By: Amy McKay, M Ed, CSCS, CES
Revisit Part 1 of this two part series by Amy McKay, certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist providing “useful tips on how to improve each part of every step you take”.
Let’s face it, as we age our bodies lose their flexibility and elasticity. Before you know it, what used to just be a stretch, is now a strain! Flexibility is known as the quality of bending without breaking. As it pertains to walking, flexibility of the knees, ankles, feet, and toes is critical to a successful stride. Here are a few things to try to keep your feet feeling sweet.
- Spread your toes out! Our toes were designed to move freely and independently. Purchase shoes that allow your toes to wiggle while they work. Choose footwear that has a sturdy sole and provides cushion and support while you walk. When you shop for shoes, shop late in the day. Our feet tend to swell up to a half size as the day goes on. And, walk around in the shoes in the store at least 10 minutes before you make your purchase.
- Getting a proper pedicure is a necessity, not just a luxury. Proper care of your toenails and calluses is imperative. Overgrown or ingrown toenails, thick calluses, or blisters can make walking painful and very inefficient.
- When it comes to your ankles, the best way to keep them mobile is to think about tapping your toes up and down, pointing and flexing your feet, and making imaginary circles in both directions. Having adequate ankle mobility will help prevent drop foot and ensure that the traveling foot lands right where you had planned.
Torso stability is a vital factor in taking a successful stroll. Without a stable torso, the low back carries more than its share of body weight causing pain and discomfort. Stability is defined as having the strength to stand or endure. Experiment with the following activities to add strength and stamina to your torso.
- Do squats every day. Squats will strengthen all of the muscles surrounding the torso. The added torso strength will help the hip, knee, and ankle joints function more efficiently with each step. A squat is an exercise that can be modified to ANY fitness level. Simply start off by sitting down in a sturdy chair and then standing back up! Feel free to use the arms of the chair or push your hands against your thighs to help you. Repeat this 5 to 10 times in a row. Once you have successfully mastered that, try repeating the same thing without using your arms to do any of the heavy lifting! The next step would be to pretend like you are sitting in an “invisible chair” behind you. Begin your daily squat program by doing just 5 to 10 squats per day and progress from there. This movement is one of the most fundamental skills for the human body.
- Practice perfect posture. We live a world that has us in a forward flexed position. Activities such as using your phone, tablet, computer, and even driving makeup a large portion of our day. The best way to counteract the forward flex position, is to realign your spine starting from the top. Use your “ESP” to coach yourself with these 3 quick verbal cues:
- Extend the crown of your head directly to the sky.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Pretend like you are zipping a jacket up!
Tying it up…
So, whether you are stepping out on the town or still shuffling through the grocery store, building efficient walking patterns can allow your body to move more with less effort. These new ideas about the complex skill of walking may allow you to move throughout your day with less fatigue and more energy to do the things you enjoy. This could add to your overall quality of life and improve your life today. Keep learning and keep practicing these exercises. So, put a smile on your face and just take it one step at a time.
*Amy McKay is an Assistant Professor at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. She is a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist for the National Strength and Conditioning Association, a certified Corrective Exercise Specialist with the National Association of Sports Medicine, a certified Sports Nutritionist and Specialist in Exercise Therapies with the International Sports Science Association, a certified Personal Trainer with the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, and a Youth Nutrition Specialist with the International Youth Conditioning Association. She is an avid marathoner and tri-athlete. Amy believes that modifying exercise is necessary for everyone and strives to “find a way” for all to be involved. Her personal motto is to make every day “the best day ever!”