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Correcting Common Walking Errors

This is an excerpt from Fitness Walking, Second Edition, by Therese Iknoian.

Everybody moves differently, but walkers of all levels, from strollers to racers, make three common mistakes. Guard against them, because they inhibit your style and cause injuries.

1. Waist lean. If you have an ache in your low back after a walk, you may be tilting forward and letting your buttocks stick out. Not exactly attractive, let alone efficient or fitness inducing. Stand with your back against a wall. Now, tighten your abdominal muscles and lean forward only slightly from your ankles. That’s the proper forward lean. Now lean forward, leaving your buttocks against the wall--that’s the lean from the waist you want to avoid.

2. Overstriding. Does your hair, hat, or scarf flop up and down when you walk? That may be an indication that you are bouncing as you walk because you are overstriding. Slightly shortening your stride will usually eliminate the bounce and let you skim the ground. Every time your heel hits the ground in a stride that’s too long, you’re breaking your forward motion and forcing your body to move up and over into the next step, causing the bounce-along stride. Experiment with different stride lengths. Try a really long one, then a teeny, short one, then somewhere in between. Then find the equilibrium where you don’t bounce.

3. Elbow whipping. The arm swing comes from the shoulder, not the elbow. Imagine punching something in front of you with one hand after the other as they alternatively swing forward. If you’re actually "beating a drum" with up and down motions that come from your elbow bending and unbending, then you’re doing it wrong. Try this experiment: Put a long piece of string around your neck and hold an end in each hand, making sure your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Now walk. If you feel the string sliding back and forth behind your neck, that means you’re beating the drum, pulling the string down to the right, then down to the left. Eliminating the string burn will eliminate the elbow whipping.

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