.
You can do this anyway that you like, but it helps to develop a pattern. Personally I walk normally for 5 minutes, and then walk faster for 3 minutes before reverting.
When I started out though, I walked normally for 3 minutes and faster for 1 minute. I did that until I could build up my leg muscles and my energy levels.
Mistake No 10 – Not Enough Drink
When going for a short walk, there is no need to carry anything to drink. However, if you plan on being out for 30 minutes or more, then it is a very good idea to have something with you to drink.
Most people will take some water with them, and others prefer some form of isotonic or sport’s drink.
Any of those are fine, but do try to avoid the pub. Although a beer may be nice, it will also quickly dehydrate you.