My new year’s resolution is to get back into some serious walking this year. For many years I averaged 20-30 miles per week walking or running back and forth to work. Now that I work so close to home, it’s down to about 10 miles per week and I’ve noticed a little creeping up of weight, even though I actively teach everyday.
Walking is the ideal form of exercise–really it is just moving our body in a natural way that shouldn’t be described as a special “exercisy-thing.” We should walk. A lot. In the way our ancestors did–over hill and dale and as far as needed for dinner. Walking should be so natural and habitual that we don’t need to think about form or distance. But.
We don’t walk. Hardly at all. And when we do, we need to be aware of what we spend our days doing and how those habits affect our stride. I teach alignment and one of the main adjustments I have to do everyday is remind my students to align their feet. Anatomical alignment (i.e. putting our feet into the place they are supposed to be) often feels like being pigeon toed. That’s because most of us walk around duck toed due to hip rotations which result from pelvic thrusting and tucking habits. I’m aware of this and I’ve been pretty proud of myself lately for paying attention to alignment when I walk.
And then to my horror, my feet prints were visible to me in the snow from yesterday. Currently I am wearing Yaktrax due to ice, and I’m the only one walking this route, so I know the tracks were mine. And I had been paying attention! But the tracks tell another story:
If you look at the photo, you will notice my left foot toeing outward. For the remainder of the walk, I overcompensated, REALLY turning my left toes in. Everything changed. I felt my right glutes more, my spine started adjusting, I felt my shoulders and neck shift…I had such an ingrained habit that I didn’t realize how far out of alignment I was in my walking habit.
Anytime we chose to “exercise” we generally do it to improve our overall health. Moving in a habitual way that takes us out of our anatomical design (aligned spine, balanced muscle tone), however, regardless of our intentions and even initial successes, will deteriorate our health over time. I know that for years I have had right hip issues–snapping out of joint, pain, and such, but I really thought walking was supposed to help. It should, but only if I straighten out my gait! All those miles of walking may have kept my weight down a bit, but it was also creating a habit of imbalance so deeply ingrained that I didn’t detect it even when I thought I was.
Have someone tattle on you. Walk in the snow, allow a friend walk behind you (I did this with my husband while running and yelling “turn your toes in!!!!” repeatedly. Make sure you have a really good relationship with this friend), take classes where the teacher corrects your alignment. No matter how much you think you are aware, habits are extremely hard to detect!