Start Gently and Carefully

Many years back, as infants, we began walking. We weren’t very good at it. Our first steps were hesitant, our balance wasn’t very good, and we stumbled often. With practice we improved to the point where most of us don’t have to think about walking. Most importantly, when we first began walking we did not suffer any overuse injuries, although we may have had a few dings and bruises from falling. We need to make sure that we carefully approach a healthy walking fitness program and do all is possible to avoid injury. By avoiding injury you’ll be able to make progress to your goals as rapidly as possible.

Get Ready To Rumble (Or preferably walk)

Get a physical examination if you are over 40 or have any of the following conditions:

Chest pain
Diabetes
Dizziness
High Blood Pressure
Obesity
Musculoskeletal disorders

Equipment

Pedometer: The right pedometer is useful to record your distance, aerobic steps, and calories burned. My current recommended Pedometer is the Omron HJ-112 Digital Pedometer

iPod: With music, books on tape, podcasts. This will help, if you need help in maintaining motivation and providing interesting material for you while you gain fitness.

Shoes:

Obtain and use comfortable shoes designed for moving straight ahead and not side-to-side movement. Many running shoes and walking shoes fit the bill quite well. Do not use aerobic shoes, court shoes, tennis shoes, flip flops, cheap sneakers or others that are neither well designed or made for other purposes such as moving from one side of a tennis court to the other.

Tips on Selecting Walking Shoes

Clothes:

You might consider your first layer of apparel to be a sun screen. Sun related cancers are occurring at epidemic proportions. Use a pair of sun glasses with UV protection. A hat can also help to minimize sun exposure. 

For cold weather use layers. Consider using layers that can be removed, if it is not too cold, and you warm up to a more comfortable temperature. Warming up is usually not as dramatic with walking as it is with running.

In warm climates, be aware that you may need protection from sun exposure as we’ve described above. Coolmax and other similar fibers help wick moisture away from your body and are useful for socks, clothes liners and shirts. Make certain that your socks are not  shapeless “tube socks”, but that they actually have a heal and contour to your foot.

Water:

If you are walking for more than an hour, a small water bottle may be helpful.

Walking Form

Keep your back straight
Don’t lean forwards or backwards
Don’t watch the ground, unless the surface is extremely uneven or rocky
Look out well ahead of you

Avoid taking too long a stride

Warm up with 10 minutes of slow walking

Stretch after this 10 minutes of walking or at the end of your walking session when your muscles are warmed up.

Cool down

5 minutes of slower walking
Gentle stretching

 

“...if you participate in multiple sports you need a shoe that is specific to each of those sports...”

The forces and motions that occur in different sports vary greatly. Because of these differences participation in varied sports require varied shoes. A brief look at the foot and leg motions in running and tennis will readily demonstrate the differing requirements of these sports. Tennis and other racquet sports require much side-to-side motion and the shoe must provide lateral stability. The shoes appropriate for racquet sports usually do not have any heel elevation. If the shoe is unstable when the athlete is moving across the court to reach a ball, there is an increased chance of sufferring an ankle sprain.

Recreational healthy fitness and exercise walking , on the other hand, usually occurs in a straight line. Lateral stability is not as important. The best shoes usually have slight heel elevation which will reduce stress on the achilles tendon, but slightly reduce the lateral stability of the ankle. Running shoes also have a larger toe box, more shock absorption, and better pronation control than tennis shoes. Interestingly enough, many of the so-called walking shoes have characteristics that are more similar to tennis shoes than to running shoes. Walking and running both occur in a straight line and the similar requirements of these activities suggest that one would be better off using running shoes for walking, rather than a shoe that resembles a tennis shoe. Unless, of course, you walk down the street practicing your backhand returns.