Fit Tips to Step Up Your Walking Program

October is a great time to step up your walking program. The fantastic bright blue October skies, crisp air, and incredible colors make it an ideal month to get outdoors and get moving. Here are a few tips to keep you moving through October and beyond.

1). Invest in hiking poles or walking sticks.

No, it’s not cheating, it’s smart. There are many great benefits from using hiking poles or walking sticks, regardless of whether you are enjoying a hike on a mountain trail or a long loop around your favorite city park. Here are just a few of the benefits.

    a). Posture.
         Using hiking poles (or walking sticks) put you in better postural alignment. They help keep you in a more upright position with your chest up and your shoulders back. So, as you are working on your fitness and communing with nature, you are also reinforcing good posture.
     b). Spine health.
          Hiking or walking with the poles simulates a “normal” gait pattern with the use of your arms opposite your legs. This movement results in healthy rotation of your chest and pelvis, which is essential for a strong, flexible, and healthy spine.
     c). Balance.
          Not standing balance, but a balanced workout. The poles give you an upper body as well as a lower body work out. Also, since the poles put you in better postural alignment, the forces of gravity are going through your legs in a more harmonious way, working the back of your legs as well as the front. You work your gluts (butt muscles) as well as your hamstrings, resulting in stronger legs, a more shapely bottom, and significantly less stress and strain on your knees at the same time. Score!
     d). Distance.
          The poles help you go the distance, giving you a longer workout as well as a more balanced one so you can go deeper into the woods or further on your trail to continue to enjoy the glorious colors that October provides.
     e). Self-preservation.
          The little ninja in me can’t help from including this little tidbit. Having two poles with you can provide a handy dandy makeshift weapon when you’re walking in the woods. You never know when you might run into the unexpected four legged (or two legged) threat. As we say in my martial arts class, everything’s a weapon. Besides, if you have one, chances are you won’t need it.

2). Change your socks.

I don’t mean change your socks like your Mom used to tell you to change your underwear, I mean invest in a really great pair of socks. Usually our shoes get all the attention, but we forget about our socks. They’re more important than you might think, and they are worth their weight in gold. Besides, they can spare you unnecessary pain and problems down the road, so to speak. Or the trail.
     a). Comfort.
           A good pair of socks will decrease unnecessary friction, preventing painful rubbing and blisters so you can keep moving. Besides, a well-made pair of socks feel fantastic on your feet.
     b). Health.
          Socks made specifically for hiking and walking will wick away moisture to help keep your feet fit and healthy.

3). Stretch it out.

Walking and hiking is fabulous exercise, but can tighten the muscles of your legs and hips. Gentle stretching is essential to keeping your legs and hips flexible and your joints mobile and happy. Keep yourself flexible with the following stretches.
     a). Legs.
          Place your hands against a wall or door. Put one leg forward and one back, gently press your hips forward to stretch your calves. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat.
          Sit on the edge of a bed or couch with one foot on the floor and the other leg resting on the bed or couch. Straighten the knee of the supported leg, sit as tall as you can, and slightly lean forward from your pelvis (not your back) to stretch your hamstrings. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat.
     b). Hips.
          Lie on the floor, bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Bring your left ankle to rest on your right leg just above your knee to stretch the muscles of your left hip. Place your hands under your right thigh to bring your right leg off of the floor to increase the stretch. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat.
I have a few additional tips to help keep your feet flexible as well, but I think I’ll save that for another day. You already have enough to think about, and you might be itching to get out on your daily walk.
Please feel free to share any of your helpful fit tips with me and my followers. I’d love to hear from you! Happy trails!  

health, hiking, hiking poles, walking, walking program, walking sticks, wellness