The Walking Cure
October is our favorite month for walking. Depending on where you live, fall’s brilliant color, cool temperatures, and fresh air provide the perfect conditions for outdoor exercise. And whether you’re walking before or after work, the autumn skies seem to produce the most dazzling sunrises and sunsets.
October is also Breast Cancer Awareness month, and in this month alone, hundreds of walks have been scheduled across the country—and even overseas—to support research into finding a cure.
Though being a part of thousands of warm, able bodies exercising for a cause is exhilarating and powerful, you don’t have to join a group. Walking is the best exercise for all fitness levels, and it can be a meditative experience—the cure for cubicle blues. And you can still contribute money for breast cancer research, if the cause moves you.
But signing up for any local 5K race gives you a commitment to fitness that can help inspire you to get out of your chair and walk right now—and for the days to come. When race day arrives, you’ll be conditioned to complete the 3.1 miles without injury and feeling great. (And—bonus—most 5Ks offer a t-shirt just for showing up on race day!) Before making a change in your exercise routine, check with your health care provider—especially if you have been sedentary or have health concerns. When you have the all clear, try these tips.
You don’t need anything more special than comfortable clothing that’s suited to the weather and moves with you. But don’t skimp on the shoes. Invest in a pair of comfortable walking or running shoes that fit you well. They should be flexible and supportive. (You can get a professional fitting free at specialty running stores, and although the shoes are a little more expensive, you’ll get personal service.) Replace your shoes every 500 miles.
Practicing good form when you walk will help you get the most out of your workouts and keep you free of injury.
Try these tips:
- Stand up straight and tall without arching your back, relax your shoulders, tuck in your tummy and behind, and look straight ahead.
- Bend your arms at a 90 degree angle, and curl your fists loosely. Swing your arms lightly, right arm with left leg, forward and back. Don’t pump your arms or swing them out diagonally from your body. They should propel you gently forward, not make you look like a chicken.
- Strike the ground with your heel; roll forward to the toe.
- Take small steps, rather than long strides.
- Stretch after warming up or after walking or both, but never stretch cold muscles. You can find lots of great stretching tips online. Calf, quadriceps, and hip stretches are recommended.
- Finish your walk with a slow five minutes to cool your body and bring your heart rate back to normal.
Find a trail.
Don’t know where to walk? Check out the links below. Be safe, wear reflective gear, and be careful with headphones when sharing roads with motor vehicles. Take a friend for more fun and added accountability.
Most important, enjoy your walk. Moderate exercise is good for your heart, your brain, your digestion, your mood, and your family! A less-stressed, more-fit you makes everybody around you feel good.