Walk This Way

I'm convinced that walking is the secret to staying fit, healthy and happy. Sure, you can train daily for marathons or spend each morning in a rigorous yoga practice — that's OK too — but walking is special. Simply deciding to get up and walk away from your desk or TV is empowering, it gives you back a sense of control and specifies a period of the day that is dedicated to nothing more than you.

I try to consciously walk at least once a day. Conscious walking is more than transportation, more than merely moving from point A to point B. Walking with presence, intention and a commitment to the moment is the kind of walking I like to do as often as possible. When I walk this way, I focus on breathing, on the scenery, and on feeling each part of my feet as they connect with the earth. This kind of walking gets my blood pumping, but more importantly, it clears my mind. Conscious walking can be as easily done on busy city streets as on quiet country roads.

Once you've got your mind tuned in to how your feet are moving, it's also a good idea to consider what's happening to your body as you take your daily walk. The editors at Body and Soul Magazine have come up with seven extremely useful "focuses" that will help your body operate at peak efficiency as you stroll. They recommend picking one focus for each walk and bringing your thoughts back to it when they wander.

1. Tune in to your posture. Maintain correct postural alignment of your shoulders, hip bones and ankles during your walk, making sure they form one straight line as you move forward.

2. Level your pelvis. Pull your lower abdominals in, tilting the pubic bone up and leveling the pelvis - think of your pelvis as a bowl full of liquid that you don't want to spill. This balance will strengthen and engage your core muscles and stabilize your pelvis while you walk.

3. Lean forward. Maintain alignment by tilting the upper body slightly forward rather than walking with the hips forward and leading with your legs.

4. Bend your arms. This helps you walk faster and more energetically. If you choose to walk more slowly, allow your arms to swing lower.

5. Extend your legs behind you. Rather than kick your legs out in front of you as you walk, let them extend behind with each stride. This reduces the impact on your knees while making your stride more fluid.

6. Keep your stride consistent. Your stride should be short without straining the muscles of your lower legs. Don't let your stride grow longer as you pick up speed - this increases impact on the knees and overstretches the muscles; instead, take shorter, quicker steps.

7. Let your cadence guide you. Your cadence is the rate at which your feet hit the ground. To maintain an even stride length, use a slower cadence with fewer steps for slower speeds, and let your cadence increase with speed. In general, 110 to 130 steps per minute is slow paced, 130 to 140 steps per minute is medium paced, and 140 to 145 steps per minute is fast paced.

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