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Walking more? Here’s a workout just for you

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Exercise Physiologist Kirra Rankin knows we’ve all been walking more—so she’s given us her tips for staying injury-free during shutdown.

Walking through COVID:

✔️ Hiking local mountains

✔️ Finding new walking trails

✔️ Walking laps in the local neighbourhood

✔️ Scrolling while strolling the streets four times a day to get fresh air

We’re all doing it—but are our bodies prepared for the extra load? None of us were prepared for this isolation!

Over the past eight years, I’ve been walking up Mt Painter most days. It’s where I clear my head. It’s where the kids have slept in backpacks and ergos. It’s where my dogs mark their territory. And it’s where I’m at peace.

I always bump into my regulars and say good morning. I know their dog’s names, but not the owner’s names. I’m OK with that. It’s never been a busy path—’till the pandemic restrictions started.

Now I don’t know any dog’s names and I’ve never seen any of these new people! It’s great that everyone’s out in nature, and being socially responsible…however, are their bodies prepared for the consequences?

I’m predicting in 4-6 weeks:

  • Foot pain?
  • Shin splints?
  • Hip bursitis?
  • Sciatic pain?
  • Lower back pain?

Reality check—we’re going to be in a semi-lock down for a couple of months. Let’s make sure we look after our bodies so we’re still walking up Mt Painter in winter!

Each week try to increase your walking by 10%-20%. Not 120%. It’s called progressive overload, which is a method of strength training that advocates for the gradual (I emphasis gradual!) increase of the stress placed upon the nervous and musculoskeletal system.

If you’re fit and healthy and used to going to the gym four times a week, then climb as many mountains as your heart desires.

If you’re undertrained, it’s ok as a one-off to climb a mountain or two. However, if you’re doing it regularly, every week, for months—this is where injuries start.

Here, prevention is key. Here are five tips to consider if you want to increase your walking routine:

Footwear management

Make sure you have supportive comfortable footwear. If your scrolling in the local streets and getting some fresh air—pop on your walking/running shoes (not the ugg boots or thongs!).

Maybe you need a gait assessment? If you feel foot pain coming on, see your local podiatrist, Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist. Get on top of it early!

If you’ve got another pair of good walking shoes, rotate them.

Choose your surface wisely

Mix up your path choice. Don’t walk on a hard surface all the time. Mix it up with footpath, local soft grassy oval, single trail, rocks, gravel and tanbark. Each surface will distribute a different load on your joints and musculoskeletal system.

Don’t always choose the mountain—your ankles, knees and hip joints need different angels. Mix up the gradient each day. Maybe two mountain ascents a week, two base mountain walks, and a couple of flat walks.

Schedule rest days, or “active recovery days”

Listen to your body. Your body adapts to the new loads when you’re resting. A “rest day” doesn’t mean hang out on the couch all day. Best way to recover and adapt to the new load is by scheduling an “active recovery day”.

For example:

  • Flat easy short walks
  • YouTube a home mobility session
  • Online yoga or Pilates
  • I would usually recommend a swim, Hydrotherapy or Hydrolates (Pilates in the water)—but alas, pools are closed.

Choose an activity where your body is still moving.

Specific lower limb strength exercises

In order to prevent walking injuries, we need strength. Here’s a simple, easy effective strength workout for you. It’s called Her Walking Strength Workout:

1) LUNGES

2) SINGLE LEG SQUATS

3) HIP EXTENSION

4) SINGLE LEG CALF RAISE 

5) HIP FLEXION

You can print the PDF here, and watch a two-minute demonstration here:

If you’re fit and healthy I’d recommend doing the five exercises 10-12 repetitions, and three sets. If your fitness needs nurturing, try for six repetitions, and two sets. 4-5 days a week, after your walking routine.

Make time for a specific lower limb stretch routine

After you’ve been hiking, street scrolling or walking, carve out some time to stretch for 5-10 minutes.

Your body will be supple and warm and ready to take on a stretching load. I’ll give you all a lower limb stretch routine next week!!

Walking is the new norm in 2020. Keep doing it, keep enjoying it—just be smart about how you go about it.

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