Walk tall naturally with purpose

Walk Tall Naturally with Purpose ! Nordic Walking for Health’s guide to walking better for exercise.

This guide can be used by Nordic Walking for Health clients who:
(a) have taken part in a “Walk Better for You !” refresher session but not taken up Nordic walking
(b) had a taster session before Monday 23 March and are on a waiting list for a beginner course
(c) were part way through a course on 23 March
(d) completed a beginner course some time before 23 March and are on a waiting list to extend their course beyond the foundation level to the higher health and/or fitness levels of technique.
Some of the content will also be useful for people, who were regularly Nordic walking before 23 March, having, at some point in time over the the past 13 years, completed a beginner, or extended version of, a course with Nordic Walking for Health.

Much more is known now about the health & wellbeing benefits of brisk walking to both brain and body. If our preference is to walk for exercise, how can we make the most of the hour a day included in current government guidance to stay healthy in mind and body whilst reducing social contact to avoid transmission of the coronavirus ? Walking is perhaps the most natural of movements and by making our ‘normal’ walking style more natural, greater benefits can be accrued. There are ways to improve how our body moves over the ground by making the movement more natural, mindful and have more purpose. Posture, gait, stride, co-ordination, balance, strength and breathing can all be improved by walking tall naturally with purpose.

Here are some tips along with a few on how to keep our physical distance whilst out on our daily ‘Boris’:

If wanting company, only go with members of the household and not with others, be they relatives or not. If in self-isolation, household isolation or shielding at home, hold off until the isolation period ends.

Find somewhere quiet …
Depending on the locality, start from home or drive the shortest distance possible to a start point avoiding popular car parks near honeypot, or busy, locations. Whilst such driving may not be viewed as essential travel, the key thing to ensure is staying two metres away from other people, so think about how densely populated the direct neighbourhood is on leaving the front door ?

Get ready before you set off …
Be prepared for the weather by wearing appropriate clothing for the local forecast. Gloves can be a useful precaution even if it’s not cold enough to need them.  At the start point, set the body up, and free up the mind, by focussing on:

  • standing tall taking care not to lean back
  • looking straight ahead
  • relaxing shoulders, arms and hands.

Use your whole body …
Part of the natural walking movement is rotation, or twisting, of the whole upper body from side to side to make the arms swing loosely. By engaging upper body effort, more muscles are being recruited to make the body walk. The more muscles involved, making the movements happen that they’re designed for, the better the exercise.

Learn what MORE THAN two metres looks like & plan ahead … take care when touching hard surfaces
Not many of us carry a definite idea in our heads of what two metres looks like on the ground, do we ? So, grab a tape measure, mark it out the ground and count how many of our normal strides it takes to cover. Three steps has been mentioned in the public domain. If it takes us three normal strides to cover two metres, then three exercising strides will do the job ! Or, count four as a failsafe to cover more than two metres.

Look ahead and plan in advance:

  • is the track, trail or path more than two metres wide ? More then 2 metres in space is needed to stay 2 metres apart
  • look ahead, as if driving along a single track road noting passing places … can I/we move to the side and detour around oncoming traffic ?
  • if neither party can, we can be considerate and back track to allow the other party to pass or politely ask them to do the same
  • if a stile or gate is coming up, protect skin against contact by using gloves, for example, to climb over or open/close
  • by staying safe, we all stay well … away from the virus !

Imagine the upper body as the engine, go up through the gears … listening to the body !
Whether walking naturally, or Nordic walking, keep the upper body in charge to reach the appropriate aerobic level of exercise:

  • gradually, over a few strides, make upper body rotation a bigger or fuller movement
  • imagine, or find, a route ahead that is a long but gentle uphill slope
  • being stronger with the upper body twist will help the body pick the legs up and stride out longer
  • monitor the body’s physiological reaction to increased physical effort through the standard indicators: breathing harder, feeling warmer, starting to sweat but not so out of breath that it’s no longer possible to converse with the real, or imaginary, companion at our side
  • pause, or simply slow back down, at the end of an aerobic stretch for our breathing rate to recover.

Stay in charge and increase aerobic exercise as strength builds and fitness improves …
If walking naturally, go for longer distances or for a longer period of time. If Nordic walking, do the same by focussing on pushing back through the glovestraps with more strength to extend the movement.

Follow these guidelines to make every step count for more … and exercise in safety ! If we all stay safe, we can all stay well: remember to follow the guidance when washing hands !!!


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