Put A Spring In Your Step!

We finally have some nice spring weather! When it is warm and sunny it is so much easier to walk in an open easy way. In the winter, wrapped up in clothing, it is hard not to hunch up defensively against the cold, which adds tight neck and shoulders to the misery of grey days.

So make the most of Spring and take a bit of time while walking to move more mindfully.

Often we end up walking like we are in hurry, even when we are not; it becomes our habit. Or maybe we have got used to walking looking down at the ground(or at our phone!). These ways of walking tend to make us lean forward slightly, with the weight going more into the toes. Looking down tends to pull the whole body down (remember the head weighs about 5kg!)

So, look ahead and around you. Your head is best supported when it is over your centre of gravity, so it is physically easier to carry it’s weight. But also noticing the world around you is good for your mood (when its sunshine and Spring flowers at least!)

Gently think up . Imagine your head floating up away from your feet. We tend to scrunch ourselves up in response to life’s stressors, so use your walks to unravel yourself a bit. Try not to pull yourself up, or clamp your shoulders back though- that just takes extra effort.

Notice your back behind you. Think of it lengthening and widening. This may seem a little strange, but just thinking about behind you gently influences you to not lean forward and can subtly bring your weight back into your heels.

Walking seems like a straight forward and back movement. But nothing in our bodies is completely straight, nature loves a spiral! Watch someone walking with their arms free to swing and you will see there is rotation in the torso. At a steady walk the arms then passively follow this rotation, opposite to the motion of the legs. If you are walking faster or running then some muscular effort is put into arm swinging, but overall the movement more efficient. In short, fast or slow, if you prevent your arms from swinging, moving takes more effort. If you have pain, letting these natural patterns of movement work can be helpful too.

So, stay hands free where you can. I love my little convertible rucksack, you can get foldaway versions for when you go shopping. Or use a messenger bag across your body. If you have to wear a shoulder bag then try not to clamp your arm against it.  And if your dog walks on a loose lead you can still move your arms.

What small adaptations could you make to have your hands free more? How do you carry your phone for instance?

And if you are genuinely in a hurry, remember leaning forward doesn’t actually make you faster! It just feels that way, but if you think up and back, actually your stride length is likely to be longer, and you will cover more ground.

Practise walking with ease over the summer and hopefully it will be second nature by the time it turns cold again. But let’s not think about that now!

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