Even experienced walkers can make mistakes. Here are the five most common and how to fix them for better results.
By Michele Stanten
Walking may be easy to do, but that doesn’t mean you won’t make a mistake every now and then that could hamper your workout. Here are five common walking mistakes plus simple ways to fix them for less pain, better form, and maximum results.
Mistake #1: Looking Down
If you’re focusing on your feet or the pavement, you’re putting unnecessary stress on your back and neck. Rounding your shoulders or hunched over? That makes it harder to breathe.
Fix it: Look up toward the horizon. Focus at least 10 to 20 feet in front of you to stand tall. Good posture will alleviate pain and give you more energy when you walk.
Mistake #2: Wild Arms
Your goal is to move forward as quickly as possible. If your arms are moving in any direction other than forward and back—crossing across your body or winging out to the sides, for example—it can slow you down.
Fix it: Bring your arms in, and keep your bent arms close to your body. Swing your arms from chest height to your hip.
Mistake #3: Overstriding
When people speed up, the biggest mistake they make is they take a long step—they reach their leg way out in front of them. When your foot is too far in front of you, it’s harder to pull your body over that leg.
Fix it: Land your foot close to your body, so it’s easier to roll your foot for a smoother stride and faster pace.
Mistake #4: Doing the Same Route
While it’s convenient to do the same routine around your neighborhood or on the treadmill, walking the same way day after day can be bad for your body and mind. Any terrain has slight variations. For example, a sloped roadway causes one leg to be slightly higher than the other. When you do the same route over time, it can lead to muscle balances or even injury.
Fix it: Keep your favorite route in the mix, but change things up to protect against muscle imbalances and prevent boredom. If you typically walk outside, hop on the treadmill. Or if you’re usually on the treadmill, try an indoor track, or head outside.
Mistake #5: Too Much Socializing
Walking is a terrific activity to do with family and friends. But when we walk and talk with others, it can slow us down.
Fix it: Add two or three solo walks to your routine, and really push it on those days. Or walk with friends, but make a conscious effort to pick up the pace. For example, only chat during recovery periods of intervals.
Note: The exercises in this workout may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. Please consult your physician before beginning a physical activity program to make sure it’s safe for you.