May is National Walking Month, and the spring weather and lighter evenings mean it’s a great time of year to get walking.
Whether you’re short on time or simply want to make the most of your stroll, we’ve got some great ways to take things up a gear.
Run a condition check
If you are really pushing yourself, part of your brain should focus on how you are feeling. ‘When I’m walking I’m constantly thinking, “are my feet landing properly? Are my abs tight, and leading me forward? Are my shoulders back and down?” This way I am getting the most out of every step,’ says fitness expert and personal trainer Roger Love.
Take a breath – then double it
Oxygen is energy when it comes to walking. ‘I like to really fill my lungs with air. I think of it as double breathing – I breathe twice as hard as usual,’ says Roger. ‘If I usually breathe in for three steps, or three seconds, then I’ll breathe out for three. And when I’m breathing out I make sure I empty my lungs and expel stale toxins from my muscles and lungs,’ he adds. ‘It’s great if you’re starting to flag, as it gives you an extra burst of energy.’
Use your arms
Some advice says to keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees but not everyone recommends that. ‘I think that feels unnatural, like you are power walking, 45 degrees is better – this feels more comfortable, yet still allows you to get the benefit of that extra movement,’ says Roger. Give yourself extra momentum by swinging you arms from your pocket to halfway up towards your ear.
Relax your hands
You might not always focus on your hands, but every little helps. Some people clench them and this can spread tension up your arm, into your shoulders and affect your posture. ‘Imagine you are holding a baby chick – something which needs to be held carefully,’ says Roger. ‘We call this “soft and engaged”. Your fingers are curled, they are active and working, or dynamic, but they are not tense.’
Track your progress
An amazing 27 per cent of the population now has a fitness tracker, according to recent figures, and they can be a wonderful motivational tool, both in terms of moving more and increasing your intensity. Whatever you focus on, it appears the mere act of measuring your activity can encourage you to do more, as a recent study found that people who used trackers to count their steps as part of a walking programme had a more active lifestyle several years later than those left to their own devices.
Boost your body language
You might think body language is all about making a good first impression, but it’s much more than that. ‘To be effective, walking needs to be done with purpose and vigour,’ says Roger. ‘I always say it’s like walking down a corridor at work to make a complaint! You should walk with your chest up, with focus and dignity, purpose and pride – that’s how purposeful you should look. Walk like you are really going places, and feel confident about what you are doing.
‘A lot of my female clients say they find they are then able to bring this confidence over into their day-to-day lives – into the office and the home, so that’s another benefit.’