If you’ve suffered from pelvic floor issues or a lack of core strength, you may have already ditched your 3-mile run. But you shouldn’t give up on lacing up your shoes and getting out the door.
Instead of running, try walking. Walking your former running route is a great full body, cardio activity. It also helps create conditions for a healthier core. You read that right.
Walking in proper alignment can help you create a stronger, healthier core. How? Let’s dive in!
Why Walk Consistently?
How does walking impact core strength and healing?
Stronger Glutes and Happy Hips
Walking strengthens the glutes and stretches the hip muscles. (And stronger glutes contribute to a health pelvic floor.) Both of these actions help bring your body into proper alignment. Proper alignment is the key for a healthy core.
Increased Circulation and Healing
Walking regularly increases circulation. Increased circulation can speed the healing of connective tissue and muscles. This is good for both pelvic floor issues and diastasis recti (abdominal separation).
If you aren’t sure if your walk is aligned correctly, pay attention to the next part of this post.
How to Walk With Good Alignment
I can already hear you protesting. “But, Catherine, I already know how to walk. I learned that ages ago.”
Yes, you know how to walk. What you probably don’t know is how to walk properly. All the time we spend sitting has weakened our walking muscles. Those weakened muscles don’t perform as well as they should, leading to walking with suboptimal alignment.
The good news is that you can fix your walk by becoming more aware of it. After that, you set about adjusting your stride to encourage proper body alignment. Here are four things to look for when you’re walking:
Roll the Foot Heel to Toe
The heel of your foot should hit the ground before any other part of your foot. When you walk, you want there to be a smooth rolling motion from the heel to the ball of the foot and then on to the toes. When you walk, try to notice which part of your foot hits the ground first. If it’s not your heel, make a conscious effort to change your stride and focus on having your heel hit the ground first. The rest of the stride should follow after that.
Use the Foot to Push Off the Ground
In an ideal walk, your foot should push off the ground, not slide along it or shuffle. To achieve this walk, first hit the ground with your heel. From your heel, roll the all the way to the toes. As the ball of the foot and the toes are rolling onto the ground, you should start to push the ground away from you.
Does that sound like what happens when you walk? You may need spend some time noticing how you walk to identify areas that need improvement.
Keep Legs Hip-Width Apart
For proper alignment to happen, your legs need to remain hip-width apart when you walk. But how can you tell how wide apart your legs are? Try this test: Place your feet on each side of a sidewalk crack. Take a few steps forward and notice where your feet go.
If they move towards the crack when you walk, you need to work on keeping your legs at hip-width. If your feet stay an even distance from the crack (or other line), you’re fine.
When you’re testing your stride, be mindful of your foot alignment. Are you turning your toes outward, away from the crack? Your feet should be pointed straight forward and should be parallel to the crack.
Once you’ve determined how you normally walk, find what hip-width looks like for you. Start becoming mindful of what your legs feel like when you walk with them hip-width apart. It may feel strange at first, but keep practicing it.
Move From the Hip (Straight)
In a proper walk, you shouldn’t use your knee to move your leg. Instead, your movement should come from your hip. This is going to sound counterintuitive, but trust me.
Don’t bend your knee and lift your leg when you walk. You should push off the foot and send the leg back behind you from the hip. When you start walking from the hip, you’ll notice a difference. Your knee will feel kind of spongy. There will be a soft bend to it, but there shouldn’t be much force behind the bend.
Pelvis Stays Straight
Once you start walking from the hip, be sure to keep your pelvis from moving. When you move from the hip, you might find that your pelvis rotates with your steps. You end up moving your right hip forward for your right step. And the left hip moves forward for the left step.
The movement in your pelvis isn’t ideal. It doesn’t help open your hip muscles. You want your pelvis to stay straight and allow the legs to extend within the hip.
Eyes on the Horizon
When you walk, look ahead of you. Too often, we get wrapped up in what we’re doing. We tend to look down at our phones, our kids, etc. What we really need to do is look to the horizon. That helps ensure that your body is upright and not leaning forward.
The next time you find yourself looking down when you walk, look at the horizon. You may see something you’ve never noticed on your normal walking route.
Get a Core-Strong Walk
Developing a core-strong walk is all about technique and consistency. It will likely take you some time to identify how to improve your walk. Once you have the problem areas noted, you’ll need regular practice to make your new walk feel natural.
Even with pelvic floor issues, cardio isn’t out of your reach, especially if you develop a core-strong walk.