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  • Walking for Exercise: Stretching and Warm Up Techniques

  • Runners Warm-up Make every walk a complete and safe workout by following the steps below.

    Warmup  

    A good warmup prepares your body for more intense activity. It gets your blood flowing, raises your muscle temperature, and increases your breathing rate. Warming up gives your body time to adjust to the demands of exercise. This can improve your performance and help you get the results you want.

    How long you spend warming up will depend on your fitness level. If you are newer to exercise, your body will respond better with a longer warm up.

    Flexibility Exercises  

    By increasing your flexibility you can improve your ability to move around. You will have less muscle tension and your posture will likely improve. Most importantly, stretching after each workout reduces your risk for injury.

    Get the most out of your flexibility training by following these simple guidelines:

    • Always warm up before you stretch. Stretching cold muscles can cause injury.
    • Stretch slowly and gently. Breathe into your stretch to avoid muscle tension. Relax and hold each stretch 10 to 30 seconds.
    • Do not bounce your stretches. Ballistic (bouncy) stretching can cause injury.
    • Stretching should not hurt. If you feel pain, take the stretch easier, breathe deeply and relax into it.

    hch-event-walk-image-55416-flexThese exercises are part of your warm up and should be done after you have warmed up with 5 to 10 minutes of easy walking. The faster you plan to walk the more time you will need to dedicate to flexibility exercises. There are many different exercises in this group.

    Here are a few to try:

    • Calf—Hold the top of your left foot with right hand and gently pull heel toward buttocks. Repeat with other leg.
    • Hip and groin—Stand close to a solid support and lean on it with your forearms, head resting on hands. Bend one leg and place your foot on the ground in front of you, with the other leg straight behind. Slowly move your hips forward, keeping your lower back flat. Do not bounce.
    • Hamstring—Place one leg forward while your knee of the other leg is resting on the floor. Without changing the position of the knee on the floor or the forward leg, lower the front of your hip downward.
    • Shoulder—With your arms overhead, hold the elbow of one arm with the hand of your other arm. Gently pull the elbow behind your arm. Do slowly. Stretch both arms.
    • Toe points—Stand on one leg and lift the other foot off the floor. Gently point your toe and hold for a few seconds. Next flex your foot, pointing your toes up. Do this five or ten times on each foot.
    • Ankle circles—While standing on one leg lift the other foot off the floor. Gently point your toe and rotate your ankle. Do about ten circles in each direction. This exercise can be performed while standing, sitting, or lying on your back with leg raised.
    • Waist, back and shoulders—Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms straight out, parallel to ground. Keep your lower body stationary while swinging your arms from side to side. Do this several times to loosen up your waist, back, and shoulders.

    Walk  

    Now that you have warmed up, you should be ready to complete your walk at your normal walking pace. A rule of thumb that works for most people is: if you can not talk you are walking too fast. If you can carry a tune, you are walking too slow.

    Cooldown  

    At the end of your walk you need to walk at a slower pace to cool down. The harder you have worked out the longer you should cool down. In the beginning your walks are very short and you only need to cool down a couple of minutes. As your walking time and intensity extends so should your cooldown period. Just as a warm up prepares your body for exercise, an effective cooldown gives your body time to recover.

    Your cooldown begins as you gradually decrease your intensity level at the end of your walk. For example, if you have been walking at a quick pace, begin cooling down by slowing your steps and taking your arms out of the movement. Walk at a comfortable pace until your breathing and heart rate have returned to normal.

    Stretch  

    hch-event-walk-image-55416-stretchStretching is too often neglected by exercisers pressed to fit workouts into their busy schedules. This common mistake can reduce the effectiveness of exercise because better flexibility results in better fitness. Start off right and take the time to stretch after every workout. In the beginning, stretches should take at least 5 minutes. As you increase distance and pace you will probably need to stretch longer.

    Once you are breathing easily, stretch while your muscles are still warm.

    Important rules for stretching:

    • Never stretch cold muscles. The best time to stretch is after your walk. If you have problem areas they can be stretched prior to your walk, but only do this after you have warmed up.
    • Do not bounce. Go into a stretch slowly and hold gently. Stretch to the point of feeling a gentle pull, but never to the point of pain.
    • Hold each stretch for 30 to 40 seconds. If you have problems with a particular area stretch that area twice. (hold for 30-40 seconds, release, then stretch again.)

    Be sure to stretch all the major muscle groups and put extra focus on any problem areas you may have.