It is always important to begin your walk with a warm up and then some light stretching to aid in preventing injury and sore muscles. Begin walking at a light pace or even do a warm up exercise such as jumping jacks to get the blood flowing and muscles moving. Do a few minutes of static stretching (standing still) and then move on to dynamic stretching (during movement).
A few recommended static stretches – hold each stretch 20-30 seconds – include:
- Hamstring stretch – Stand with legs straight and bend at the waist to try and touch your toes.
- Calf stretch – Standing with one leg in front of the other. Bend front leg at 45 degree angle and straighten out back leg. Try and push the heel of the back leg toward the ground until you feel a slight stretch in the calf.
- Groin stretch – Stand with legs a little wider than shoulder width apart, while keeping them straight. Bend at waist and reach for the ground. For added stretch, move to one side by bending the knee while keeping the opposite leg straight. Alternate sides. You should feel a stretch on the straight leg side.
Examples of dynamic stretching include:
- Walking lunges – Walking while bending the forward leg at about 90 degrees, keeping torso up right, lowering your pelvis toward the ground and bending the back leg at about 75-90 degrees (whatever feels most comfortable).
- Butt kicks – Exactly how they sound. As you lift your foot off the ground after taking a step, reach your foot back to kick your buttocks.
Once you have completed your walk, you will want to finish your exercise by doing a cool down. Slowly decrease your pace and end your walk with a good 10-15 minutes of post workout static stretching.
If the walking is making your feet tired and sore, try working the intrinsic muscles (smaller muscles) of the feet pre and post exercise. This will help build strength and flexibility in the feet. Practice spreading your toes apart from one another, or pretending to play an imaginary floor piano with your toes. You can also try picking up small objects with your toes and scrunching a facecloth under your foot and then away from your foot using your toes.
By Jodi Basha, C. Ped (C)