Just Take It One Step at a Time- Part 2

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”.

FLEXIBILITY

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

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:
    1. Extend the crown of your head directly to the sky.
    2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
    3. 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!”

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Just Take It One Step at a Time- Part 1

By: Amy McKay, M Ed, CSCS, CES

When was the last time that you actually stopped and thought about the process of walking? Did you know that you could actually improve the efficiency and effectiveness of each step you take with a few simple changes? Put your best foot forward as we explore ways to create a great gait pattern.

Efficient walking starts with your brain. Begin to start thinking about walking. Walking is a complex motor skill. It involves balance, coordination, flexibility, and torso stability. As we stop and study each of these topics, I will provide a few useful tips on how to improve each part of every step you take.

BALANCE

Balance is a very important part of walking. With each step taken, there is a brief moment of balance on the foot that is in contact with the ground. Balance is a skill related component of fitness and can be improved with practice. Balance is defined as an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. When balance skills are compromised, the typical compensation is to shuffle the feet, instead of actually placing one foot in front of the other.

Try adding this simple exercise to your daily life to improve your balance.

  • Practice standing on one foot while brushing your teeth, drying your hair, or working at your kitchen sink. The great thing about practicing this skill while in these locations is that you have the counter right in front of your to provide safety and support when needed. Simply start with 5 to 10 seconds at a time and build up from there. You will find that you are more successful on one side than the other, so be sure to practice BOTH sides.

COORDINATION

Are you one of those people that can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time? That seems to be our society’s check point for coordination. Coordination is defined as the organization of the different elements of a complex body or activity that enables them to work together effectively. Our bodies are complex machines that are made for movement. When they are properly tuned up, all of our daily activities, including walking, happen with less effort and more ease. Activities that cross the midline of the body have been shown to enhance coordination skills. Add these activities to daily routine.

  • Alternate reaching your right hand all the way across the left side of your body, then your left hand across right side. Repeat this movement 10-20 times each side per day. This not only enhances coordination, but also is great for the range of motion in your shoulders.
  • While standing with support nearby, alternate touching your right elbow to your left knee followed by your left elbow to your right knee. Start with just 3 or 4 repetitions on each side and then add more as you begin to feel stronger. This activity can help with your balance, coordination, and can provide stability and flexibility training for your spine.
  • Shake things up and take a dance class or just crank up your favorite tunes and move to the beat. Dancing is a great way to enhance your coordination, improve cognitive function, and is a FUN way to get some exercise!

Check back on Wednesday, March 9th for part 2 of Amy’s Just Take It One Step at a Time post.

*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!”

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